Ryan Newman Takes 11th At Richmond and Team Mate Busch Earns Spot In Title Chase With 9th-Place Finish
RICHMOND, Va. (Sept. 8, 2007) Kurt Busch earned a spot in this year's championship battle with his ninth-place finish in Saturday's Chevy Rock & Roll 400 at Richmond International Raceway, while Ryan Newman overcame a myriad of problems to place 11th.
Busch was 10th in the point standings at the end of 26 races, but when the points were set for the Chase for the NEXTEL Cup, the Las Vegas native was seeded fifth due to his two victories this season.
Once the top 12 are determined, each driver is given 5,000 points and then 10 bonus points for each victory during the first 26 races. That rearranged the standings and put Jimmie Johnson, with six victories, in the lead with 5,060 points. Busch now has 5,020 points, leaving him 40 points out of first.
"It's great that we've positioned ourselves and got a couple wins to be fifth overall," Busch said after Saturday night's 400-lap race that contained 12 yellow and two red flags. "That's how you have to work the system. Bonus points move you up when the Chase starts, so you better have some wins."
Busch's Miller Lite Dodge started the race in 14th and was a fixture in the top 10 from lap 50 on. The evening's biggest scare came on lap 242 when Newman was spun on the frontstretch, collecting several other cars in the incident. Busch slowed and attempted to avoid the melee, but was plowed into from the rear by Juan Pablo Montoya, who also received a ram from the rear. The damage proved to be mostly sheet metal and Busch was able to continue with a competitive car.
Busch said when he saw Newman spin and then smoke fill the track, he knew the only thing he could do was "hunker down and wait for the impact."
"So I held the wheel pretty tight and when you do that you get hit from behind; when you stop like that," Busch continued. "Our heart was beating at thousand miles per hour after that cause I figured the rear bumper cover was flapping in the wind or there might be material dragging on the tires. Luckily, there was a red flag at that point.
We checked the car out and everything was OK. Our car was a little loose after that. After the crush panels got tore out of the back, the downforce just didn't seem to be there.
"Man, when I got out of the car after the race and saw all the damage done from that crash, I was totally shocked. I'm sure it looked a lot worse than it really was. But if I'd been able to see the car from where I was sitting, I would have probably thought that there would be no way we'd be able to run as competitive as we did for the remainder of the race.
"Right there is another example of what [crew chief] Pat Tryson brings to the table. He is so calm under pressure and he stays on top of everything. He kept assuring me that we still had a very competitive car and we were able to get everything we possibly could out of the night."
Even though Busch won the series championship in 2004, the Chase's inaugural year, he said Dover, Talladega and Charlotte were the tracks that concerned him in the final 10 races. Dover, he said, would be tough because it was a COT race and "these cars have an interesting quirk in them when you race at Dover."
"Im looking at a couple trouble makers like Talladega; that will be a tough one, especially with the COT there," Busch continued. "Then Charlotte; that has been a struggle for me, so Ill talk to 'Humpy' Wheeler and see if I cant get some magic from him and be OK at Charlotte.
Busch was guaranteed a position in the Chase if he finished 36th or better. Newman was eliminated from the title battle before Richmond, so all that mattered to the Alltel team was acquiring a victory.
Early in the race, it appeared Newman might be a victory contender, as he led once for 33 laps on the 0.75-mile track. However, Newman then began having problems. First, his car wouldn't handle properly. Then, on lap 242, he got hit in the rear and spun on the frontstretch. When he pitted on lap 338, the team's jack broke during the stop. Crew chief Mike Nelson quickly made the decision to change the stop from a four-tire change to two in an effort to keep Newman from losing several positions on pit road. Next, Newman told his crew he thought his car's alternator was going bad. Newman still managed to finish 11th, leaving him 14th in the point standings.
Next weekend, the Chase for the Championship begins at New Hampshire with Busch seeking the series title and Newman looking for a victory. The Sylvania 300 will be televised by ABC and broadcast by MRN Radio beginning at 1 p.m. EDT.