By David FerroniMarch 23, 2009
BRISTOL, Tenn. (Army News Service, March 22, 2009) -- It all came together for the U.S. Army team Sunday as driver Ryan Newman posted a solid seventh-place finish in the Food City 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway.
After suffering through a series of misfortunes in the first four races of the season, the gremlins disappeared for the Stewart-Haas team during the Bristol weekend, which saw Newman qualify the No. 39 Army Chevrolet Impala SS on the outside pole.
The momentum continued in the 503-lap overtime race at the half-mile, high-banked track. Newman led 25 laps early and virtually ran in the top 10 for the entire race to claim his best finish of the young season.
"This is huge for team morale," Newman said. "We got the monkey off our back. We knew that we were capable of this type of performance going into Daytona, but ran into a string of bad luck. It was a strong performance for our Soldiers who know what it's like to overcome bad breaks and adversity."
The rock-solid performance was truly a team effort, according to the 31-year-old Newman.
"The guys on pit road did a great job and (crew chief) Tony Gibson made good calls," said Newman. "We were strong off the truck on Friday and continued to make the car go faster and faster. We took advantage of what we had and that's exactly what we needed to do."
Gibson, who orchestrated the team's strategy, was obviously relieved with the overdue finish.
"Sooner or later you know the luck is going to change and when it turns around you need to be ready for it," explained Gibson. "We always had our heads up and nobody got down -- just like our Soldiers do every day. Hopefully this is the spark we need to get rolling."
Newman's finish was his eighth top-10 result in 15 career starts at Bristol. He gained four positions in the driver point standings and now sits at 27th after five of 36 Cup races.
Newman's Stewart-Haas Racing teammate, Tony Stewart, finished 17th. He ranks seventh in the point standings.
Sunday's race winner was Kyle Busch. Rounding out the top-five in order were: Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Kasey Kahne.
The next race for the Army team will be March 29 at Martinsville, Va., Speedway.