Ryan Newman fulfilled the childhood dream of so many who grew up in Indiana — winning at storied Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Newman, from South Bend, ended a 49-race losing streak with Sunday’s victory at the Brickyard, and he did it by beating Jimmie Johnson.
Newman set a NASCAR track record in knocking Johnson off the pole in qualifying, then used a fast final pit stop Sunday to snatch the win from the four-time Indianapolis winner.
The two were the class of the field — they combined to lead 118 of the 160 laps — but it was Johnson who dominated the race and appeared to be just a bit better. But Johnson pitted from the lead with 27 laps remaining and it was a slow final stop for the Hendrick Motorsports crew.
Newman pitted after that and took only two tires to move into the lead after the green-flag stops cycled through the field. The closest Johnson would get to him again was when he paid a congratulatory visit to Newman in Victory Lane.
Newman was remarkably composed as he took the checkered flag and in Victory Lane.
“I don’t realize it yet. It’s a dream come true,” he said. “It can’t hit you all at once, it’s not good enough. It will take a week or so for it to sink in.”
The victory comes as Newman is looking for a job.
Stewart-Haas Racing has signed Kevin Harvick to join the team next season, and team co-owner Tony Stewart informed Newman two weeks ago he won’t be brought back in 2014. It didn’t change the post-race mood, as Stewart hustled to Victory Lane, lifted Newman from behind and the two shared a long embrace.
“He just had an awesome weekend,” Stewart said. “I kept looking up the board and watching and I was scared to ask where he was at and how big of a lead he had. I didn’t want to jinx him. Just really proud of him — he’s a great teammate and an even better friend.”
Hartford native Dave Blaney started 41st and finished 37th.
Johnson, the Sprint Cup Series points leader who was hoping to tie Formula One’s Michael Schumacher as the only five-time winners in Indy history, finished 2.657 seconds behind Newman in second.
“There’s definitely disappointment there, but that’s racing. It happens,” Johnson said. “We win as a team, lose as a team. There’s been some late race mistakes on my behalf that have taken race wins away from us. Granted, not a major event like this. 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 tomorrow afternoon.”
Kasey Kahne, Johnson’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate, was third and Stewart was fourth as Chevrolet swept the top four spots. All four cars were also powered by Hendrick Motorsports.