BRISTOL — There was no stopping a determined Ryan Newman in Wednesday’s UNOH Perfect Storm 150 at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Making two impressive charges to the front, Newman rolled to his second straight victory at BMS in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Series race.
“I felt we had a better car in practice today than we had last year, but you never know how that’s going to play out,” said Newman about his fourth career Modified victory. “It’s a lot of fun to drive these race cars. ”
On the race’s opening lap, Newman roared from a fourth-place starting spot to the race lead. Holding the No. 1 position until the first round of pit stops on lap 85, the Sprint Cup star found himself eighth when the race restarted.
It proved to be little of an obstacle, as Newman continued to charge forward in the No. 77 Chevrolet. He retook the lead from Todd Szedegy on lap 128, and powered on for a 15-car length victory over Justin Bonsignore.
“We had to overcome a lot of things,” said Newman, a former open-wheel champion in the USAC Series. “Those guys could fire off on the restart, but I let the car come to me. Todd got a little tight there and I drove it underneath him on turn one and passed him.”
The race served as redemption for Newman, who crossed the finish line first in a Modified race at New Hampshire in June, only to be stripped of the victory after his car failed post-race inspection.
“That just proves that we can do it,” Newman said. “They can take this one back to the R&D center and go through it anytime they want to. The guys made a mistake the last time and we accept that. It’s been a tough deal going through it, but this wipes the slate clean.”
Bonsignore said he bent the right front wheel on his Chevrolet in an earlier racing incident. Despite the challenges of an ill-handling race car, he made the moves to get to the runner-up spot in the closing laps.
“It would have been nice to have had a chance, but I don’t know if we had anything for him,” Bonsignore said. “He just had a better car than us tonight. I don’t know if Newman was playing with us, but he really had a better car over the past 15 laps.”
After battling back from a lap down, Szegedy’s Ford stayed in front of a three-way tussle between he, James Civali and Newman for a dozen laps before losing the lead.
“We had a skip in the engine and I was in every single wreck out there,” Szegedy said. “Despite that, our car was awesome. I think we had something for Newman, but we just got the car too tight. I could turn the (steering) wheel towards the infield and the car was still going straight. That’s how tight it was.”
Stomachs were also tight in a race slowed by seven cautions including a rash of multi-car accidents.
Action was slowed the first time for a five-car pileup on the race’s third lap. Only five circuits later, a four-car wreck involving Andy Petree, the former Dale Earnhardt crew chief and ESPN analyst, brought out a second caution.
The most serious accident, however, came on lap 43, when the No. 71 Chevrolet driven by Corey LaJoie cut a left front tire and slammed head-on in the wall between turns one and two. LaJoie, the son of two-time NASCAR Nationwide Series champion Randy LaJoie, walked away from the accident without any major injuries.
With the Bristol event over, the Whelen Modified Series will split into Northern and Southern Tours for its next events. The Northern Tour will head to Canada for a race on Sept. 4, while the Southern Tour gets back in action Friday night at Caraway Speedway in Asheboro, N.C.