Newman 14Th At Rock
February 24, 2002 | 12:00 A.M. EST
Friday’s practice and qualifying session presented a bit of a struggle and for a team who has a Busch Series pole and outside pole, the bar was pretty high entering the event. Qualifying resulted in a 23rd starting position and the focus changed to the race.
In Saturday’s practice session, Newman and the team found the combinations they were looking for. They felt a lot better about their chances for Sunday as long as they could get through the field and out of the middle.
At the wave of the green, Newman started his charge. He had improved his position by 10 spots by the first caution on lap 19. But an ill-handling race car would see Newman fall back in the pack and lose a lap.
But just as the situation seemed to be improving, Newman reported a vibration on lap 128. Crew chief Matt Borland instructed him to pit and upon further inspection, the tire was the culprit. With problem fixed, Newman could return to the task at hand but it would be all up hill. He was two laps down and in 35th but not discouraged.
At the caution on lap 157 Newman beat the leader back to the line to get one lap back. He hovered about 25th, trying to gain as many positions as he could. On lap 258 he again beat the leader on the caution and was back on the lead lap.
From there, it was hard charging to the end of the race. Newman worked his way through lap traffic and his competition to finish 14th.
“It was a good day for my whole team,” Newman said. “We had a few hurdles but all in all it was successful day. We were the highest finishing rookie and a top-15 keeps us up in the points where we want to be.”