Wednesday, November 14, 2007


AVONDALE, Ariz., (Nov. 11, 2007) – For the seventh time in 2007, Ryan Newman, driver of the No. 12 Alltel Dodge Avenger, earned a top-five finish – his second straight – with a fifth-place finish in Sunday's Checkers Auto Parts 500 at Phoenix International Raceway.

Newman, who started 13th for the 312-lap race, battled a loose condition in his car at the race's beginning, but he was able to maintain a position just outside the top 10 until his first pit stop on lap 27.

After David Gilliland hit the wall coming down the frontstretch, crew chief Mike Nelson brought the Alltel Dodge down pit road for right-side tires, fuel, one round of wedge in the left rear and one round up on the right-side track bar. The two-tire, 6.11-second stop jumped Newman from 13th to second for the restart on lap 29.

Many of the cars behind Newman received four tires to his two. Within five laps of the restart, Newman was back in fourth. However, he was able to hold on strong to a top-five position.

After falling back to sixth on lap 58, Newman told his crew that his car was "really, really tight" in the center.

“I’m going to play with my line a little bit here,” Newman relayed.

Running high on both sides of the track allowed Newman to regain a spot in the top five until the next caution flag waved on lap 86 for debris.

During the next pit stop, the Alltel Dodge crew gave Newman four tires and fuel and kept him in fifth.

At the restart, Newman and Matt Kenseth battled for a few laps for the fifth spot, but Newman won out before another wreck brought out the third of 10 yellow flags.

During the next two caution periods, Nelson kept Newman on the track, allowing him to hold on to third. Newman informed his crew that he was happy with the car and its balance was pretty good. Newman would maintain third until he finally made his third pit stop on lap 140.

Even though Newman received only four tires and fuel and the Alltel crew completed the stop in 13.11 seconds, Newman still came out of the pits in 11th since the top eight cars remained on the track due to pitting earlier.

After the restart on lap 144, Newman needed only two laps to move back into the top 10 and was running ninth when the seventh caution flag waved on lap 148. The car was still pretty good, so Newman stayed on the track with the other front-runners.

Newman steadily moved toward the front of the pack and was sixth on lap 171 when he started having some problems with the car.

“I’m struggling a little bit, mostly with grip,” Newman told his crew. “I’m a little too tight. We need to free it up with bite.”

Despite the balance issues, Newman managed to move into the top five by lap 187, just before green flag pit stops began on lap 190.

Newman was running fourth when he came in for his green-flag stop on lap 220 and received four tires, fuel and two rounds of wedge out of the left rear. Newman returned to the track in 17th, still on the lead lap. By lap 224, Newman was in 10th and he began passing the cars in front of him.

“The car is definitely better,” Newman told his crew. “We need the track position, but we need to free it up a little bit on the next stop.”

Pit strategy played into the team’s hands on lap 234 when the yellow waved for the eighth time for Dave Blaney's spin. Since it had only been 13 laps since Newman had been on pit road, Nelson brought the Alltel Dodge in for fuel and a half round of wedge out of the left rear. The strategy worked and put Newman into the lead for the first time.

After leading four laps and earning five bonus points, Newman’s older tires were no match for cars with fresh tires and Kenseth took over the lead just one lap after the restart on lap 240. Tony Stewart also passed Newman, but no one else could get by him before the ninth yellow flag waved.

Newman remained third for the next 25 laps until the final caution flag, this one for debris, occurred. Newman then pitted for the final time. After receiving right-side tires and fuel, Newman restarted sixth due to two cars remaining on the track.

Newman fought his way back into the top five and for the last 20 laps held off a charging Kevin Harvick to finish fifth. It is only the third time in 11 career starts that Newman has finished in the top five at the 1-mile track. His other eight finishes have all been outside the top 10.

“The Alltel Dodge was pretty good. We knew that we were good enough to get track position with the disadvantage. With two tires or with fuel only and that was OK,” said Newman, who moved into 13th in the point standings. “I wasn’t mad about that, but I wish we just had that extra little speed so we could get on everyone else’s strategy. You know, being able to take two tires when everybody takes two, or take four when they take four. We’re getting closer to that. It’s just a matter of time.

“To have a top-five finish is great. To build on another top-five finish, that’s two in a row, that’s really great. I don’t know if we’ve done that all year, so to finish up at least two out of three would be great.”

Next weekend, Newman will drive the No. 12 Alltel Dodge Charger in the season finale Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. ABC and MRN Radio will broadcast the final race of the 2007 season beginning at 3 p.m. EST.

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