Newman Looks Back At 2004

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The inaugural NASCAR Nextel Cup Series season is over, which is hard to believe. When the season starts in Daytona, all of the races coming up seem overwhelming, In what seems like an instant, however, we're in Miami winding things up. If you have a good season, you're smiling because you know you can enjoy the winter and look forward to a repeat the next year. If you had a disappointing season, you can't wait to get back to Daytona and start over. You almost feel like you need to redeem yourself.

The ALLTEL team is kind of in the middle. We ended the 2004 season with two wins and nine poles. By most standards, this would be considered a successful season. After our 2003 season, however, two wins is kind of disappointing.

Leading into the season, the team meets and we make a list of goals that we want to reach that year. This year, we met some of those goals, but not all of them. Obviously, we wanted to be in the top-10 following the fall Richmond race, locking us into the "Chase for the Championship." That one we achieved, although we held our breath there at the end. We wanted to win the annual Bud Pole Award again. We did, for the third straight year. That's the first time that's happened in almost 20 years.

We wanted to win even more races this year than the eight we won in 2003. We were in prime position to win about 10 races this year when something extraordinarily odd would happen. Six of those 10 were in the final 10 races. A perfect example is our cut tire at Homestead-Miami Speedway in the final three laps. Or when we got caught in a lapped-car accident at Lowe's Motor Speedway with about 20 laps to go.

We wanted to win the first NASCAR Nextel Cup Series championship, especially for our sponsor ALLTEL. Instead, we earned a seventh-place finish in the final point standings. This is the third-straight year we finished in the top-10 in the series' point standings. That in itself is an achievement, But, this team is full of over-achievers and perfectionists. We want that big prize.

This weekend my wife, Krissie, and I travelled to New York City for the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series banquet. The weekend is full of appearances and promotions, but we try to get some down time to enjoy the city as well. Last year we caught a musical on Broadway. Hopefully we'll do the same this year. The best part of the banquet is that it completes the season. This is the official end of the season. Following Friday's festivities, we can turn our full attention to 2005.

Next year, we'll again set our goals high. There's no reason not to. We want to earn the most poles. Win the most races. Be champions. Through hard work, teamwork and perseverance, all three of those can be achieved.

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