Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Fuel Mileage Bites Newman, Busch In Season's First Road Course Race

SONOMA, Calif. (June 24, 2007) – Penske Racing's NASCAR teams knew pit strategy was the key to a good finish in Sunday's Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Infineon Raceway, but the fuel mileage issue bit Ryan Newman and Kurt Busch, leaving them in the middle of the pack at the conclusion of the season's first road course race.

Newman's Alltel Dodge Avenger finished 20th, while Busch's Miller Lite Dodge Avenger placed 22nd.

“It was unfortunate. We got beat by fuel mileage,” said Newman, who started ninth. “We did what we had to do to get to the end and that was it. Those other guys got the fuel mileage. Our strategy just didn’t win the race. We got a 20th-place finish with a top-seven race car. That’s disappointing.”

Despite the disappointing finish, Newman still gained two positions in the point standings, moving up to 13th. He is now 96 points behind Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 12th, the cut-off position for this year's title chase.

Newman and his Alltel team chose to remain on the track when the seventh and final caution period began on lap 68 of the 110-lap race. With a pit window of 35 to 38 laps, the Alltel team believed the drivers who stopped during the yellow would have to pit again before the checkered flag. When the race returned to green-flag conditions on lap 70, Newman was fourth.

With 37 laps remaining, Newman was third, but he still had to make his final stop, a move that would leave him 30th with 27 laps to go. Of the cars that had stopped on lap 68, more made it to the finish than were expected and that left Newman in the middle of the pack when the checkered flag waved.

Busch had a similar experience, but he also was involved in a lap 61 incident with eventual winner Juan Pablo Montoya. Busch, who started 14th, was running ninth when Montoya's Dodge clipped the right rear of Busch's in turn 11. Busch spun toward the outside wall, but did not hit anything. He fell to 23rd in the running order before he was finally able to get back running with the pack

Originally, the plan was to pit on lap 72, but after the spin, crew chief Pat Tryson decided to pit Busch on lap 58 during the race's sixth caution period. However, that forced Busch to make a third pit stop before the race ended.
"We were on a two-stop strategy and it ended up being three," Busch said. "It wasn't good for us. We could have made the car a little better. We'll come back at The Glen with a stronger Dodge Avenger. We got tagged in turn 11 by Montoya, a Formula One winner and a NASCAR winner. That doesn't happen every day."

Tryson, who made his debut Sunday as Busch's new crew chief, said he never thought the race would go the final 40 laps without a yellow flag.

"We got behind and we had to take that chance of pitting early," Tryson said. "If we'd gotten a couple of cautions, we might could have salvaged a top-10 finish out of it. But with no yellows, we were forced to hit pit road again with a few laps left to get a splash of fuel and that put us on back there in the finishing order."

With 10 races remaining to determine who makes the 2007 "Chase for the Championship", Busch remains 16th in the standings, 171 points behind 12th.

The NEXTEL Cup tour now moves to the flat, 1-mile New Hampshire International Raceway for the LENOX Industrial Tools 300. Sunday's race is scheduled to begin at 2:30 p.m. EDT and will be broadcast by TNT and MRN Radio.

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