Late-race crashes end Newman's bid to win Daytona 500
February 22, 2011
By Tim Hipps
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 21, 2011) - Ryan Newman led more laps than anyone, but two late-race crashes knocked his No. 39 U.S. Army Chevrolet into a 22nd-place finish in the Daytona 500 on Sunday at Daytona International Speedway.
Newman led nine times for a race-high 37 laps and was in contention to drive to Victory Lane before getting collected in a five-car crash on the backstretch of Lap 197 while running in second place.
Newman led Laps 182 through 192 and was clinging to the lead on Lap 196 of the scheduled 200 laps around the 2.5-mile tri-oval.
The race went into double overtime with two green-white-checkered restarts and was won by 20-year-old rookie Trevor Bayne, the youngest Daytona 500 winner in history, making only his second NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start.
After pitting for repairs, Newman's car was involved in a four-car melee on Lap 206.
After climbing from the Army Strong car and surveying the damage, Newman said "I don't want to talk about it" while walking to his hauler parked across the garage area.
His crew chief, Daytona Beach native Tony Gibson, put into words what Newman could not express immediately after their disappointing finish.
"Somebody turned the 78 [Regan Smith] right in front of us and the 11 [Denny Hamlin] and we couldn't avoid it," Gibson said in reference to the first crash. "It was just one of those deals. We came in and fixed it and we were just trying to finish.
"On the restart, we had drove back up to tenth, and I guess [Tony] Stewart and somebody had a problem up there and jammed everybody up and we got wrecked again.
"He was running tenth, all tore up, and I thought we were going to salvage something decent. But I'm so proud of the U.S. Army Team. We did what we wanted to at the beginning of the race - just kind of pick and choose and wait for things to thin out. We found our good partners and ran up there."
The 3-hour, 59-minute race featured track records in lead changes (74), leaders (22) and cautions (16) before an estimated crowd of 182,000.
Gibson knew a golden opportunity slipped away, but he still thought the U.S. Army team made great progress on this day.
"We led a bunch of laps today," he said. "We definitely had a car to win this race. I'm proud to represent the United States Army and all the men and women that fight for us each and every day. Hopefully, they were up cheering for us and that gave them something to be pumped up about.
"I think that's still 20 spots better than we finished here the last couple years, so I'm just proud of the performance of the race team."
After he cooled down, Newman said: "We had a plan and we had the horsepower to win this race. But we were on the wrong end of a typical restrictor-plate finish. It's disappointing, but we'll Soldier on and fight even harder next week."
Sgt. Maj. of the Army Kenneth Preston sat atop the Army team's pit box throughout the race and was joined by Lt. Gen. Benjamin Freakley, the commanding general of U.S. Army Accessions Command, and several other Soldiers along pit road.
"All that matters is that we ran really strong all day and we got the Army what they deserved, and that's some good TV coverage to show the people that we never give up," Gibson said. "We almost came back and pulled a top 10 out of it.
"We didn't quite make it there, but I'm proud of everybody on the U.S. Army Chevrolet. We're going to go get 'em. We'll take that to the next restrictor-plate race and go on."
(Tim Hipps writes for Family and MWR Command Public Affairs.)