Newman Rallies For Top 15 Finish At Atlanta
March 9, 2008 | 6:12 P.M. EST
The incident occurred approximately 100 laps from the finish when Newman was running in fifth place. Juan Pablo Montoya (driver of the No. 42 Dodge) shot up the track on lap 226 and into Newman’s left fender. Newman was able to avoid hitting the outside wall, but the contact to the left side of the No. 12 Alltel Dodge created a severe tire rub, forcing Newman to give up his top-five spot in the running order to pit under green in order to fix the problem.
Newman lost a lap to the leaders due to the unscheduled pit stop. Although he was unable to get that lap back in the closing stages of the race, Newman fought to a 14th-place result. The No. 12 finished as the first car one lap down to the leaders.
“We had a good a car – a top-10 car most of the day. Montoya couldn’t hold the steering wheel straight going down the back straightaway and drove up into me and knocked my fender in,” Newman said. “We had to pit – we had a tire rub – it’s unfortunate that we couldn’t get a yellow late in the race to get on the lead lap.
“I’m positive that our Alltel Dodge Charger was better than 14th - I guarantee you that.”
With his fourth top-15 finish in four races this season, Newman is sitting fourth in the NASCAR Cup point standings, just three points out of third place.
Newman started the Kobalt Tools 500 in 12th place on Sunday afternoon. Although he quickly moved into the top 10, Newman radioed his crew that the Alltel Dodge was too loose early in the race. Despite battling the loose condition, Newman was turning solid lap times and was able to keep his Dodge in the top 10.
When the caution flag waved at lap 39, Newman brought the Alltel car to the attention of his pit crew. The team made a wedge adjustment, changed four tires and added fuel.
“I need to tighten it up just a little bit,” Newman told the team. “Tighter I think will be better for me.”
Newman restarted in the ninth position. The Alltel Dodge remained in the top 10 over the course of the next 30 laps. However, at lap 65, Newman told his crew that the car had now gone too far to the tight side.
A caution at lap 85 gave the No. 12 pit crew the opportunity to go to work on Newman’s Alltel Dodge once again. The team changed four tires, added fuel and made a track bar adjustment, in an attempt to loosen up the car.
Newman restarted in the 13th spot and just laps after taking the green flag, he radioed his team that the adjustments were not enough – the car was still a tick too tight.
Another caution at lap 114 gave the pit crew the chance to make another wedge adjustment, change four tires and add fuel.
“We’ll keep getting you freed up to where you are happy,” crew chief Roy McCauley told Newman. “You just keep doing what you are doing on the track.”
Newman continued to turn solid, competitive laps on the race track, and his crew worked on the car at every opportunity, trying to get the handling just right. By lap 220, Newman had moved back into the top 10.
A caution on lap 221 sent the No. 12 team to work for the sixth time on the Alltel Dodge, which was once again too loose. The pit crew made a wedge adjustment, changed four tires and added fuel. The team’s quick work helped Newman gain four spots on pit road. He restarted in fifth place, his highest running order of the race.
Just moments after celebrating a solid gain in the pits, Newman’s crew was jolted into unexpected action after the contact on the back straightaway with the No. 42 Dodge left Newman with left-side damage. Heavy smoke from a tire rub that was only getting worse forced Newman to give up his spot with the leaders and come to pit road.
The crew changed the left side tires and pulled out the damaged fender. Newman returned to the track in 20th place, one lap down.
Despite the frustration of being taken out of contention for a top-five finish, Newman did not waver. In the closing laps of the race, he battled back to the 14th spot and was the first car one lap down, but he was never able to get a caution flag which would have put him back on the lead lap.
“Thanks for hanging in there,” McCauley told Newman following the race. “We had a tough break today.”
After two days of Goodyear tire testing at Darlington Raceway on Monday and Tuesday, the No. 12 Alltel Dodge will return to action at Bristol Motor Speedway on Sunday, March 16 for the Food City 500. The race can be seen on FOX beginning at 1:30 p.m. ET and will be heard live on PRN Radio.