Wednesday, August 22, 2007


After two days of waiting for the 3M Performance 400 at Michigan International Speedway to begin, the green flag finally fell Tuesday morning after the fog hovering over the track lifted.

The race started with eight green-yellow flag laps. The spotters above the frontstretch and the NASCAR officials in the tower couldn't see the entire track clearly due to the fog and wanted to wait until it was clear before letting the 43-car field go green. After eight laps, NASCAR brought the cars down pit road on lap 9 for a 32-minute 16-second red-flag period.

The drivers were finally turned loose under green-flag conditions on lap 13. Newman gained 10 spots in 11 laps, but the car was tight, especially in the center of turns three and four. A competition yellow waved on lap 31 and Newman was able to bring the No. 12 Alltel Dodge down pit road for his first stop for four tires, fuel and four rounds up on the right-side track bar.

Newman restarted in 25th and quickly climbed into the top 20, despite battling a very loose car entering and exiting the corners that was also tight in the middle of turns three and four.

Crew chief Mike Nelson brought Newman to pit road for his second stop on lap 74 during a green-flag sequence. Nelson called for four tires, fuel, one round of wedge out of the left rear and 1.5-rounds up on the right-side track bar. When the green-flag stops cycled through, Newman was in 18th.

The yellow flag flew again on lap 88 when Mark Martin's car began smoking, giving Newman a chance to return to pit road. This stop consisted of four tires and fuel only, but the crew found a little bit of fender damage during the stop and extended it to make some repairs. The 16.75-second stop cost Newman four spots, but the yellow was back out within a lap when Michael Waltrip's car spun. Newman barely missed hitting Waltrip's car as a cloud of smoke filled the track. Newman quickly maneuvered his car to the bottom of the track and kept it clean.

Newman's car was still extremely loose, causing him to return to his pit for more chassis adjustments. This time, Nelson had the Alltel crew give him four tires, fuel, one round down on the right-side track bar, and a half-round of wedge in the left rear.

The stop put Newman back in the 27th position, but again, he was able to move through the field pretty quickly, landing in 20th before a second round of green-flag stops began on lap 127. Newman pitted on lap 131 and a second extended stop left him 24th. The adjustments that had been made – half-round of wedge out of the right rear and one round up on the right-side track bar along with four tires and fuel – made Newman's car loose around the entire track.

A third round of green-flag stops began on lap 165. Newman was running fourth when Paul Menard's car lost an engine. The lead-lap cars were waiting for NASCAR to throw the caution flag, but Menard was able to get his car onto pit road and NASCAR officials didn't believe there was any danger on the track.

On lap 170, through pit strategy, Newman was able to take the lead for two laps and gain five bonus points. When a spin on the track still didn't bring out the yellow flag, Newman came into his pit stall for four tires, fuel and one round of wedge out of the right rear.

Newman returned to the track, but was one lap down. When the yellow came out for the sixth time on lap 176, Newman stayed on the track and was second in line to receive the Lucky Dog Award when the next caution occurred. On the restart, Newman passed Juan Pablo Montoya to put himself in position for the Lucky Dog, which he received on lap 190 when Jeff Gordon spun on the frontstretch and became stuck in the grassy apron.

Back on the lead lap, Newman restarted in 20th and was able to pick up four spots before the checkered flag flew on lap 203.

Newman's 16th-place finish did little to help him in the point standings, though. Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 12th and moved past Newman into the 13th spot. However, Newman is still only 171 points out of 12th – still held by teammate Kurt Busch – with three races remaining before the Chase begins in Loudon, N.H.

Next weekend, Newman will drive the No. 12 Alltel Dodge Avenger in the Sharpie 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway on Saturday night. ESPN and PRN radio will broadcast the race live beginning at 7 p.m. EDT.

Newman will also drive the No. 12 Alltel Dodge Charger in Friday night's Food City 250 at BMS. ESPN2 and PRN radio will cover the NASCAR Busch Series race live beginning at 7:30 p.m. EDT.

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