Newman Battles Ill Handling Race Car Finishes 19Th At Martinsville
March 30, 2008 | 6:06 P.M. EST
It was a tough top-20 finish for the No. 12 Penske Racing team, which included a spin-out incident near the mid-point of the race.
Newman is currently 11th in the championship driver points standings, 174 points behind leader Jeff Burton.
“We just missed it today – plain and simple,” Newman said. “I had my hands full all day with the Alltel Dodge. Looking at the day, it could have been a lot worse and we did recover to get a top-20 finish, but I know we are a lot better than that.”
Newman had qualified the No. 12 Alltel Dodge in 13th place, but he wasn’t able to hold on to his position once the green flag dropped. By the time the first caution flag waved on lap 20, the No. 12 had slid back 12 spots to 25th place and Newman radioed his crew that the car was too tight in the center of the corners and upon corner-exit would snap to a loose-handling condition, which affected his ability to gain positions on the race track.
Despite these handling issues, the team elected not to pit and Newman restarted the race in 17th place.
Another caution period a mere 20 laps later gave the Alltel team their first opportunity to work on the No. 12 Dodge and its tight-handling condition. The pit crew changed right side tires, added fuel and made a track bar adjustment, returning Newman to the track in 13th place.
By lap 70 Newman was able to briefly move into the top-10, but the same handling issues continued to hamper his efforts, contributing to his slide back through the field.
Under the fifth caution period at lap 105, Newman pitted to address the No. 12’s handling and the crew made wedge and air pressure adjustments and added four fresh tires and fuel.
However, the changes didn’t help Newman’s problems, and the No. 12 Alltel Dodge fell one lap down to the leaders at lap 169. When the caution waved again at lap 180, Newman had fallen back to 31st place.
“We need some pretty big changes,” Newman told crew chief Roy McCauley. “This car just isn’t good.”
McCauley and the team elected to pit soon thereafter for substantial wedge and track bar adjustments, an air pressure adjustment and four tires and fuel. Over the following 100 laps, Newman continued to battle with the car and the rest of the field as he attempted to pick up spots on the track and put himself in the position to gain his lap back. By lap 292, Newman had moved into the 25th spot, the first car one lap down and was poised to get back onto the lead lap.
Bad luck struck on lap 295 when Greg Biffle attempted to go three-wide with Newman and Jimmie Johnson. Biffle tagged Newman in the left rear quarter panel, causing both the No. 12 Alltel Dodge and Johnson’s car to spin.
“He was going three-wide, and I had someone on the outside of me,” reported Newman. “That’s what is going to happen. It’s just a racing deal.”
Following the spin, Newman came down pit road for yet another track bar and wedge adjustment, four tires and fuel. He restarted the race in 31st place, still one lap down to the leaders.
Unfortunately the No. 12 Alltel Dodge never got better, although the team made several more pit stops and adjustments in hopes of improving the car. Newman patiently worked to find a racing line that suited the car and would help him gain spots on the race track.
Despite handling problems, Newman was able to break into the top 20 before the checkered flag waved, finishing in 19th place.
“The car just never felt good all day,” Newman said. “It didn’t even feel like the same car that I drove in practice all weekend, and we just couldn’t get a handle on it. The pit crew did a good job making all the changes, and we were able to recover and get a top 20 out of it. We need to get back on the right track in Texas next week.”
The NASCAR Cup Series returns to action at Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday, April 6 for the Samsung 500. The race will air live on FOX at 1:30 p.m. ET and will be broadcast live on PRN Radio at 2:00 p.m. ET.