Newman Says Hello To Third

Lost in the midst of the war of words between Ryan Newman and Daytona 500 champion Jimmie Johnson was the final result after Sunday’s race.

For a driver who usually can't wait to leave Daytona, Newman had to be pretty happy with his third place performance in Daytona last Sunday and looks to carry the momentum into this week's race in Fontana.

Aside from a lone top-10 result in his first start at the "World Center of Racing" in the 2002 running of the Daytona 500, Newman has repeatedly left Daytona with unimpressive performances, as his average finish of 22 leading into last week’s race shouts out.

"It's a great run for the Alltel Dodge. It's a definite booster for the start of the season. Just as we went into the 500 at ground zero, it was another situation going into California where, you know, just because we're third now, we can come out of California 33rd in points. I mean, it's just a situation where you try to make the best of it.

"It's a great way to start the season, no doubt. Thankful for the effort that Roger Penske and everybody at Penske Racing has put forth. We got to continue that, keep striving."

Although he was pleased with the overall result, Newman actually had a chance to come out of Daytona with an even better result. Newman gambled late in the race when he got out of the draft in an attempt to overtake Johnson on the last lap of the race, a move that didn't exactly pan out.

"We had a good run. I told the guys over the radio afterwards, if I had that run, didn't take it, you know, I would have had a hard time sleeping tonight, probably for the next 10, 15 years maybe. You never know. I'm glad I took it. Whether we finished second or third, that's beside the point. We had a great effort."

With one of his biggest obstacles of the year out of the way, the driver of the No. 12 Alltel Dodge has already shifted his focus to California Speedway, a track where he has an average finish of 15.2 including three top-10’s in six starts.

"Daytona is its own animal and it's totally different from any other race weekend throughout the season. California gets down to the 'meat' of the season when we can actually get down to a routine. Downforce is extremely important at California and we work the hardest to get everything we can out of the handling of the car. We're looking forward to it," said crew chief Matt Borland.

In addition to a new spotter whose credential include being the eyes around the track for Dale Earnhardt, and pulling double duty in the Busch Series to gain more track time, Newman will also be running the car which gave him his best result at California, the 2004 Dodge Intrepid.

"It's no secret that this team struggled with the Charger last year. We're still searching for the right balance with the Charger. Dodge made a great car, but NASCAR changed some of the rules after the car was approved. The Intrepid fits NASCAR's rule package better. But, we're still searching for the perfect balance in the Charger and we're not giving up on it," said Borland.

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