Sunday, September 9, 2007

Defining moments in the season that decided Chase

By Mark Aumann, NASCAR.COM
September 9, 2007
12:07 PM EDT

In the course of a season, each team goes through many peaks and valleys. That's understandable, given the level of competition, each team's success rate at different tracks and the length of the schedule.

But given the opportunity for 20-20 hindsight, it's possible to look back and see moments that could be considered a momentum shift either contributing to the success or failure of each team's chances of making the Chase for the Nextel Cup.

In the case of four teams -- two which made it, two which did not -- there were specific instances that proved to be a key to where they stood in the standings after Saturday night's Chevy Rock & Roll 400 at Richmond International Raceway, and not all occured on the racetrack.

Ryan Newman: Lap 21, Allstate 400 at the Brickyard

Newman was 30 points behind Dale Earnhardt Jr. for the 12th and final spot in the Chase field heading into Indianapolis. He qualified third and expected big things when the race started.

However, he quickly dropped back in the field with handling issues after the drop of the green, and his day went from bad to worse when he made contact with David Stremme in Turn 4, spun and made heavy contact with the wall, sidelining the No. 12 Dodge for the rest of the day.

"I just got hit in the left rear quarter panel," Newman said. "Stremme tried sticking it underneath me when he shouldn't have and spun us around. It's unfortunate. We took a pretty good lick to the wall and ended our day."

Newman knew at the time, the resulting 42nd-place finish was a huge blow to his Chase hopes. He dropped behind Kurt Busch into 14th, 59 points behind Junior. Still, with six races remaining, he believed he could rally.

"It was definitely a devastating blow in more than one way, but we can come back," he said. "It's just a matter of how far we can come back now."

Newman did rally the next weekend at Pocono, finishing seventh. Unfortunately, Busch and Earnhardt finished first and second. And despite putting together four consecutive finishes of 16th or better, Newman steadily lost ground to Busch.

He was eliminated from Chase contention at California when he suffered engine problems and finished 39th.

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