Monday, April 23, 2007

Promising night ends with miscommunication on pit road

Monday, April 23, 2007

AVONDALE, Ariz. – The Subway Fresh Fit 500 looked like it was going to be a great night for Ryan Newman, driver of the No. 12 Alltel Dodge Avenger, and his team. But miscommunication on pit road severely altered the evening and relegated Newman to a 38th-place finish at Phoenix International Raceway.

After qualifying 19th for Saturday night’s race, Newman made it known that he had a good, fast car and he was headed to the front.

Even though Newman fought a tight condition in his Dodge Avenger for most of the race, the Indiana native was still able to maneuver the car through traffic and by lap 13 he had climbed into the top 15.

“I’m tight pretty much everywhere,” Newman told crew chief Mike Nelson. “I lost the front going into (turn) one, one time.”

Nelson and Newman discussed possible changes for their first pit stop and it wouldn’t be too long before they would get the chance to free up the car.

On the first stop at lap 39, Nelson called for four tires, fuel and one round of wedge in the right rear. The 13.93-second stop also allowed Newman to gain two positions when the green flag waved again on lap 42.

One lap later, the yellow came out again for a three-car accident and Newman made his way into the top 10 for the first time in the race.

Newman had trouble on restarts during the race's first half. As soon as the green flag would drop, Newman would fall back a couple of spots, but it didn’t take long for the Alltel Dodge to regain them.

“I’m still tight,” Newman told his crew. “About the same level of tightness as it was before.”

The tightness Newman fought in his car impeded his climb into the top 10.

“I’m too tight; I can’t get any closer (to Matt Kenseth),” Newman relayed. “It’s tight mostly in the center of (turns) one and two.”

Even though Newman constantly fought the car's tightness, he was still one of the fastest on the 1-mile track. On lap 92, Newman had the fastest time with a lap of 29.312 seconds. Then-leader Denny Hamlin had the second fastest time. The very next lap, Newman broke into the top 10 and spent most of the remaining laps up front.

Pit road was definitely not a friendly place for Newman on Saturday night. Starting with his second stop, each time the Alltel Dodge came down pit road, the problems escalated.

As Newman left pit road after his second stop, a tire rolled onto pit road and Newman hit the tire. Luckily, there was no damage to the car. The next time Newman was on pit road, Dale Earnhardt Jr. came out of his pit stall and directly into the Alltel Dodge's left-rear quarter panel. Again, the car was OK as the sheet metal had been pushed up away from the tire. There wasn’t much concern about a tire rub or any other problems with the damage.

For 50 laps, Newman played catch-up to teammate Kurt Busch, who was in fifth, but Newman was hampered by a car that was loose exiting the corners.

“We went a bit too far on the balance,” Newman radioed in. “It’s just a little loose off; let’s get the track bar down next time.”

Once more, Newman was still one of the fastest cars on the track with the loose condition. Lap 256 saw Newman complete a lap in 29.20 seconds. Then-leader Tony Stewart recorded a lap time of 29.36 seconds. It wouldn’t be until lap 273, though, that Newman would pass Busch and grab the fifth position.

Newman was gaining on Jimmie Johnson, who was fourth, when the only round of green-flag pit stops began late in the race. Newman came down pit road for what was supposed to be his last stop of the night on lap 284. As he pulled into his stall, the yellow flag waved for a three-car crash on the track. A miscommunication between the team caused problems that immediately took Newman out of contention for the win and left him 11 laps down when the checkered flag waved.

“It was just the wrong time to pit. We had about a three-lap window there. The bottom line was we came in and the yellow came out. Everything was worst case scenario,” Newman explained after he climbed from his car. “I was just getting ready to roll off after the pit stop and the guys had the jack on the right side. I thought we waved off the left-side tires and did right sides, and the jackman, I watched him stop like he got a signal from the crew guys that we were going to do two. I didn’t know the guys came over and took off the left-side tires. On top of that, it drug the sway bar arm off when I backed up and rolled over the tires. Unfortunate situation for about 6 seconds there, but it led us to be 11 laps down and we had a car that was easily capable of winning the race.

“We just never got good track position,” Newman said. “We kept working our way up all day. We seem to be a little bit behind when it comes to fuel mileage this year. It’s hurt us. It’s hurt Kurt a couple of times now and it hurt us today for sure. It’s tough to have a situation like that and walk away with not very much other than a car we can take to Richmond. The Penske team is working well together. Obviously, it shows. The cars are very similar, the drivers are driving them hard and we’re working well together as teams. It’s just unfortunate when situations like that happen.”

Newman fell to 26th in the drivers’ standings, 194 points behind 12th-place Jamie McMurray and 621 points out of first.

Next weekend, Newman will pilot the No. 12 Dodge Charger for the first of three Cup races in 2007 at Talladega Superspeedway. The Aaron’s 499 will air live on FOX and MRN Radio beginning at 1:30 p.m. EDT.

- Corporate Communications

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