Newman Finishes 16Th At Auto Club Speedway

FONTANA, Calif. (August 31, 2008) – Penske Racing driver Ryan Newman and the No. 12 Kodak Dodge team were able to run in the top 10 for a substantial portion of the Pepsi 500 at Auto Club Speedway on Sunday night thanks to a two-tire pit stop midway through the race. In the closing laps, Newman battled with a number of cars to hold on to a top 10 but ended up with a 16th place effort.

With the finish, Newman dropped to 16th place in the 2008 NASCAR Cup Series driver point standings, 200 points behind the 12th-place cutoff for the “Chase for the NASCAR Cup.” With one more race until the Chase begins, Newman is now mathematically eliminated from the possibility of making the ten-race championship shootout.

“We had good strategy (two-tire pit stop during the sixth caution) which moved the No. 12 into the top 10,” said Newman after the race on the two-mile oval. “The car was decent in the corners but struggled on the straightaways. It looked like we were going to have a decent run with the Kodak Dodge at one point but just didn’t have it at the end.”

Newman started in 17th place for the 250-lap event. Following final practice on Saturday night, Newman said he felt that he had a car that would be solid on the long runs, which would be important because Auto Club Speedway is notorious for having long green flag periods.

When the green flag dropped on Sunday night, Newman patiently worked to pick off the cars in front of him. When the caution waved on lap 20, Newman had moved up to 11th place. Under the caution, Newman told his crew that the car “didn’t feel bad.” Since the team was halfway on a fuel run, the team pitted for four tires, fuel and no adjustments. A difficult pit stop dropped Newman back to 15th place for the restart.

A loose race car prevented Newman from gaining position quickly following the night’s first pit stop. Newman told his crew that his track position (being farther back in the field) and a loose-handling condition coming off the corners was hampering his forward progression.

Newman had dropped to 22nd place at lap 43 when the left front of the No.12 Kodak Dodge struck a flying tire carcass from the car of teammate Kurt Busch. As the caution flag waved, Newman told his team that he knew he had some minor damage to the left front of his car due to the contact, and he asked them to look at it carefully and be prepared for repairs when he came down pit road.

Newman brought his Kodak Dodge to the attention of his pit crew. The car sustained damage to the left front splitter stay, which had been pushed back and was nearly brushing the No. 12’s tire. The team replaced the damaged stay with a new one. The pit crew also made a wedge adjustment and an air pressure adjustment, changed four tires and added fuel. The long pit stop to repair the damage dropped Newman to 41st place at the restart of the race.

Crew chief Roy McCauley told Newman that they had “dodged a bullet” because the damage could have been much worse since the splitter stay was brushing the left front tire.

Now mired back in the pack, Newman had his work cut out for him in order to move back up through the field. With the sun setting and a change in temperature at the southern California track, Newman had to battle not only track position and being stuck back in the traffic, but he also was dealing with varying handling conditions with the car. At each opportunity, the crew went to work to make adjustments in hopes of helping Newman’s handling woes.

At lap 125 – the race’s halfway point - Newman had moved into 18th place. He told his crew that the car was “dancing loose off exit of the corners.” The loose-handling condition led to Newman losing a lap to the leaders, however, he was able to stay the first car one lap down long enough for the caution to wave at lap 145 giving him the “Lucky Dog” award and the opportunity to get back on the lead lap.

Under the caution flag, the team made a wedge adjustment and added a rubber to the left rear. They also changed four tires and added fuel. Newman restarted in 19th place, now back on the lead lap.

At lap 160, the caution waved again. With Newman in 19th place, the team decided to pit for right side tires and fuel. McCauley noted, “We have nothing to lose by taking two tires.” With the two-tire strategy, Newman restarted the race at lap 165 in fifth spot, getting the much-desired track position.

Newman held his spot in the top 10 over the next 80 laps. Following a pit stop at lap 219 under another caution flag for four tires and fuel, Newman returned to the track in 11th place. He battled for position once racing resumed, swapping spots from 11th to 16th place nearly each lap, but he could not get back into the top 10.

The No. 12 Kodak Dodge took the checkered flag in 16th place. Newman’s Penske Racing teammates Sam Hornish Jr. and Busch finished 31st and 39th, respectively.

The NASCAR Cup Series returns to action next Saturday night, Sept. 6, for the Chevy Rock and Roll 400 at Richmond International Raceway. The race can be seen live on ABC at 7 p.m. EDT and heard on the MRN radio network at 6:45 p.m. EDT.

Related Topics:

NASCAR Sprint Cup, 2008, Ryan Newman

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