Newman Battles Back
August 2, 2004 | 11:03 A.M. EST
"The ALLTEL/Mobil 1 team had a rough day today," Newman said following the race. "We had just about everything that could go wrong, go wrong. It was a long, uphill battle but the guys on the team worked hard to get our laps back and get us as close to the front as we could there at the end."
After Friday morning's practice session was shortened to one hour due to rain, the ALLTEL/Mobil 1 team qualified 30th. With both of Saturday's practice sessions rained out, the team had to rely on past race notes to set up the Dodge for Sunday's race.
On Sunday, Newman started his 100th career NASCAR Cup Series race from 30th position. The ALLTEL/Mobil 1 Dodge was extremely loose entering all three turns of the 2.5-mile triangle-shaped track, causing Newman to fall to 33rd before the team's first stop on lap 30. Twelve laps later, Newman entered pit road again, as he felt that a tire may have been going down on the Dodge. The stop was costly, as Newman rejoined the field one lap down and in 36th place.
The ALLTEL/Mobil 1 team continued to make extreme adjustments to the car, hoping the handling would improve. Newman was still not able to move through the field, as the car's handling remained extremely tight. On lap 70, slight contact with Greg Biffle's Ford caused slight damage to the car's left front fender. Newman was forced to once again enter pit road for repairs and four fresh tires. The stop caused the team to lose another lap to the leaders.
From that point on, the ALLTEL/Mobil 1 team concentrated on improving the Dodge's handling. As Newman's competitors began encountering mechanical failures and accidents, he began picking up positions on the track. On lap 159, while running 27th, Newman radioed to his crew that the car was the best it had been all day. A caution on lap 160 saw Newman earn the "Lucky Dog" award and regain one of his lost laps. He was now the only driver one lap down. Another caution 15 laps later moved Newman to the tail of the lead lap in 24th.
Newman picked up six positions before pitting once again on lap 194. The ALLTEL/Mobil 1 Dodge was suffering from a slight vibration. The team changed all four tires, and sent Newman back onto the track in 18th. In the final five laps, Newman gained five positions to amazingly finish 13th.
While five of the top-10 drivers in the point standings suffered poor finishes, Newman and the team's rebound into the top 15 advanced them two positions in the standings to eighth.
"I was well aware of the problems some of the other drivers were suffering," Newman said. "We actually suffered from them first, we were just fortunate to hang on to the end and get a decent finish out of it."