Taking advantage of an uncharacteristic glitch on pit road on the part of Jimmie Johnson's No. 48 team, Newman grabbed the lead during a long cycle of late green-flag pit stops and held on to win Sunday's Crown Royal presents the Samuel Deeds 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The victory was Newman's first at the Brickyard, at the only NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race in his native state. Newman won for the 17th time in his career and for the first time since April 2012 at Martinsville.
Nearly three weeks ago, Newman learned there wouldn't be a ride for him next year at Stewart-Haas Racing, with Kevin Harvick scheduled to supplant him on the team and end Newman's five-year stint with SHR. To a prospective new employer, Newman now can sell himself as the winner of two of the crown jewels of NASCAR racing.
In 2008 he captured the 50th Daytona 500. On Sunday, he added the 20th renewal at the Brickyard to his portfolio.
"Starting on the pole and winning the race -- just an awesome day for us," Newman said after climbing out of his car. "This is a dream come true for me. I can't wait to push my lips on those bricks.
"I don't realize it yet. It's a dream come true. It'll take a week or so for this to set in."
In the job search, there's no doubt the victory will be a benefit.
"Obviously, it helps," Newman said. "The emotions have been an absolute roller coaster -- no doubt. I got fired a couple of weeks ago and come back here and win the pole and win the race, and it's all because of hard effort. These guys (his team) are behind me, and I'm behind them."
Johnson ran second, 2.657 seconds back. Kasey Kahne came home third, followed by Tony Stewart -- Newman's team owner -- and Matt Kenseth. Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon, Joey Logano, Juan Pablo Montoya and Kyle Busch completed the top 10.
A slow pit stop on Lap 133, because of a problem with the left rear tire, cost Johnson his edge over Newman. With a quick stop one lap later, Newman was back on track with a five-second advantage over the No. 48 Chevrolet, as the drivers waited for pit stops to cycle through.
Johnson couldn't make a significant dent in Newman's margin over the remaining laps.
From the outset, Johnson and Newman were the speed horses in the field, and it seemed inevitable they would settle the issue between them. Johnson spent just over 17 seconds in his pit stall taking four tires on his final stop. Newman's two-tire stop lasted less than 12 seconds.
"There's definitely disappointment there," said Johnson, who has squandered winning opportunities on late-race restarts this year, notably at Dover and Kentucky. "But that's racing. It happens. I've given away a few out there this year, too…
"We win as a team, lose as a team. There's been some laterace mistakes on my behalf that have taken race wins away from us. Granted, not a major event like this. But we win as a team, lose as a team. We still ended up second. We have a lot to be proud of over the course of the weekend. We'll do the best to let it roll off our shoulders by (Monday) afternoon.
Stewart didn't have a winning car, but he got to enjoy Newman's victory as a car owner. Both Newman and Stewart both say they remain close friends despite the impending split.
"I can't wait to give him a hug and congratulate him," Stewart said after the race. "He did a great job all weekend. It was between him and the 48. That was clear to see. I didn't know what strategy was going to be at the end. I just kept watching the Jumbotrons coming off (Turn) 4 to see where he was at."
Notes: Johnson expanded his series lead to 75 points over second-place Clint Bowyer, who finished 20th. Carl Edwards, who lost ground on a late restart, came home 13th and is 85 points behind Johnson in third place… Kevin Harvick's streak of top-10 finishes ended at nine with a 19thplace result… Gordon gained two spots to 10th in points, the last Chase-eligible position, with six races left before the Chase field is set.
Average Speed of Race Winner: 153.485 mph.
Time of Race: 2 Hrs, 36 Mins, 22 Secs. Margin of Victory: 2.657 Seconds.
Caution Flags: 3 for 14 laps.
Lead Changes: 20 among 12 drivers.
