Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Newman earns second consecutive top-10 finish

RICHMOND, Va. – For the second straight week, Ryan Newman, driver of the No. 12 Alltel Dodge Avenger, avoided serious problems and multiple wrecks to earn his second consecutive top-10 with a sixth-place finish Sunday at Richmond International Raceway.

Newman, who qualified 30th on Friday night, and the entire 43-car field had to wait an extra day to get the Crown Royal presents the Jim Stewart 400 in the record books after rain postponed Saturday night’s race.

The rain began right before the green flag was scheduled to wave on Saturday night and NASCAR started the race under green-yellow conditions. After 13 laps, NASCAR red-flagged the field and at around 9 p.m. EDT, officials told the teams to pack up their equipment and return to RIR Sunday at 10 a.m. EDT.

Newman and crew chief Mike Nelson had a little fun during Saturday night's green-yellow laps.

“Three-hundred and ninety laps to go Ryan,” Nelson radioed to his driver.

“Ten-4. Are we still 30th?” Newman replied.

“Yep. You’re nice and consistent out there.”

“I can’t seem to break this traffic.”

When Sunday morning rolled around, Newman was still in the 30th position, but this time, there would be 400 laps to go, as NASCAR reset the field to start at the beginning since none of Saturday night’s laps had been run under green-flag conditions.

The team was told a competition yellow would be thrown by NASCAR around lap 40 and that no one was to take fuel before that caution period; teams could only come in for adjustments and tires.

The corners gave Newman the most trouble on Sunday, as he fought a loose condition in his car on entry and exit at each end of the track. When NASCAR threw the competition yellow on lap 40, Nelson brought Newman down pit road for four tires and fuel and one round of wedge in the left rear to help tighten the car.

“The car is better on entry and exit,” Newman told his crew after the first stop. “It’s a little tight in the center, but I think that’s mostly aero tight. I’d rather have it better on entry and exit as two good areas are better than one.”

Newman was able to fight his way through traffic on Sunday and had bettered his starting position by 24 spots by the time the checkered flag flew on lap 400. Newman constantly fought a loose condition in his car throughout the race, but the Alltel Dodge team kept working on the car during subsequent stops and helped Newman drive his way to the sixth position.

“We had a good run, for sure, in this Alltel Dodge,” Newman said after he climbed from his car following the race. “Both Penske cars did. Kurt Busch was definitely a little bit better than me for most of the day, but the guys did a good job playing strategy and everything else to get ahead of those guys. It was almost a top five and that would have been nice, but it was a good run for us, nevertheless.”

The Alltel pit crew improved on its stops as the day progressed, starting with a 14.95-second stop and then going down to a 12.79-second stop on the final four-tire change on lap 319.

Just after the race's mid-point, Newman broke into the top 10 on lap 202 and eventually made it into the lead on lap 207, earning five bonus points before making a green-flag stop when Nelson called for four tires, fuel and one round of wedge in the right rear.

For many laps, Newman hovered in the 11th position and didn’t return to the top 10 until lap 295. Newman fell back to 11th for seven laps, but a two-tire stop allowed Newman to restart the race in the 10th position. Newman would remain in the top 10 for the rest of the race.

Due to four caution periods for 19 laps, Newman had a hard time picking up positions on the track. On the final restart on lap 381, Newman was in seventh behind Tony Stewart. Stewart, who had damage to the front of his car, fought with Newman in the closing laps in order to keep the Alltel Dodge from gaining another spot. However, Stewart couldn’t hold off the charging Newman and the Alltel Dodge ended up the victor with the sixth-place finish.

With his second top-10 finish in as many weeks, Newman moved up to 19th in the drivers’ standings – a five-position jump, the highest jump for the week. Newman is now 120 points out of the 12th position and 693 points behind points’ leader Jeff Gordon.

Next weekend, Newman will drive the No. 12 Alltel Dodge Avenger in the Dodge Avenger 500 at Darlington Raceway. The race will be broadcast live Saturday on FOX and MRN Radio beginning at 7 p.m. EDT. Newman will also return to the NASCAR Busch Series in the No. 12 Kodak Dodge Charger for the Diamond Hill Plywood 200 on Friday night. That race begins at 8 p.m. EDT on ESPN2 and MRN Radio.

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