Good Day For ALLTEL Team

Ryan Newman and ALLTEL Team Penske continued to add to their early season success by qualifying second for the MBNA America 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway and picking up another top-10 finish.

Friday’s lone practice session showed the ALLTEL Team in the top-15 but no where near the speeds they laid down during their test session. But Newman has become known for his qualifying prowess and Friday was no different.

Newman was the ninth driver to take his lap and established the time to beat (28.956 sec., 191.463 mph) early in the session. It looked like his time would stand until the 42nd of 45 drivers to qualify, Bill Elliott, took his turn and beat Newman by .012 of a second with a time of 28.944 sec.

Starting on the outside of the front row for the second week in a row, Newman felt confident about his chances of performing well, especially after he was fastest in Saturday’s first practice session and 15th in “Happy Hour.”

At the drop of the green, Newman came out of the gates charging. He powered around Elliott to lead the first lap and hold on to lead the first 15 laps. But the car was loose and he would slowly start to fall back, holding on until he could pit.

As green flag stops began, crew chief Matt Borland brought Newman down pit road on lap 58 and everyone hoped the adjustments would help the handling. But loose would turn to tight and Newman’s handling woes would continue throughout the race.

Despite his battle with the car, Newman never fell lower then 16th in the field and drove strong to a 10th place finish.

“We struggled a little bit but we finished 500 miles which was really important for me,” Newman said. “Another top-10 finish is awesome for this team and overall we’re happy with how the day went.”

Newman remains in 2nd place in the Winston Cup point standings, 74 points behind leader Sterling Marlin. He continuues to lead the Rookie of the Year battle by one point over Jimmie Johnson.

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Monster Energy NASCAR Cup, 2002

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