Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Newman comes up short again, but sees big picture

Newman Reacts After Race Is Canceled The Rest Of The Pocono 500

LONG POND, Pa. -- For a guy who came within a car-length of winning Sunday's rain-soaked Pocono 500, Ryan Newman was in a pretty good mood.

If the rain that finally ended a very long and soggy day had waited just a few more seconds -- say, half a lap -- it might have been Newman walking to his first Victory Lane celebration since late in the 2005 season at Dover.

"Unfortunately, the rain came on the wrong lap," Newman said. "I'm not mad by any means. I won my first race because it rained out and got too dark. I guess it's only right I lose one that way at some point."

Even though Newman was rapidly gaining ground on eventual winner Jeff Gordon -- going from 3.2 seconds back to even with Gordon's door in a span of four laps -- he knew his chances of winning were all wet.

"It rained on me the lap before that and when we came back around, it rained even harder," Newman said. "It was pouring at that point. It's all in safety."

Team owner Roger Penske said the timing for his driver was unfortunate, but that's part of the strategy.

"We saw the rain was coming," Penske said. "Ryan had a good run there but at [that point in] the day, unfortunately, you can't wreck a bunch of cars because it's wet. They might have called it a little bit later but we've got to be careful we're not too greedy.

"We're trying to get into the top 12. I look at the weekend and say we made a lot of progress."

Penske said the finish reminded him of this year's Indianapolis 500, when impending rain wiped out the efforts of faster cars, including his own.

"We had the same situation at Indy," he said. "The rain came four minutes too soon there. It maybe came 10 seconds too soon [here]. But on the other hand, I think we just have to say, 'Hey, good race here, safe race and let's move on to Michigan."

Newman admitted that the ways things played out, there was little he could do except accept his second-place finish, his fifth top-10 run in the past six races.

"It's just the way it worked out," he said. "Obviously, we were four feet short, but there is no controversy about it. There was no way to get the race started back again. We felt like we had it all figured out until they called it."

A debris caution on Lap 64 turned out to be the deciding factor. Knowing no one could make it to the halfway point without another stop, Newman and crew chief Mike Nelson went ahead and pitted for two tires and fuel, as did many of the lead-lap cars. However, Gordon rolled the dice and stayed on the track, taking the lead with Newman restarting seventh.

"[Gordon was] in position track position-wise to stay out and get some clean air," Newman said. "They did what they could. They did what they had to do. Their car was still fast enough to stay out front even when they were off sequence."

Even though Gordon pitted on Lap 83, handing the lead back to Newman, it was just a matter of time before the No. 12 would have to head down pit road -- which happened eight laps later. That put Gordon back in front with more than enough fuel to hang on, but struggling to get around Tony Raines.

That gave both Newman and third-place Martin Truex Jr. some hope that they could complete the pass before the rains came.

"The 96 [Raines] was holding the 24 [Gordon] up pretty good for both of us," Newman said. "Jeff cleared him in Turn 1 and I had a run on both of them coming off. It just wasn't quite enough by the time I got to Turn 2.

"Jeff saw the rain for the first time the lap the caution came out. He checked up because he didn't know how hard it was raining. I just kept the pedal to the metal and came up four feet short or whatever."

All in all, Newman was also pleased with the long-term view. With his second consecutive second-place finish, Newman advanced to 13th in the standings -- 22 behind Mark Martin for what would be the final spot in this season's Chase for the Nextel Cup.

"[The rain] was unfortunate for us, but looking back at this come Chase time, you can't kick about one spot, maybe two spots, I hope, when it comes to making the Chase," he said.


1 comment:

vroom said...

I like Ryno's big picture approach!