Conservation Pays For Newman

Ryan Newman and the No. 12 ALLTEL team conserved fuel in the final half of the Auto Club 500 to finish third. After running in and out of the top 10, the team made a late race charge to sixth and watched as three of its competitors ran out of fuel on the final lap.

"The ALLTEL/Mobil One Dodge was pretty good all day," Newman said. "We struggled for one run there, but Matt (Borland) and the guys did a good job in the pits. We had a really good car at the start. I think the track changed a little bit and we had to catch up with it.

"We came out with a top five because of a little bit of fuel strategy. I think we were pretty conservative on fuel. We were all right at the end, but you never know how it's going to work out sometimes. Sometimes the driver uses a little too much, but you never know for sure until it's over. We came away with a top five at a place we hadn't finished in the top 10 before, so we're pretty happy with that."

After starting seventh, Newman moved into second on lap five. He radioed to crew chief Matt Borland that the ALLTEL Dodge was great. Immediately following, a piece of trash stuck to the grill of the car, causing the team to keep a close eye on the temperature gauge on a day when the outside temperature was 100+ degrees.

The race's first caution period occurred on lap 21, allowing the ALLTEL team to make a pit stop for four tires and fuel, clean the grill and tighten the handling of the car. The adjustment, however, did not settle well with the ALLTEL Dodge as Newman fell back to seventh by the second caution period on lap 50.

The second stop saw the team make further adjustments, again to no avail. Newman, who restarted the event in 10th, fell back to 13th in only 11 laps. Newman and Borland frequently talked about the handling of the car and the options that the team could take to make improvements.

The third pit stop, occurring on lap 93, saw the team reverse some of the earlier adjustments it had made to the car. Following the restart, Newman began to work his way back through the field, breaking into the top 10 on lap 102 and into sixth on lap 112. The team's final yellow-flag stop saw it once again make extensive changes. Newman rejoined the field in eighth place.

The team knew that fuel mileage could come into play. Without any further cautions, Borland made the call for Newman to make a green-flag stop on lap 200-several laps later than his competitors. Newman reentered the track in eighth place. The 40 laps following the stop involved a great battle between his teammate Brendan Gaughan and last year's NASCAR Cup Champion, Matt Kenseth. The three swapped positions several times before Newman took over sixth with only seven laps remaining.

The gap between fifth-place Jimmie Johnson and sixth-place Newman was slightly more than five seconds-a deficit that could not be made up in the few remaining laps. On the final lap, second-place Bobby Labonte, third-place Jeremy Mayfield and his teammate, running in fourth, Kasey Kahne, all ran out of fuel. As they coasted around the track, Newman passed them all to finish third.

The top-five finish was the team's fourth of the season, its sixth top-10 finish. The third-place finish also helped the team to move up two positions in the series' point standings to seventh. Newman and the ALLTEL team now sit 17 points out of fifth and 154 out of the lead. The team is 17 positions higher than it was at this point last season.

Next Race: The NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series will travel to Richmond International Raceway for the Chevy American Revolution 400 on Saturday, May 15th. The race will air live on FOX at 7:00 p.m., EDT and can also be heard on MRN Radio at 7:00 p.m., EDT. The NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series has next weekend, May7-10, off.

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