BRISTOL, Tenn. (Aug. 25, 2007) - Ryan Newman, driver of the No. 12 Alltel Dodge Avenger, kept his Chase hopes alive Saturday night with a seventh-place finish in the Sharpie 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway. Newman, who entered the race in 14th in...
BRISTOL, Tenn. (Aug. 25, 2007) - Ryan Newman, driver of the No. 12 Alltel Dodge Avenger, kept his Chase hopes alive Saturday night with a seventh-place finish in the Sharpie 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Newman, who entered the race in 14th in the standings, 171 points out of 12th, remains 14th. He lost only four points to teammate Kurt Busch, who possesses the final transfer spot, and is now 175 points out of the Chase with two races remaining.
The Alltel Dodge started seventh, but Newman fell back to 11th shortly after the green flag waved. However, he quickly moved back towards the front of the field and had climbed into the top five by lap 19. Newman would then remain in the top five for most of the race.
Newman was the fastest car on the track for many of the opening laps, running more than a tenth of a second faster than the other cars, including the leader.
The car was a little loose at the start of a run, but became tighter during the long runs. Newman was able to manage the car's tightness, but he still asked crew chief Mike Nelson to free up the car on the team's first stop.
By lap 67, Newman was running second to Kasey Kahne, but lap traffic kept him from catching Kahne and taking the lead.
On the team's first stop, the Alltel Dodge crew put on four fresh tires, filled the car with fuel and went up two rounds on the right-side track bar in an effort to eliminate the tightness in the car. Rear-tire changer Joe Piette Jr. tripped over the air hose as he ran to the car's left side and the mishap cost Newman two spots when the field restarted after the first of nine caution periods ended on lap 135.
Newman and Dale Earnhardt Jr., the 13th-place driver in the standings, battled for a good portion of the race. Early in the event, the two drivers gave each other room, but as the event progressed, things became heated between the two, who are battling for the 12th spot in the Chase.
Newman passed Earnhardt Jr. on lap 170 for fourth, and the two swapped spots again on lap 193.
"He gave it to me, I'm just giving it back," Newman told his crew.
The caution flag waved again on lap 211 when Denny Hamlin's car caught fire after apparently losing an engine. Newman asked his crew to free up his car even more. On his second stop, Nelson called for four tires, fuel and two more rounds up on the right-side track bar. Newman, who had entered the pits in fifth, restarted seventh.
It wouldn't be long before another caution occurred, but Newman was having problems of his own with lap down cars racing him hard and keeping him from getting back to the front.
"The 8 [Earnhardt Jr.] is the only one who's given me a break all night," Newman said.
Newman regained a top-five spot when he passed Jeff Gordon on lap 264 for fifth, but lap traffic once again kept Newman in place and unable to catch the guys in front of him.
The car became a little too tight in the center of the turns after the second stop and Newman told his crew to go back on the track bar during their next stop. However, it would be quite a while before Newman would be on pit road again.
More problems began occurring for Newman as the race progressed. After 350 laps, Newman told his crew he was struggling in the car with carbon monoxide fumes. Luckily, Nelson informed Newman that he would be pitting soon.
Green-flag pit stops began on lap 359 and Newman was able to hold out for a few laps to take over the lead and gain five bonus points to stay close to Earnhardt Jr. in the point standings. When Newman finally pitted on lap 364, his Alltel Dodge received four tires, fuel, one round down on the right-side track bar and one round of wedge out of the left rear to loosen the car.
The fourth of nine caution flags waved on lap 369, but green-flag stops had cycled through enough that Newman remained on the lead lap. Nelson also told Newman that they were good until the end on fuel. Newman replied that the car had felt better on the short run since the last adjustments.
When the field received the green flag on lap 378, Newman restarted sixth, but he was back in the top five in six laps and once again was battling the 8 car for position. Newman took over fifth when Earnhardt Jr. and Newman collided and Earnhardt Jr.'s car slid up the track, leaving Newman with the position.
"If the 8 wants to beat and bang, I'll beat and bang with him," Newman told his spotter. "He came down on me and deserved what he got."
The friendly battle had now heated up between the two drivers. Unfortunately for Newman, Earnhardt Jr. was able to recoup and recover his position in the top five on lap 395.
Newman remained in sixth for several laps, but was starting to feel worse as the carbon monoxide fumes became stronger inside the car.
In the closing laps, Tony Stewart passed three cars, including Newman, which left the Alltel Dodge Avenger in seventh when the checkered flag flew on lap 500.
"I was miserable in the car, but it was a good run for the Alltel Dodge,"
Newman said after climbing from his car. "We just got behind a little bit on pit road and that was enough. We just didn't have enough to get past those guys. We were good enough to hold our own, but couldn't pass them."
Next weekend, Newman will drive the No. 12 Kodak Dodge Charger in the Sharp AQUOS 500 at California Speedway on Sunday night. ESPN and MRN Radio will broadcast the race live beginning at 7 p.m. EDT.