Ryan Newman, driver of the No. 12 Alltel Dodge Avenger, will have to wait one more week to try and end his 77-race winless streak after a caution during the green-white-checker finish left Newman sitting in second in Sunday's Subway 500 at Martinsville Speedway.
Newman, who had qualified 12th for the scheduled 500-lap race, had balance issues for most of the event, but crew chief Michael Nelson had a tire strategy in mind to help Newman at the end.
The Alltel Dodge hovered inside the top 15 until Newman made his first pit stop. Newman told his crew that his car was loose on entry and exit to the corners and it was tight in the center.
Nelson decided to alternate on pit stops between four tires and two tires. The first stop on lap 47 was a two-tire stop in order to get Newman track position. With right-side tires, fuel and one round up on the right-side track bar, Newman gained six spots and restarted eighth on lap 51.
The car's balance remained the same despite the changes, but Newman was able to maintain a top-10 position until his next stop on lap 117.
On the second stop, Nelson called for four tires and fuel with no adjustments. Newman came off pit road in 19th after the first 12 cars stayed on the half-mile track and got off sequence with the front-runners.
With no changes made to the car on the second stop, the car became too tight when the field took the green flag again on lap 125.
"We need a pretty big change on the next stop," Newman relayed to his crew.
After falling back to 23rd during the run, Newman was able to climb back to 21st when the sixth of a record 21 caution flags waved on lap 167 when teammate Kurt Busch hit the wall. On his third stop, Nelson gave Newman right-side tires, fuel and four rounds up on the right-side track bar to loosen the car when the field took the green. Newman gained nine positions with the stop and restarted 12th on lap 173.
However, the Alltel Dodge was still too tight and Newman was falling back, although the constant cautions were helping him stay inside the top 15.
Newman was running 15th when he finally made it back to pit road on lap 217 for his fourth stop. Nelson had to do something with the car to free it up and decided to work on the wedge as well as the track bar. For his second four-tire stop, Newman received fuel, three rounds up on the right-side track bar and one round of wedge out of the left rear, along with the fresh Goodyear Eagles. Once again, with so many cars staying out or taking two tires only, Newman restarted in 25th due to the longer pit stop.
The car's tightness just didn't seem to go away no matter what changes were made.
"The car is too tight in the center," Newman told his crew. "I cannot pass. I need to roll the center better and (I) need more bite coming off."
When the caution came out again on lap 248, Newman stayed on the track while the front-runners came in for their stops, taking Newman from 24th to 14th for the restart on lap 256.
Newman was able to make his way back into the top 10 on lap 276 and was holding his own when he collided with David Ragan, bringing out the 11th caution flag when Ragan's car turned sideways on the track in turn two. Newman was underneath Ragan and got loose, spinning the rookie.
"Tell David I'm sorry, I didn't mean to turn him," Newman radioed to his spotter. "I just got loose and got into him. I didn't do that on purpose."
Newman would come in for another wedge change on lap 297 and receive right-side tires, fuel and two rounds of wedge in the right rear. Nelson then told Newman that he would only have to make one more stop for fuel.
Newman restarted 13th on lap 301 and almost immediately began heading towards the front. Within nine laps, he was up to seventh and he was the fastest car on the track.
The Alltel Dodge was running in sixth when the 12th caution came out on lap 342 and Newman came in for his final four-tire stop. This time, Nelson called for four tires, fuel and two rounds down on the right-side track bar and got Newman back onto the track in sixth.
After the restart, the car went back to the tight side, but Newman was able to maintain his top-10 position.
The 13th caution flag flew on lap 395 and Nelson brought the Alltel Dodge back down pit road when all of the lead-lap cars pitted. Newman received right-side tires, fuel and 1.5-rounds up on the right-side track bar. The final stop for Newman and the Alltel crew took the Indiana native from seventh to second when the green flag flew with just over 100 laps remaining in the race.
Newman was chasing Jeff Gordon for the lead, but eventual race winner Jimmie Johnson was able to pass Newman on lap 437 for second. When Johnson passed Gordon for the lead, Newman began going after Gordon in second, but with all of the cautions that kept occurring, Newman wasn't getting enough time to pass Gordon.
After the restart on lap 491, Newman finally caught Gordon and on lap 495, Newman took over second. Gordon wasn't too happy with Newman's bump-and-run maneuver to move him out of the way and when another caution period occurred on lap 496, Gordon decided to hit Newman's Alltel Dodge under caution. Gordon was not penalized.
The caution with four laps left brought out a green-white-checkered flag finish. When the green flag waved on lap 505, Newman was able to get a jump on Johnson and got under the car in turns three and four, but Johnson held him off as the field came around to get the white flag. With only one lap remaining, Ragan's car spun and brought out the race's 21st caution, ending the Subway 500 with Newman in second.
"It was a good run for the Alltel Dodge Avenger," Newman said during post-race interviews. "We weren't a very good car yesterday [Saturday] in practice at any point. We made some changes that worked and the guys did a good job. In hindsight, I still wish we had the last lap on the outside of the 48. It was a good run for us. We had a little bump-and-run there with the 24 [Gordon]. That is something that has happened to me in the past, so I didn't feel that bad giving it to him. In the end, it was a good finish for us."
Next weekend, Newman will drive the No. 12 Mobil 1 Dodge Charger in the Pep Boys Auto 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. ABC and PRN radio will broadcast the race live beginning at 1 p.m. EDT.