Newman Clinches Chase Berth; Finishes 20th in Atlanta Rain-Delayed Race
HAMPTON, Ga. (Sept. 6, 2011) -- It was mission accomplished for U.S. Army driver Ryan Newman, who clinched a Chase berth with a 20th-place finish in Tuesday's rain-delayed AdvoCare 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Newman is one of nine drivers who already have qualified for the 10-race, 12-driver Chase for the Sprint Cup championship, which commences on Sept. 18 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill. The remaining three Chase drivers will be determined following Saturday night's race (Sept. 10) at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway. (see below for qualified Chase drivers)
This will be the fourth time and second in the last three years that Newman has qualified for the Chase since the playoff championship format began in 2004. Last year he missed the Chase by one position, finishing 13th in the pre-Chase points.
"We're not proud of our performance today, but we're proud of what we accomplished," said Newman. "We got the Soldiers' car in the Chase, a credit to our Stewart-Haas Racing organization. The opportunity to make the Chase is what we've been striving for all year long. This accomplishment is for our Army Strong Soldiers who give this No. 39 team an immense amount of pride and inspiration."
Though he clinched a Chase berth with one race to spare, Newman did have mixed feelings when he exited his Army Chevrolet after the 325-lap, 500-mile race, which included a 22-minute red flag stoppage for rain.
"I saw a lot of bumpers all day long, it seemed like we never really got good track position," explained Newman. "We did not have the best race car but we did what we needed to do. We're going to Richmond with a freebie and hopefully get some momentum for the last 10 races. We just can't have days like today in the Chase."
Newman started the Atlanta race from the ninth position, but ran the majority of the event in the high teens and low 20s.
"With the iffy weather and the opportunity to clinch a spot in the Chase, we did play it safe today, but that's not an excuse for our overall performance," noted Newman.
Newman dropped one spot in the driver standings and is currently eighth.
Newman's Stewart-Haas Racing teammate, Tony Stewart, boosted his chances of making the Chase with an impressive third-place finish. He enters the final pre-Chase race 10th in driver points.
The race winner was Jeff Gordon. Rounding out the top-five in order were: Jimmie Johnson, Stewart, Kurt Busch and Carl Edwards.