AVONDALE, Ariz. — A big gamble in the desert heat ended a long victory drought for Ryan Newman.
When just about everybody else decided to take a tire-changing pit stop in the final few laps Sunday, Newman figured he’d be going into the pits with them.
His crew chief, Luke Lambert, thought otherwise.
It was a decision that earned Newman a victory in the NASCAR Cup Series race at Phoenix International Raceway, ending his 127-race winless streak.
“Just a heck of a gutsy call by Luke Lambert,” Newman said. “It’s his first win as a crew chief in the Cup Series, and I think making a gutsy call like that makes it that much more special for him.”
While the leaders were in the pits, Newman moved from seventh to first. Over the final two laps, he held off Kyle Larson, the second-place finisher for the third straight race.
Kyle Busch, the leader for nearly all of the final stage of the race, finished third on a day when the temperature soared to 97 degrees.
Larson and Busch went to the pits during the late caution caused when Joey Logano’s car blew a right tire and slammed into the wall six laps from the finish.
Newman got his 18th Cup win, but his first since the 2013 Brickyard 400. He gave Chevrolet its first victory of the season and ended a 112-race losing streak for Richard Childress Racing.
“I can’t say enough about what it means,” Newman said.
When the caution ended, two laps separated him from the win.
“You’re on old tires. It’s really easy to screw it up,” Newman said. “You’ve got to get your tires cleaned off right, you’ve to get a good launch, you’ve got to run through the gear box right, and then you’ve got to hold everybody off.”
Larson, with two new tires on his Chevrolet, came out of the pit stop ahead of Busch’s Toyota.
“I thought he was going to be all over me,” Newman said of Larson. “I don’t think he could get going as good as he wanted to.”
Logano won the first stage and Chase Elliott won the second in NASCAR’s new three-stage system.
Elliott dominated the second stage but lost the lead after Matt Kenseth blew a right front tire and slammed into the wall on the 193rd lap of the 314-lap race. In the ensuing pit stop, Busch got out quicker than Elliott to take the lead.