Bad Luck Bites Ryan Newman at Bristol; Finishes 33rd BRISTOL, Tenn. (March 16, 2008) - Ryan Newman, driver of the Penske Racing No. 12 Alltel Dodge Charger, finished 33rd in Sunday's Food City 500 NASCAR Cup event at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Bad Luck Bites Ryan Newman at Bristol; Finishes 33rd
BRISTOL, Tenn. (March 16, 2008) - Ryan Newman, driver of the Penske Racing No. 12 Alltel Dodge Charger, finished 33rd in Sunday's Food City 500 NASCAR Cup event at Bristol Motor Speedway. Although Newman's run looked promising as one of the fastest cars of the .533-mile oval, a wreck near the midpoint of the race took Newman out of contention.
"It was a rough ending for the Alltel Dodge Charger," Newman said after the race. "We had a fast car all day, but just got caught up in a wreck. When you race here you have to have your car in one piece in at the end, but we just had some bad luck in the middle of the race."
Following five NASCAR Cup races, Newman is currently eighth in the 2008 point standings, 147 points behind leader Kyle Busch.
After rain cancelled qualifying, Newman was scheduled to start in 13th-place based on the final 2007 NASCAR Cup point standings. However, due to an engine change during the second practice on Saturday afternoon, Newman and the Alltel team had to start at the rear of the field for Sunday's race.
"Bristol is not the track where you want to start last," Newman said following the engine change. "But we're going to do the best we can. We just have to be patient and calm."
At the start of the race, Newman had his work cut out for him and he patiently worked his way through traffic and was able to hang on to the lead lap pack despite being stalked closely by the leader.
At lap 50, NASCAR threw a mandatory caution flag for teams to check tire wear due to constant rains on Friday and Saturday. Newman, who was sitting in 35th-place, told his crew that his No. 12 Alltel Dodge was handling a bit too tight and did not rotate through the center of the corners as well as he would like. Newman pitted and the Alltel crew made adjustments to the air pressure and track bar, as well as changing four tires and adding fuel. The No. 12 restarted in 31st place.
"We were stuck in traffic quite a bit there," Newman told crew chief Roy McCauley after the stop. "We have a better car than what we're showing."
After the race restarted, Newman continued to methodically make his way through the field and was in 23rd-place when the third caution of the day came out at lap 93. Newman told the Alltel team that the car was still a 'tick too tight,' but that it was definitely better than it had previously been.
The Alltel pit crew made another air pressure and track bar adjustment, changed four tires and added fuel. Newman restarted the race in the 22nd spot at lap 100.
When a quick caution came out at lap 120, Newman and the team elected to stay out and pick up valuable track position at the Tennessee short track rather than pit. Newman gained seven spots and restarted in 13th-place.
Although the Alltel Dodge Charger was still battling a tight handling condition, Newman was able to move into the top 10 for the first time by lap 140. However at lap 190, two cars wrecked while battling for position and Newman was left with no place to go except straight into the five-car wreck.
The altercation left the No. 12 Alltel Dodge with heavy damage to the left rear quarter panel and the left side of the rear bumper, as well as right front-fender damage.
"The 26 and the 40 (cars) got crossed-up and turned around," Newman said. "Then the 15 (car) spun in front of me and I had nowhere to go and I hit him. Then I got T-boned - that was pretty much our day."
Under the caution period following the accident, Newman made three pit stops so that the Alltel team could pull out and repair damaged sheet metal, change tires, add fuel and adjust the track bar.
When the race restarted on lap 197, Newman was in 35th-place, one lap down to the leader.
Newman's bad luck continued on lap 214 when NASCAR black-flagged the No. 12, requiring them to stop and to repair more damaged sheet metal from the accident. The team made the required pit stop under green flag conditions, at which point the Alltel team taped up the battered sheet metal, did additional repair work and made a track bar adjustment to assist Newman's now loose-handling condition.
Following this extended pit stop, Newman returned to the track in 39th spot, four laps down to the leaders.
The bad luck did not dissuade the Alltel team, as Newman continued to drive hard, with lap times comparable to the top-five contenders.
"Ryan, I know this isn't any fun, but you're doing a good job out there," McCauley said. "We're picking up spots, so keep doing what you are doing."
The Alltel team continued to work on the No. 12 car and an extended caution period at lap 278 provided an opportunity to make a series of pit stops to work on the front-wheel toe of the car. The work helped Newman pilot the car for the remainder of the race.
"We have a fast car if we can get it fixed right," Newman said before coming down pit road. "We should be pretty close to where we were if we can get the steering back right."
Over the course of the next 200 laps, Newman patiently worked to gain as many positions as possible. He moved as high as 30th before enduring another setback at lap 450, when his right front tire slowly lost air and went flat, forcing the team to pit for two right side tires. This green flag pit stop cost Newman three more laps to the leaders and put him in 34th place.
Only one more position could be gained before the checkered flag waved and Newman finished 33rd.
"It was a fast race car," Newman told his crew at the end of the race.