RYAN NEWMAN WINS 50th RUNNING OF THE DAYTONA 500, GIVES PENSKE RACING FIRST RESTRICTOR PLATE VICTORY Daytona Beach, Fla. (Feb. 17, 2008) -- With drafting help from Penske Racing teammate Kurt Busch, Ryan Newman, driver of the No. 12 Alltel...
RYAN NEWMAN WINS 50th RUNNING OF THE DAYTONA 500,
GIVES PENSKE RACING FIRST RESTRICTOR PLATE VICTORY
Daytona Beach, Fla. (Feb. 17, 2008) -- With drafting help from Penske Racing teammate Kurt Busch, Ryan Newman, driver of the No. 12 Alltel Dodge, took the checkered flag and scored a dramatic victory in the 50th running of the Daytona 500. Newman and Busch finished one-two at Daytona International Speedway on Sunday night.
The win was Newman's first in 81 NASCAR Cup races. It was also the first win for Newman with new crew chief Roy McCauley. The tandem had combined for six wins back in the 2005 Nationwide Series.
"Kurt was the push from heaven that made it happen," Newman said of the help his teammate gave him in his final push to the finish line. "I have to thank Kurt first and foremost.
"I don't have the words. It's awesome. It's probably the most awesome thing that has ever happened to me.
"It was awesome. Listening to my dad (Greg Newman, who serves as his son's spotter) on the radio spotting for me, all the other things, all the other emotions, all the hard work, people that gave me a shot racing quarter midgets, midgets, sprint cars, Silver Crown cars. I have to thank everybody, including the fans. It just hasn't sunk in yet."
McCauley and the No. 12 Alltel Dodge team worked on Newman's car throughout the course of the race to put them in the position to win. Newman started the day in seventh place, but a tight-handling condition caused Newman to drop as far back as 23rd.
Under the first green flag pit stop on lap 34, the team made an air pressure adjustment, a track bar adjustment, changed four tires and added fuel.
Newman returned to the track, and quickly said that the adjustments had overcorrected the problem. On lap 45, Newman told McCauley the car was really sliding around the race track and was getting too loose.
McCauley assured Newman that the pit crew would get him tightened back up with the next pit stop.
At lap 75, Newman pitted under the green flag for a wedge adjustment, an air pressure adjustment, four tries and fuel. By the time the green flag pit stops had circled through, Newman was running in 11th place.
A caution on lap 79 brought Newman back down pit road for four tires and fuel and another wedge adjustment in hopes of fixing the handling problems that Newman was experiencing with his Dodge Charger.
Newman restarted in 17th spot at Lap 84. But within just a few laps, Newman had moved into the top 10. As he struggled to find grip on the race track, Newman continued to move through the field.
"I'm a tick on the free side," Newman told his team while in fourth place at lap 112. "I need you to tighten it up a little bit."
When the next round of green flag pit stops started, Newman took over the top spot and picked up five bonus points for leading a lap.
The Alltel crew did their best to tighten up the car's handling when Newman came down pit road on lap 120 for an air pressure adjustment and a wedge adjustment in an effort to tighten him up. The team also changed four tires and added fuel to the No. 12 Dodge.
Newman returned to the track, and was again the leader once the green flag pit stops ran their course.
But Newman couldn't hold onto the lead. "We're too loose still," Newman told McCauley after falling back to the third spot at lap 130. "When they are right at my bumper, they're making me really loose."
McCauley went to work on a game plan for the next pit stop. Due to the loose-handling condition, Newman opted out of the tight pack of the top three cars and fell back to fifth place.
"We're going to tighten you up," McCauley told Newman on lap 146. "I may go a little too far, but you can't race you when you are loose."
At lap 151, the caution flag waved for the second time and Newman came down pit road for another wedge adjustment, a track bar adjustment, an air pressure adjustment, four tires and fuel. Newman restarted in sixth position.
When another caution was caused on lap 161, Newman was in fourth spot on the track. He told McCauley that he thought the changes the team made on the last pit stop would help his handling. The team elected to take four tires and fuel under the yellow flag and made no other changes. It would be the final pit stop of the night for the Alltel crew.
Newman restarted the race 14th in the running order as other teams used different pit strategies on the stop.
It wasn't long before Newman was back in the top 10. At lap 176, Newman was running fifth when the caution flag waved.
McCauley told Newman to stay out under the caution as he believed track position would be crucial as the laps wound down. "It may be a bad call, but I want track position," McCauley told his driver.
"As far as pit strategy goes, obviously once we could stop at lap 160 and make it on fuel, it was just going to be a matter of if another caution came out, were you going to put tires on," McCauley said after the race. "I'm not going to kid you, we had some second thoughts here and there. But I felt the track position was better overall trying to stay out of the accidents which normally come at the end of a plate race."
McCauley's pit call turned out to be key in the closing laps. Newman was third when the race restarted on lap 178.
By lap 184, Newman had taken over the lead, but he told McCauley that he had his hands full with the No. 12 Alltel Dodge. McCauley assured Newman that he had cars running with all old tires behind him and that having track position would be important in the closing laps.
When the caution flag came out again on lap 189, Newman had fallen back to third spot. And with just 10 laps remaining in the Daytona 500, the racing was really staring to heat up.
Newman was running three wide with the other competitors and was trying to find the best line as the laps wound down -- going from high to low on the race track. Then the caution flag waved for the last time at lap 194.
On the final race restart on lap 197, Newman was in fourth spot and got drafting help on the high side from Busch. Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Tony Stewart and Kyle Busch raced on the low line.
Coming off the final turn of the final lap, it was Newman who was in the lead with the help of a push from Busch. The two cars came across the line nose-to-tail -- the first one-two finish for Penske Racing.
"I can say I've been here almost 30 years trying to get in victory circle," team owner Roger Penske said. "To achieve this with this competition, with Ryan -- the student really of the sport -- and Roy and the whole team is just unbelievable.
"I think it was a pure team effort. Ryan drove a masterful race, as he's done many times and come up short. But today was special for us."
For Newman, the race was a total team effort.
"I knew that we struggled for grip at the start of the race," Newman said. "We fell back. I watched the scoring pylon count the laps down. I knew where I needed to be at a certain time.
"Fortunately, the way the strategy worked out, the way Roy called the shots, the Alltel Dodge that we had, we were capable of being in the right place at the right time.
"To be a part of this, to feel it, just to see it and to be sitting up here with Roger Penske knowing we just won the 50th annual Daytona 500 is just awesome."