By David FerroniMarch 30, 2009
MARTINSVILLE, Va. (March 29, 2009) -- A second-half surge by the U.S. Army team lifted Ryan Newman to a sixth-place finish in Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Martinsville Speedway.
Newman's hard-charging performance in the Fast Pain Relief 500 culminated with two passes in the final 10 laps, giving the Stewart-Haas driver his second straight top-10 finish and his best result of the season.
"I knew we had a good U.S. Army Chevy from practice and it was just a matter of getting it right and being patient," said Newman, who finished seventh last week in Bristol, Tenn. "We had the never-quit attitude like our Soldiers and came up strong in the end."
The result gave Newman the biggest leap in the points standings, picking up nine positions. He went from 27th to 18th. Two weeks ago he was 31st.
Newman started the 500-lap event from the 27th position after qualifying was canceled due to rain on Friday, forcing NASCAR to set the lineup according to owner points.
Newman struggled with a tight-handling Army Chevy for the first half of the race. But the second half of the race at the half-mile flat track was a different scenario for the No. 39 team. The turning point came on Lap 257 when a second spring rubber was added to the right-rear spring, which dramatically improved the car's handling.
"It (spring rubber) definitely improved the attitude of the car," said crew chief Tony Gibson.
When the race was restarted on Lap 265 following a caution, Newman was positioned in 20th place. From that point on the 31-year-old driver picked his way through the field and moved into 10th place on Lap 337. He virtually stayed in the top 10 for the remainder of the race. He passed Dale Earnhardt Jr. for ninth place with nine laps remaining and edged by Mark Martin for sixth on the final lap.
"The guys did a good job making adjustments and we did make a lot of changes today," Newman said. "The pit stops were good -- the bottom line is we stayed headstrong and got our positioning back and got up to sixth."
"The first half of the race the car was really, really tight," added Newman. "There wasn't much I could do with it. There at the end it came to us. We just made the best of it today."
Newman was also pleased about how the No. 39 team has improved its finish in each of the first six races.
"Each race has been better all year long -- there's something to be said for that," noted Newman.
The Martinsville race also marked the first time that the new Stewart-Haas Racing team had both of its cars finish in the top 10. Team owner and No. 14 driver Tony Stewart posted a third-place result.
The race winner was Jimmie Johnson. Rounding out the top five in order were: Denny Hamlin, Stewart, Jeff Gordon and Clint Bowyer.
The next event for the U.S. Army team will be April 5 at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth.