Darlington: Ryan Newman race report

DARLINGTON, S.C. (May 13, 2007) -- Ryan Newman, driver of the No. 12 Alltel Dodge Avenger, recorded his third straight top-10 finish Sunday at Darlington Raceway in the rain-delayed Dodge Avenger 500 to advance to 14th in the point...

DARLINGTON, S.C. (May 13, 2007) -- Ryan Newman, driver of the No. 12 Alltel Dodge Avenger, recorded his third straight top-10 finish Sunday at Darlington Raceway in the rain-delayed Dodge Avenger 500 to advance to 14th in the point standings.

The South Bend, Ind., native has now gained 12 positions in the standings in the last three races.

In the last three events, Newman has started 28th [Talladega], 30th [Richmond] and 29th at the 1.366-mile Darlington track. And each time he has taken the checkered flag in the top 10 with a ninth at Talladega, a sixth at Richmond and a fourth Sunday at Darlington. Overall, Newman has gained an average of 22 positions from the time the race started until it ended.

In the point standings, Newman has jumped from 26th before Talladega [194 points out of 12th] to 14th after Darlington [97 points out of 12th]. Newman's fourth-place finish was the first time he had earned a top-five since Sonoma in June 2006 when he placed second.

Only 50 laps into the 500-mile race, Newman had made his way into the top 10 and would remain there for the final 317 laps.

Pit stops helped Newman maintain or better his position on the track each time he came in for changes. The Alltel Dodge crew never had a stop that lasted longer than 13.90 seconds and six of their eight stops were under the 13-second range, including a 12.29-second stop on lap 257 when Newman came in for four tires, fuel and a half-round of wedge out of the left rear to free up the car a bit once the sun came out. The Alltel crew helped Newman gain eight positions during yellow-flag stops throughout the day.

"The Alltel Dodge was really good today. We ended up just a little short of Gatorade victory lane today," Newman said during the media bullpen on pit road. "Those guys were racing me clean there at the end. I was just trying to hold on with old tires. I guess old tires won it, but we were in a position where we were trying to get the lead and it just didn't play out.

"The wheel inside the car was turning a lot. The guys did a great job all day and it gives us something else to build on. It was a good points' day as well. The two (Penske) teams are getting along great. I think Kurt [Busch] struggled on that last pit stop, but the two teams are working great. We're looking forward to the All-Star race and things to come. I think we've got a good program for the rest of the year."

Newman, who had very few complaints regarding his car's balance during the 367-lap race, followed race-winner Jeff Gordon's pit strategy and decided to stay out during the ninth caution period that began on lap 345 when debris was found in turns one and two. Denny Hamlin and Jimmie Johnson, who finished second and third, respectively, both came down pit road for four fresh tires during that yellow flag and ended up passing Newman in the race's closing laps.

"Old tires won and new tires were close," Newman opined. "I think if we hadn't had that one caution we would have been in better shape yet, but that one caution hurt us. It gave those guys a couple of spots off a chance to knock the rest of us off. I've got to thank Jimmie (Johnson) for racing me clean. It's give-and-take here at the end, but I was in position with old tires. He knew when he came in he was going to have an opportunity to pass some cars back. I just appreciate him racing me clean.

"I want to thank the fans for coming back and supporting us. It was a great race, I thought. I guess the Car of Tomorrow is here today. We had a good run with it, and I'm looking forward to the rest of the races this year. You couldn't bring the tires up on the short run for them to be there on the long run, at least in our car, and I think some other cars had the same situation. We got the lead and raced for the lead a couple of times there. We just weren't there when the checkered flag fell."

Another key to Newman's performance in Sunday's Dodge Avenger 500 was his ability to lead 39 laps during the race. Newman had led only three laps the entire year when track-position strategy allowed him to lead a lap in three different races. On Sunday, Newman used pit strategy to lead his first lap, but the rest of the day, he was able to pass competitors to take the race lead and maintain that lead for a total of 39 laps on three different occasions.

"To be able to pass some guys for the lead instead of staying out on old tires and holding the lead down, it was a good run for us and a sign of good things to come," Newman said. "I respect Jimmie [Johnson] a lot. I'm glad he raced me clean. He had a good opportunity a couple of times there to take my quarter right on around. I'm real ready (to win). I was ready today. It's Mother's Day and I wanted to give my mom the best Mother's Day present possible. I tried hard. She knows that. We went from ninth to sixth to fourth, so it's going in the right direction. It's just a matter of time in my opinion."

Newman's toughest run came around lap 256 when the sun finally broke through the clouds in Darlington for the first time in two days. Newman started having trouble during restarts and wouldn't be able to keep up with the frontrunners like he had when the skies were overcast. On the last restart, Newman was second behind Gordon, but quickly fell behind the 24 car by more than a second in less than three laps. After holding off Hamlin and Johnson for six laps, Newman finally was passed by both of those drivers on lap 362. However, he was able to fight off a hard-charging Carl Edwards, who finished fifth, for the final five laps.

"We just finally got results," said Newman. "We've had good performances and we've had great race cars. I struggled qualifying here for some reason. Once we get everything back on track we'll be just fine. Our guys are doing a great job. The Hendrick guys are obviously tough, but we're showing what we're capable of. We've just got to keep following through. It's not the championship Chase right now. We're just working our way to it. We'll keep building on it.

"I heard the 25 [Casey Mears] blew up. I was hoping the 24 would be next, but those guys did a great job."

Next weekend, Newman will drive the No. 12 Alltel Dodge Charger in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup All-Star Challenge at Lowe's Motor Speedway. Newman is locked into the race as a past champion of the annual non-points paying competition. He won it in 2002 after winning the former Winston Open to advance into the all-star event. He is only the second rookie to win the all-star race, recording the accomplishment after Dale Earnhardt Jr. SPEED and MRN Radio will broadcast the All-Star Challenge live beginning at 7 p.m. EDT on Saturday.

-credit: penske racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jeff Gordon , Ryan Newman , Casey Mears , Jimmie Johnson , Carl Edwards , Denny Hamlin