Cautionary Tale For Newman

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Ryan Newman could all but taste victory lane in Saturday night's Dodge Charger 500 at Darlington Raceway, but a late race caution left him fifth instead, giving him his second top five this season.

A caution with three laps remaining left Newman a sitting duck. Opting to remain on the track, Newman watched the rest of the field pit for fresh tires. On the green-white-checkered restart, Newman did all he could to hold off his competitors, but to no avail.

"You would think with 20 something guys on the lead lap that at least three of the guys running last on the lead lap would stay out, but they didn't," Newman said. "I can't say it was a bad call by any means by anybody. We had a car that should have definitely won this race tonight but didn't. That's something we can't say about the other races this year. We'll just go on. It was a great run for our Alltel Dodge and we look forward to going to Richmond."

Newman started second, earning his 10th top-10 start of the season and remaining the only NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series driver to start from the top 10 in every race this season. He fell to fourth on the initial start and quickly radioed to his crew chief, Matt Borland, that the Alltel Dodge was too loose. The crew made the proper adjustments during a lap 41 pit stop and sent Newman back to the track in sixth place.

While the Alltel Dodge felt great early in the run, it once again grew incredibly loose. The team continued to make changes until Newman reported on lap 84 that the car's handling had become a tick too tight.

The Alltel team continued to make the necessary adjustments and watched as Newman continued to move through the field. As the race reached the halfway point, Newman, running in the top five, reported that the Alltel Dodge was great.

Newman patiently raced in the top five as his pit crew continued to pick up positions on pit road. Following the team's eighth stop, Newman rejoined the field in second place, directly behind eventual race winner Greg Biffle. Shortly after the restart, Newman made his move and took over the lead. Newman extended his lead to nearly 4 seconds when the caution flag flew on lap 365 for a spin by the No. 6 of Mark Martin on the frontstretch.

With the field on fresh tires and Newman on tires with nearly 50 laps on them, Newman had no hope of holding off the hard charges of Biffle, Jeff Gordon, Kasey Kahne and Mark Martin. Newman was forced to settle for the top-five finish.

"This is my favorite race track. I've always wanted to win here," Newman said. "We had the car. We had everything today. We just didn't need that last caution."

With the top-five finish, Newman and the Alltel team advanced five spots to 10th in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series point standings. Newman is 314 points behind leader Jimmie Johnson and seven points behind ninth-place, Dale Earnhardt Jr.

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