Newman Finishes 10Th In California

After battling multiple rain delays, which forced the Auto Club 500 to be completed on Monday morning at California's Auto Club Speedway, Ryan Newman drove his Penske Racing No. 12 Alltel/Samsung HDTV Dodge to a 10th-place finish.

The result was Newman's 100th career top-10 finish in the NASCAR Cup Series.

“After about 12 hours and 163 more laps, we ended up in the same spot that we finished last night, so that’s not too bad,” Newman said. “At times we had a seventh-place car and at other times we had a 15th-place car, so we will take the average and be happy to come out of here with a top-10 finish. (Crew chief) Roy McCauley said it on the radio after the race – top 10s win championships, and that is our goal this year.”

With his win in the Daytona 500 and a 10th-place finish this week, Newman currently sits second in the NASCAR Cup Series points standings. He is six points behind current series leader Kyle Busch.

The key for the No. 12 Alltel/Samsung HDTV Dodge team during the Auto Club 500 was adjustability. Throughout the course of the race weekend, Newman struggled to get the perfect handle on his Dodge Charger.

After rain cancelled qualifying, Newman started in 13th-place based on last year’s final Cup point standings. The race finally saw the green flag on Sunday after a nearly three-hour delay.

With the uncertain weather and varying track conditions, Newman and McCauley knew going into the race that being able and prepared to adjust the car would be crucial in order to get a good result.

Four laps into the Auto Club 500, Newman told McCauley that the car was handling was too tight.

When a caution flag waved on lap 14, Newman was able to bring his Dodge Charger, which had been running in 14th place, to the attention of his team. While making adjustments to the track bar, wedge and air pressure, the pit crew also changed four tires and added fuel all in the hope of helping Newman’s ill-handling car.

With all the refinements made to his car, Newman returned to the track in the 14th spot.

On lap 21, he narrowly avoided the spinning car of Casey Mears. Newman came over the radio and told his crew that he got through the cars without sustaining any damage.

“My car is definitely better,” Newman said during the caution. “I feel like we have a pretty decent car. I’m just in so much dirty air right now back here in traffic that it’s hard to gauge what we’ve got.”

Following the wreck, NASCAR red-flagged the race for 70 minutes to clear the debris and work on the track, which had been “weeping” water from the previous rainfall.

When the drivers took the green flag again at lap 25, Newman was in the 11th position. Newman hung around the top 10 over the course of the next 15 laps, despite continuing to battle a tight-handling condition and having his car’s temperatures running too hot.

On lap 39, the caution flag waved once again for rain. Under the caution, Newman came down pit road for another wedge and air pressure adjustment, four tires and fuel. The crew also used the stop to take tape off the grill and to clean the grill in hopes of helping to control the car’s high temperatures. The quick stop put Newman back on track in ninth-place.

By lap 47, the race was back under the green flag. Again, Newman rotated spots, racing for seventh, eighth and ninth each lap. At lap 62, Newman told his team that the handling of his car was not to his liking.

Newman was finally able to bring the Alltel/Samsung HDTV Dodge to his pit crew’s attention when a caution flag slowed the field on lap 69. Newman was running in 10th place when he entered pit lane. Once again the crew made multiple adjustments to help the tight-handling race car. They also changed four tires and added fuel.

“We are just way too tight,” Newman explained to his crew.

Newman restarted the race running 16th, and with each lap, he seemed to gain a position. By lap 82, when the caution flag waved for rain again, Newman had moved up to 12th place.

The No. 12 team elected to pit under the caution for four tires, fuel and tape on the grill. Newman returned to the track in 10th place, before the race was red-flagged due to more weather and eventually postponed until Monday morning.

By Monday, the rain in Southern California had cleared. Under the sunny skies and in the chilly breeze, the Auto Club 500 resumed to complete its final 163 laps. Newman restarted the race in 10th place.

A new day and the change in weather meant a change to the handling of Newman’s No. 12 Alltel/Samsung HDTV Dodge. Now battling a loose-handling race car, Newman fell from 10th to 17th before the crew was able to bring him down pit road for a regularly-scheduled green flag pit stop on lap 121.

The crew changed four tires, added fuel and made a track bar and wedge adjustment. By the time the green flag pit stops had cycled through, Newman was shown in 15th place.

Just a few laps into the run, Newman told McCauley that the adjustment had helped him improve getting into the turns, but he still needed help.

When the caution waved again on lap 134, Newman brought his car back to the pits for four tires and fuel. The team also made a track bar adjustment and added tape to the grill. Newman restarted the race in the 13th spot.

Just 15 laps later when the caution flag was again displayed, McCauley and Newman opted to take only two tires in an attempt to gain track position. The quick stop allowed Newman to get off pit road first and take the lead on the track. He was awarded five bonus points for leading a lap.

“Ryan, I think taking two is the best move we could make,” McCauley told his driver on the radio. “The worst thing that can happen is we fall back to where we were.”

Newman told McCauley he agreed with the call.

But soon after the stop, Newman told his crew that the car was loose getting into the corner and too tight in the center of the turns. As he lost a spot on the track, Newman drove his No. 12 Charger too hard into the corner and scraped the wall, causing cosmetic damage to the right rear quarter panel. Newman dropped to fifth following the scrape up.

“I was just trying too hard,” Newman said after the race. “We finally had the track position but my car wasn’t handling just right and I drove it in there really hard and tagged the wall.”

Newman told McCauley that he just couldn’t get the grip he wanted to help him maneuver his race car around the track.

On lap 169, Newman came down pit road under the caution flag for four tires, fuel and another track bar and wedge adjustment. He restarted the race in 14th place.

Just three laps after the restart, Newman was able to break free from a three-wide pack and move into 10th position.

Despite continuing to battle a tough-to-handle car that was both tight and snapping loose, Newman was able to hold his position on the race track.

“I know it’s not right,” McCauley told Newman at lap 192,”but it’s the best you’ve been during this race. Keep your rhythm and we’ll be just fine.”

Newman pitted under the green flag at lap 207 for a regularly schedule pit stop. Again, the pit crew adjusted the track bar, changed four tires and added fuel. Newman returned to the track in 10th place after the green flag stops were completed.

A few laps later, Newman told McCauley that the adjustments had made his car a “tick too tight” and he needed to be freed up. A caution on lap 221 allowed the Penske pit crew to make changes in hopes of giving Newman a car that he could make a run with in the closing laps.

Newman restarted the race in 13th place, and he was able to make his way back up to the top 10 before the checkered flag.

“This was a good finish as far as points go,” Newman said. “This is probably the best start to a season that I have had since I have been Cup racing, but we still have work to do.”

Newman and the No. 12 Alltel Dodge will return to action on Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The green flag waves on the UAW-Dodge 400 at 4:30 p.m. EST. The race will be seen on FOX and heard on PRN radio.

Related Topics:

NASCAR Sprint Cup, 2008, Ryan Newman

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