Newman Finishes 33Rd At Richmond
September 7, 2008 | 3:52 P.M. EST
However, a pit road incident with just 40 laps remaining in the 400-lap race left Newman with substantial damage to the right front of the car and dropped him from 14th on the track to an eventual 33rd place finish.
“We had a top-10 car until the pit road incident there at the end of the race,” Newman said. “Actually, our Alltel Dodge was pretty good today.”
Newman is now 16th in the NASCAR Cup Series points standings with 10 races to go in the 2008 season.
Due to rain from Tropical Storm Hanna, Friday’s qualifying session was cancelled and the field was set by the 2008 owner point standings. Newman started 16th on Sunday afternoon following a one-day delay due to the bad weather.
In the early stages of the race, Newman told crew chief Roy McCauley that the car was experiencing handling problems. Newman said that the No. 12 was loose getting into the corners, tight in the center and loose off of the corners.
The Alltel pit crew had their first opportunity to work on the No. 12 Dodge at lap 35 when NASCAR threw a competition caution due to the changed track conditions caused by the heavy rains on Friday afternoon and Saturday. Newman came down pit road in 16th place. The pit crew made track bar, wedge and air pressure adjustments, changed four tires and added fuel. Newman returned to the track in 15th place
Once green-flag racing resumed, Newman lost a couple of spots on the track, and told his crew that the car remained loose entering and too tight in the center of the turns. By lap 90, Newman was in 17th place.
A caution at lap 96 gave the crew another chance to alleviate the No. 12 Dodge’s handling issues. The team made a track bar and air pressure adjustment, in addition to changing four tires and adding fuel. Following the stop, Newman restarted in 20th place.
With fresh tires and the additional adjustments to aid the handling of the car, Newman began to make fast work of gaining ground on the race track. By lap 115, Newman had moved into 13th place. Twenty laps later, Newman was in the top 10.
Over the course of the next 100 laps, Newman’s No. 12 Alltel Dodge maintained a top-10 spot in the running order. But at lap 235, he began to drop back through the field – falling from 11th to 17th spot in only six laps. Newman radioed that he had a rear tire going flat, but he didn’t know which one. Luckily, the caution flag waved at lap 241, giving Newman the chance to come down pit road for the crew to address the tire issue.
“Don’t change anything other than the tires,” Newman told his crew, signaling that he liked the handling of the car. “I don’t know what happened, but I broke way loose like I had a slow leak or something.”
Following the fuel and four tire pit stop, Newman restarted 27th because several teams elected to stay out on the track. The tire issue now behind him, Newman was able to quickly make up ground, moving up to 17th place by lap 295. Although he was gaining on the competition, Newman told the crew that the car was still too loose on exit of the corners.
Under a caution period at lap 296, the Alltel pit crew made a wedge adjustment to help Newman’s corner-exit condition, changed four tires and added fuel. During the pit stop, the Alltel team’s rear tire changer was pinned between the No. 12 car and a car exiting pit road. The tire changer was not injured, but the stop did cause Newman to lose spots and restart in 22nd place.
Once again, Newman began working to make up lost spots. With just 50 laps remaining in the race, Newman was in 14th place.
At lap 358, the caution flag waved and the Alltel team elected to pit for two tires in a strategy move to gain spots and hopefully score a top-10 finish. Unfortunately, Newman was caught in a pit road accident as two other cars were exiting and entering their respective pit stalls.
As the No.1 car, pitted behind Newman, began to exit its stall, it struck the incoming No. 96 car as it headed into the pit stall directly in front of the No. 12 Dodge. The No. 96 car ran into Newman’s Dodge, causing substantial damage to the right front of the Alltel machine.
The Alltel team made subsequent pit stops to repair the damage, but Newman dropped to 33rd place on the track and could not make up the lost ground. He finished 33rd, one lap down to race-winner Jimmie Johnson.
Penske Racing teammates Kurt Busch and Sam Hornish Jr. finished 10th and 38th, respectively.
The NASCAR Cup Series returns to action next Sunday at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway with the Sylvania 300. The race can be seen live on the ABC television network at 1 p.m. EDT and heard on the PRN radio network at 1:15 p.m. EDT.