Originally Published: July 29, 2013

Ryan Newman Wins Brickyard 400 From Pole

Sprint Cup: Job-seeking Newman steals the show

By Ed Hinton | ESPN.com

As a team owner, Tony Stewart's most blatantly successful motivational tool so far has been to fire a guy. Smoke tells you that you're gone at season's end, you produce results on the way out.

The other pattern we saw continuing in Sunday's Brickyard 400 was that sometimes Chad Knaus cannot cajole, coach or browbeat his crewmen into holding onto lug nuts.

Those two patterns melded to send the job-seeking Ryan Newman to a win, and deny Jimmie Johnson a fifth victory at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Stewart/Newman
Justin Edmonds/Getty ImagesThe post-Brickyard 400 celebration between Ryan Newman, left, and Tony Stewart was bittersweet.

Look at 2011, when Stewart told crew chief Darian Grubb, before the Chase, that he was out when the season was over. Grubb proceeded to send Stewart to a resounding five wins in 10 playoff races, and the championship.

Now comes Newman, whom Stewart told a couple of weeks ago that there just wouldn't be room at Stewart-Haas Racing once Kevin Harvick arrives in 2014. Newman responded by driving a coolly calculated race, like the engineer he is, to win at Indy.

Look at 2010, the last of Johnson's five straight championships, when crew chief Knaus, troubled at the miscues of his over-the-wall crew and unable to get them into the sync he wanted, swapped all seven players for Jeff Gordon's seven, for the final two races of the season.

Now comes the final, crucial, highest-pressure stop of Sunday. All Knaus' crew has to do is get Johnson in and out with a smooth stop for four tires and gas, and Johnson is away to a NASCAR-record fifth Indy win.

The entire difference in Sunday's outcome you could see on the video replay of Johnson's stop. One motion of the right hand of the right-rear tire changer, down to the pavement and then back up to the wheel, changed the race for keeps. Whether he dropped a lug nut, or it wasn't glued properly to the wheel and fell off, or whether it got knocked off, wasn't clear.

But that one motion of a hand slowed down the stop so badly that after Newman's crew chief, Matt Borland, called for just two tires on the next lap, Newman returned to the track with a seven-second lead over Johnson.

Johnson has been known to make up such mistakes all on his own, on the track, but this time he couldn't run Newman down.

"I got within probably three seconds, beat myself up pretty bad," Johnson told reporters at the track. "I think Ryan was being smart, too. Once I got to a certain distance, I believe he decided to go 100 percent. He had plenty of speed today."

"Matt's call gave me the track position I needed, taking the two tires," Newman said. "I was just counting down the laps from that point on."

Stewart is by no means a hatchet-wielding boss. He goes for soft landings. He helped get Grubb a new job with Denny Hamlin, and he'll do what he can to help Newman find another ride.

Stewart called his emotions "extreme to extreme" -- having to inform Newman he wouldn't be returning, and then celebrating a much-needed win with not just an outgoing employee but a friend and fellow Hoosier he's known since they were racing midget cars "many, many moons ago."

"When you run a business, you've got to make decisions that you think are best for the company," said Stewart, who finished fourth in Sunday's race. "The hard thing is, you have to take emotion out of the equation."

That was tough for Stewart, who admitted that "I'm emotionally invested" in the businesses he runs.

"Even before Ryan came and drove for us, we were friends," Stewart said. "So that made that decision, and that phone call telling him, that much harder."

Then Sunday, "It's not just winning with a driver that drives for us," Stewart continued. "It's my friend out there that won the race today, too."

All told, Stewart concluded, "It's on the good end of the extreme this week."

Analysis: Newman Makes A Statement

Nationwide: Kyle Busch Dominant At Indy

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