Lap Leaders: R. Newman 1-29; J. Logano 30; J. Johnson 31-54; C. Edwards 55; J. Montoya 56; J. Gordon 57-61; J. Johnson 62-82; B. Keselowski 83-86; J. Logano 87-96; J. Johnson 97-107; R. Newman 108-110; J. McMurray 111- 115; J. Johnson 116-132; R. Newman 133; J. Gordon 134- 139; D. Hamlin 140-143; K. Harvick 144-145; P. Menard 146; C. Bowyer 147; B. Keselowski 148; R. Newman 149- 160.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): J. Johnson 4 times for 73 laps; R. Newman 4 times for 45 laps; J. Logano 2 times for 11 laps; J. Gordon 2 times for 11 laps; J. McMurray 1 time for 5 laps; B. Keselowski 2 times for 5 laps; D. Hamlin 1 time for 4 laps; K. Harvick 1 time for 2 laps; J. Montoya 1 time for 1 lap; C. Bowyer 1 time for 1 lap; P. Menard 1 time for 1 lap; C. Edwards 1 time for 1 lap.
Top 12 in Points: J. Johnson - 740; C. Bowyer - 665; C. Edwards - 655; K. Harvick - 648; D. Earnhardt Jr. - 616; M. Kenseth - 615; Kyle Busch - 610; G. Biffle - 565; K. Kahne - 564; J. Gordon - 559; T. Stewart - 558; M. Truex Jr. - 554.
Epic week of NASCAR racing was a study in contrast
It was a contrast worthy of Charles Dickens. This historic week in NASCAR racing truly was a tale of two cities -- or, more accurately, a tale of one city in the middle of Indiana and one whistle-stop town in the middle of nowhere.
It was a tale of Indianapolis, the state capital, home to upscale hotels and restaurants of renown.
It was a tale of Rossburg, Ohio, where, if you want a place to sleep, you drive it there, and if you want food to eat, you bring it.
It was a tale of two speedways. It was a tale of the Brickyard, a 2.5-mile colossus where every crevice in the wellworn asphalt oozes history.
It was a tale of Eldora, an alien footprint in the corn country of northwestern Ohio, a half-mile oval -- smaller than Bristol, smaller than Martinsville -- that each year crowns the royalty of dirt-track racing.
Amid the striking contrasts, though, were common threads. First, and most obvious, NASCAR raced on both.
Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway marked the 20th renewal of one of NASCAR's most prestigious races, the continuation of an experiment that has become an institution.
Wednesday night's NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Eldora, which has its own storied history, was an experiment, too. For the first time in 43 years, one of NASCAR's national series raced on dirt.
For the first time in almost two decades, one of NASCAR's national series raced on bias ply tires, which had been phased out in favor of radials by the mid-1990s.
It took courage to try something that far out of the box -- courage on the part of the sanctioning body and courage on the part of track owner Tony Stewart, who risked sullying Eldora's reputation if the event didn't come off as envisioned.
To the credit of all who worked tirelessly to stage the Inaugural Mudsummer Classic, the race, which played to a packed house, was an unqualified success. Whether it was Norm Benning stalwartly refusing to give up the final transfer spot in the last-chance heat or Kyle Larson using up the left side of Ryan Newman's truck in the main event, the drama was palpable.
It worked, and in doing so, threw temptation at the feet of those who reveled in the first blush of dirt-track racing success.
"It would be fun to go to some of the fairgrounds race tracks, the mile race tracks, Springfield, DuQuoin (both in Illinois), Indy Fairgrounds, places like that," said Newman, who figured prominently at both speedways, winning Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup race at the Brickyard after running third at Eldora.
"There's other dirt tracks that we could go to that I think would be fun as well."
To those who might find the siren song of other dirt venues irresistible, please reconsider. The atmosphere at Eldora isn't something that can be bottled and moved from place to place. Stewart called it "magical," and it was.
It was also unique, and that's what made the contrast with NASCAR Sprint Cup and NASCAR Nationwide weekend at the Brickyard so compelling.
It would behoove all of us to keep it that way.