Pit strategy lifts Newman to 2nd place in Coke 600
May 26, 2009
CONCORD, N.C. (Army News Service, May 25, 2009) -- To pit or not to pit. That was the question facing the U.S. Army/Haas Automation team as more rain was headed toward Lowe's Motor Speedway in Monday's 50th running of the Coca-Cola 600.
The decision not to pit following a caution for rain on Lap 222 of the scheduled 400-lap race turned out to be a sound strategy for the No. 39 team. Racing never did resume at the 1.5-mile oval, giving driver Ryan Newman a second-place finish in the Memorial Day event, which was postponed on Sunday due to wet weather.
The race winner was David Reutimann, who also bypassed the last pit stop.
Soon after the final caution, NASCAR red-flagged the race, and nearly three hours later the event was called.
At the time of the Lap 222 caution, Newman was running in 15th place in his No. 39 Chevrolet Impala SS. There was discussion between crew chief Tony Gibson and Newman to pit if the leaders pitted, but at the last second Newman decided to stay out.
"I asked if the rain was going to stay and the answer was that it might," explained Newman. "I said we can't chicken out now and I stayed out. In the end it was the right thing to do. It's just strategy -- sometimes you get lucky and sometimes you don't. If the race did go back to green, we would have been in the back."
The result was Newman's fourth-straight top five. The last time he posted four-straight top fives was at this time of the season in 2005.
Newman, who moved from eighth to seventh in the driver point standings, has been the hottest driver on the Sprint Cup circuit in the last four races with a finishing average of 3.25. The Coke 600 second-place result was preceded with finishes of third (Talladega), fourth (Richmond) and fourth (Darlington).
"We just need to keep doing what we've been doing and we'll get what we're after -- and that's a win," said Newman.
"This was a special race to drive the Army car on Memorial Day weekend," added Newman, who captured the pole in Thursday's time trials. "This is a weekend about remembrance for our men and women who served our country and for all the troops who are currently protecting our freedom. I was touched to see all the military personnel line up on the straightaway during the prerace introductions. I am very honored to drive the Army car."
Newman's Stewart-Haas Racing teammate, Tony Stewart, finished 19th. Stewart is second in driver points.
The next race for the U.S. Army/Haas Automation team will be May 31 at Dover (Del.) International Speedway.