Flat Tire Derails Newmans Solid Run At Phoenix

Ryan Newman and the No. 12 Penske Racing Alltel Dodge started sixth and appeared to have a car that would contend for a solid finish on Sunday in the Checker O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Phoenix International Raceway, but a flat right-front tire and subsequent broken sway bar at lap 71 derailed the run and led to a 34th-place finish.

“It was a tough race for the Alltel Dodge because I believe that our car was a top-10 car at worst,” Newman said after the race. “We just haven’t had much luck at Phoenix this year. The flat tire and broken sway bar just ended our day way too soon. Luckily, through attrition, we were able to pick up some spots, but it was not what I know this car was capable of.”

With one race remaining in the 2008 NASCAR Cup Series season, Newman is 17th in the Cup Series driver point standings.

On Friday, Newman qualified in sixth place on the one-mile oval. After two strong practice sessions on Saturday, Newman and the Alltel team were looking forward to a strong run in Sunday’s race.

Just five laps into the race on Sunday, Newman radioed crew chief Roy McCauley that his Alltel Dodge was too loose getting into the turns. Newman’s loose-handling race car caused him to slide back into eighth place by the time the first caution flag waved at lap 21.

Under the caution flag, Newman told the team that the car was really loose getting into turn three and a little bit tight in the middle of the turns. The Alltel team elected to pit under the caution for right-side tires, fuel and wedge and track bar adjustments. Newman returned to the track in second place for the restart at lap 24.

Newman held onto second place for six laps before falling back to the third spot. Newman radioed to the team that the car was better with the adjustments, but he was “still a tick on the free side.” Newman also said he was battling having no grip, but he thought that with four fresh tires the car would be good.

Rain put the race under red flag conditions at lap 43 for nearly 24 minutes. When the race restarted, Newman was in third place. At lap 60, Newman had fallen two spots to fifth place. He told his crew that the car still didn’t have any grip and that it was just a little tight in the middle of the turns and loose off the turns.

The team went to work on a game plan to improve Newman’s Alltel Dodge, but trouble struck at lap 71. Newman radioed to McCauley that he had a flat right front tire.

Newman limped to pit road under the green flag to change right-side tires. While in the pits, the team also determined that the car had a broken sway bar arm. The sway bar had broken as Newman tried to make his way to pit road on the flat tire.

Newman returned to the track in 41st place, three laps down to the leaders. He drove the car for several laps in hopes of getting a caution flag so that the team could fix the broken sway bar, but the yellow never waved.

The team took the No. 12 machine behind the wall at lap 110 to repair the damage, change left side tires and add fuel. A mere seven laps later, he returned to the track.

Now 10 laps down, Newman had to focus on finishing the race with his car in one piece. Through attrition in the final 30 laps of the race, Newman was able to gain several spots. He finished in 34th place.

Newman’s Penske Racing teammates Kurt Busch and Sam Hornish Jr. finished second and 33rd, respectively.

The 2008 NASCAR Cup Series season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway is next Sunday, November 16. The Ford 400 can be seen live on the ABC television network and heard on the MRN radio network at 3 p.m. EST.

Related Topics:

NASCAR Sprint Cup, 2008, Ryan Newman

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