Ryan Newman experienced engine problems for the second straight night in Sunday's Sharp AQUOS 500 at California Speedway and found himself relegated to a 39th-place finish.
The problem occurred on lap 195 of the 250-lap race, leaving Newman in the garage, 55 laps shy of the checkered flag. Newman's early departure from the race on the 2-mile track officially removed him from Chase contention. With one race remaining to determine the title contenders, Newman is 14th in the drivers' standings, 274 points out of 12th.
Newman qualified fourth for the event, but as soon as the green flag waved, he immediately told his crew that his car was too tight. However, luck appeared to be with Newman as an early caution flag gave him a chance to pit for adjustments on his ill-handling car. The first of a record-tying 11 caution flags waved on lap 9 when the engine in Joe Nemechek's car expired, dumping oil on the track. Newman pitted on lap 11 for four tires, fuel and one round in the right rear. The stop lasted 15.97 seconds and dropped Newman from fifth to 12th for the restart on lap 13.
The adjustments helped very little as Newman was still tight in the center and loose during entry and exit of the corners. Newman also said the car had no grip.
When the third caution flag waved on lap 23, crew chief Mike Nelson told Newman to pit for right-side tires and fuel if the entire field came down pit road. But when the field split, Newman stayed out and restarted in fourth.
For the most part, Newman's biggest complaint with his car was the lack of grip. Nelson told Newman they would work on the problem on the next stop.
The Kodak team worked on the car again on lap 42 when Newman pitted after Michael Waltrip's car erupted in flames in turn 3, bringing out the fourth caution flag. Nelson had the Kodak crew give the Dodge four fresh tires, fuel and two rounds down on the right-side track bar. The changes, however, didn't help the ailing Charger.
"There's not enough grip to go anywhere," Newman told his crew. "The car is real tight in the center."
Newman pitted again on lap 74. He told Nelson to go down on the track bar again, but Nelson informed him they were bottomed out on the right-side track bar. Newman then told the crew to remove a spring rubber, and the crew obliged. They also gave Newman four tires, fuel, went two rounds up on the right-side track bar and removed a hard rubber from the right rear.
When many of the lead-lap cars pitted on lap 88, Newman stayed out and was second to Dale Earnhardt Jr. when the race restarted on lap 91. Newman passed Earnhardt Jr. and led one lap for five bonus points, but Earnhardt Jr. retook the lead on the next lap. The evening then grew worse for Newman on lap 95 when he was hit in the rear by Jeff Burton and spun on the frontstretch. Newman kept his Kodak Dodge from hitting anything, but a flat tire forced him onto pit road for four fresh tires.
Newman returned to the track in 26th, but he quickly recovered and by lap 122, he had fought his way back up to eighth.
Newman maintained a top 10 position for the next 70 laps, but then an engine problem struck, and Newman was forced to take his Kodak Dodge to the garage. With 194 laps in the books, Newman was out of the race and out of the Chase.
Next weekend, Newman will drive the No. 12 Alltel Dodge Avenger in Saturday's Chevy Rock & Roll 400 at Richmond International Raceway. ABC and MRN Radio will begin their live coverage at 7 p.m. EDT.