By Tim HippsFebruary 13, 2009
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Army News Service, Feb. 13, 2009) - Ryan Newman had to drop from the front row to the rear of the field for the start of Thursday's second Gatorade Duel 150-mile qualifying race because he changed engines during practice on Wednesday.
Before the race ended, the U.S. Army crew had to unload Newman's backup car off the hauler to prepare it for Sunday's 51st running of the Daytona 500 after a crash into the backstretch wall totaled his No. 39 Chevrolet Impala SS.
Defending Daytona 500 champion Newman got three wide and tried to make a pass on the low side but was bumped from behind by David Reutimann's No. 00 Toyota, which sent Newman's car spinning directly into the outside wall.
"Wrong place, wrong time," Newman said after retreating from trackside, where he gestured toward Reutimann after climbing from the mangled car. "The U.S. Army Chevrolet was good. We were making our way to the front and taking our time. I was patient the whole race.
"Reutimann is a good name for him because he root the man right out of the way and bounced me right up into the wall and that was the end of our day."
Newman was not injured, but the Army Strong team must work overtime to get the backup car ready for Sunday's running of the Great American Race.
"I'm fine," said Newman, who posted the third-fastest time in Daytona 500 pole qualifying on Feb. 8. "The U.S. Army Chevrolet is junk, but I'm fine. We had a fast car, that's for sure. We were working our way back up."
Newman had to pit after only 13 laps to replace a burned front right tire that dropped him into 25th place, but a caution on Laps 16-18 helped him regroup. On the restart, he was running ninth. He worked his way to as high as third place, but got knocked out of contention with 12 laps remaining in the 60-lap chase.
"I know he didn't do it on purpose, but it's the 150s," Newman said. "We were 15 laps from the end, or 10 laps from the end, so it's like, 'Why'' Why do it' Evidently his race car was faster than he was.
"I never touched anybody with my front bumper the whole race. It's not necessary. He drilled me. He was driving over his head, that's the bottom line, and I was trying to make him realize that," Newman said of gesturing to Reutimann after he came back around the track. "If I have to guilt him into it in the first 30 seconds after he does it, so be it."
Reutimann got the message from Newman's upraised hands and shouldered the blame.
"I wasn't trying to wreck him," Reutimann said. "I screwed up. It was my mistake. He ought to be mad. I'd be mad, too. To his team, and him and (car owner) Tony Stewart and everybody that owns that deal, I apologize. I thought I was helping him (with the draft). I know he got kind of bottled up behind that slower car, and he moved down. There was plenty of room there.
"I thought that if I just gave him a square shot there, everything would be cool. I never intended for it to go that way, and it did. It really, really sucks. It's my mistake. I take full responsibility. I can't sugar coat it."
Newman, who finished 24th in the race, will start 36th in Sunday's Super Bowl of Stock Car Racing in a backup car that ran last season at Talladega.
"The track is slick," Newman said. "You've got to handle, that's for sure. You saw the guys separate out more so than they did last year. In the end, that's what we get paid to do is drive a car."
Newman will earn his keep if he drives the Army car into contention on Sunday.