Thursday, November 22, 2007

Newman Takes 13th In Standings

HOMESTEAD, Fla. (Nov. 18, 2007) ¿ Kurt Busch's second-place finish in Sunday's Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway allowed the Las Vegas native to gain three positions in the standings to place seventh, his best performance in the points since he won the series title in 2004.

Ryan Newman finished 18th in the season finale on the 1.5-mile track to come home 13th in the standings, the highest finishing non-Chase competitor, while Sam Hornish Jr. took 37th in his second NASCAR NEXTEL Cup event.

Busch's Miller Lite Dodge was the only Dodge in this year's title Chase and the 29-year-old driver said he was pleased with his car's performance Sunday evening.

"We feel like we went out with a bang with this good car," said Busch, who led twice for 17 laps in the 267-lap event. "We came up just a bit shy, but, overall, just a great season for us to win a couple races and be in contention at a lot of race tracks. We finished seventh overall. That¿s a nice feather in the cap. This team deserves it. We worked really hard and hopefully, we will carry this right on into Daytona.
¿We felt like this was a successful season for us at Penske Racing in the Miller Lite Dodge. We definitely had what we need at some of the races, then, at some of the race tracks where we led laps we just didn¿t seal the deal to finish off the race. Tonight, it was a great feather in the cap for our team. The great teamwork that it took to put together a very successful summer stretch to get into the Chase was fantastic. Everybody at Miller is ecstatic.

"We put together a good effort during the Chase. We could be stronger. We need to work on our COT program if we want to compete for next year¿s championship. That¿s the bottom line. We got a little taste of it this year, and the teams that ran well with the COT finished up front in the points. Next season that is what Penske Racing is all about.¿

Busch's Miller Lite Dodge was strong from the race's beginning, but he lost a lap at the 100-lap mark when he had to pit with a loose left-rear wheel. The unscheduled green-flag stop dropped Busch outside the top 30.

Busch regained his lost lap when the next round of green-flag stops began. However, only a handful of laps separated Busch from running third and on the lead lap to having to pit and going down a lap to the front-runners. It was then that Newman spun, bringing out the fourth caution flag and insuring Busch his position on the lead lap.

During Busch's final stop, his Miller Lite Dodge received four fresh tires. His final opportunity to catch and pass leader Matt Kenseth occurred when the last yellow flag appeared on lap 254. When the race restarted on lap 257, Busch was third. He immediately passed Martin Truex Jr. for second and set sail for Kenseth. Busch, however, could never catch Kenseth and he had to settle for second.

"I felt like we had a legitimate shot at chasing Matt down," Busch said when asked if he thought he had a chance to catch Kenseth on the final restart. "I had to pass the one car [Martin Truex Jr.] first of all. Once we cleared him it just seemed like Matt and I had a beam mounted with his rear bumper and my front bumper. I couldn¿t break that 10-car length advantage that he had. Not due to aero, just due to the fact that he was fast. The way that the race went all day he was the car to beat. We were a challenger and we came up a bit short. I thought we were going to give it our all and we came up in second place. The bump up in points was the bigger objective today and we were able to do that.¿

Newman led three times for seven laps before a loose race car resulted in his second-turn spin on lap 149. Newman's Alltel Dodge was too tight in the race's first 100 laps, so when he pitted on lap 132, crew chief Mike Nelson ordered a track bar adjustment, along with four fresh tires and fuel.

The Alltel Dodge was now too loose and Newman brought out the fourth caution flag when he lost control of his car and spun into the second turn's grass. The car's valance and right-rear quarter panel were damaged in the incident. Even though Newman didn't lose a lap while repairs were made to his car, he dropped to 19th and was never able to recover.

The highest Newman would climb after the accident was 15th, but his car was still too loose and he fell to 18th in a few short laps.

Hornish, who qualified 29th, had to start in the rear of the field due to an engine change in his Mobil 1 Dodge after Saturday's final practice. He had issues with his car throughout the race, but he was still grateful for the experience he received in preparation for the 2008 season.

¿Well, I have twice as much Cup experience as I had last week. Every time I go out that is that much more," said Hornish, who brought out the sixth of seven caution flags when he scraped the third-turn wall on lap 193. "I¿m really happy that the team gave me the opportunity to do this, this year and get started. It¿s going to be a long, uphill process, but we¿ve got a goal in mind and hopefully, we get there.

¿I¿m real excited. I¿m excited to see what happens; how we can learn throughout the year and how we progress.¿

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