Ryan Newman and the No. 12 Penske Racing Alltel Dodge team endured a night of ups and downs in the Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe's Motor Speedway on Sunday night. After running as high as ninth during the 400-lap race, Newman was hit with a pit road ...
Ryan Newman and the No. 12 Penske Racing Alltel Dodge team endured a night of ups and downs in the Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe's Motor Speedway on Sunday night. After running as high as ninth during the 400-lap race, Newman was hit with a pit road speeding penalty and was later caught up in an accident which caused substantial damage to the car. Newman finished in 21st place.
Newman is currently 14th in the NASCAR Cup point standings, 85 points shy of the 12th-place cutoff for the NASCAR Chase for the Cup.
"It was not the night we had hoped for with our Alltel Dodge," Newman said after the race. "I felt like we had a good car tonight as long as we could keep up with the changing track conditions and stay out of trouble.
"Unfortunately, we got a penalty for speeding on pit road after we had gotten into the top 10, which put us back in the pack. Then we got caught up in a crash on a restart with 100 laps to go when we were trying to work our way back up front. The damage was too much for our car to be competitive, so that pretty much ended our night. We're disappointed, but we are going to one of my favorite tracks next weekend (Dover International Speedway), and we're looking forward to making up lost ground there."
Despite qualifying 38th for the Coca-Cola 600, Newman was confident that the team had a top-10 car for the longest race of the year. The key, Newman said before the race, would be to stay out of trouble.
Early in the race, Newman's Alltel Dodge looked strong. Within 30 laps of the green flag, Newman had climbed 12 spots to 26th place. At lap 30, Newman told crew chief Roy McCauley that the car was too tight in the center of the turns and that it needed to be freed up to help him gain more positions on the track.
When green flag pit stops began on lap 46, Newman was in 24th place. The team pitted at lap 51 for four tires, fuel and a track bar adjustment. Newman returned to the track in 24th place.
After just a handful of laps following the stop, Newman reported that the car was still too tight. A caution on lap 61 gave the team the opportunity to make a wedge adjustment to help free the car up. Newman returned to the track in 20th place.
The adjustments seemed to work as Newman began to gain spots on the track. By lap 100, he had moved into the top 15. After another green flag pit stop for four tires and fuel, Newman was sitting just outside of the top 10 in 11th place.
When the caution flag waved again on lap 161, Newman told his crew that the car was still too tight getting into the center of the turns and was snapping loose coming out of the corners. Newman pitted for four tires, fuel and wedge and track bar adjustments. He restarted the race in ninth place.
Just 20 laps later, Newman told his crew that the adjustments had not helped the handling of the car and that it was still too tight. A caution on lap 185 gave the team another chance to improve the car's handling. Newman pitted for fuel and a track bar adjustment.
It was a quick stop, but NASCAR officials penalized Newman for being too fast exiting pit road. Newman was sent to the tail end of the longest line and forced to restart the race in 17th place.
"I didn't think that I was too fast exiting the pits," Newman said later. "I was right on my pit road speed, but that's not my call."
At the halfway point of the race at lap 200, Newman was battling to make up lost ground following the penalty. He was also fighting the track's changing conditions as the sun set and the temperatures began to drop. By lap 250, Newman told his crew that the Alltel Dodge was the loosest it had been all night.
The loose-handling condition was preventing Newman from making up any ground on the leaders, and he had dropped to 19th when the caution flag waved at lap 296. He pitted for four tires, fuel and a wedge adjustment to help tighten up the car. Newman returned to the track in 18th place.
That's when trouble struck. As the green flag dropped for the double-file restart on lap 305, a car in the lead pack mistimed the start. As several cars in front of Newman began to make contact and check up to avoid wrecking, the rest of the field became congested. With nowhere to go, Newman ran into the back of the car in front of him causing damage to the hood, the left front nose and left front fender of the Alltel Dodge.
The No. 12 team made a series of pit stops in order to change tires, pull back dented sheet metal from the tire and push down the hood and splitter. However, the damage was significant enough to affect the car's aerodynamic performance for the remainder of the race. Newman finished the night in 21st place as Penske Racing teammates Sam Hornish Jr. and Kurt Busch finished 13th and 16th, respectively.