Cool Down Lap: Brickyard victory timely for Newman; Hamilton takes record-tying 4th win

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Ryan Newman won the 20th Brickyard 400 Sunday, and there couldn’t have been a happier NASCAR community saluting the native Indianan.

The congenial Newman, whose fate for the 2014 season is unknown with no definite ride at this date, chose the grand stage that is the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to make his case.

Starting from pole, Newman led the first 28 laps before pitting under green and cycling back in behind Jimmie Johnson. With 95 laps left in the 160-lap race, on the restart following the first caution, it was still Johnson and Newman lining up 1 and 2.

On Lap 100, it was the same pair yet again, though the Penske duo of Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski were now on an alternate strategy. The 48 and 39 pitted with 52 and 51 laps to go, reentering fourth and eighth respectively.

As the laps wound down, the story on the track came down to the tire strategies being played out on pit road as green-flag racing prevailed. Due to a lengthy pit stop for the 48, Newman had come out ahead of Johnson for the first time since the opening stint.

Now, with 11 laps to go, could Newman hold on for a sweet win? Yes, as long as it stayed green, because Newman’s worn tires and previous two-tire change would not hold up on a restart. But this time, there would be no cautions, no restarts, and Newman flew under the checkered flag, only the third driver to win this crown jewel event from pole.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s day appeared over early. On Lap 12, the driver of the 88 experienced what he thought was a loose right rear tire and headed for the pits from 14th place. He returned dead last in 43rd, one lap down, then swiftly dropped down the free-pass ladder as more cars were lapped under the green flag.

Yet thanks to NASCAR’s wacky Lucky Dog rule, cars that are lapped get rewarded, so eventually Earnhardt got back up near the front, running as high as third. He finished sixth.

Johnson leads Clint Bowyer in the championship points race by 75. It’s off to Pocono.

Roadside rant

Kissing the Bricks has become a major postrace photo-op staple of the Brickyard 400, and one soda pop company was determined to make the most of it. But putting a super-sized Coke bottle as a stage prop in front of Ryan Newman’s toddler makes one wince at the rank commercialism of it all.

Forget the tasteless message it sent: Promoting a caffeine-ridden, sugar-laced drink through the helpful happenstance of a nearby baby. They actually showed a production assistant straighting the prop in front of the child.

Hungarian Grand Prix

Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton claimed his first Formula One victory of 2013—an eleven race dearth going back to the U.S. Grand Prix last November—winning from pole to record his fourth career victory at the Hungaroring, tying him with Michael Schumacher for most all-time wins at Hungary. Hamilton’s 22nd career victory came almost 11 seconds ahead of Kimi Raikkonen in a Lotus, followed by three-time incumbent world champion Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull Racing in third.

Differing tire strategies with the unreliable Pirellis lent some late-lap drama to the event, particularly when Hamilton’s teammate, Nico Rosberg, exited with a blown engine with just four laps remaining in the 70-lap race. The victory was also Hamilton’s inaugural win for his new team, Brawn Mercedes, since making the switch from McLaren over the winter. Vettel leads the championship hunt by 38 points over Raikkonen after 10 of 19 races.

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Read Alan Ross’ article on the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2013 in Lindy’s Sports 2013 Pro Football Preview at newsstands everywhere.

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