By Wendy BelkApril 27, 2009
TALLADEGA, Ala. (Army News Service, April 27, 2009) -- Ryan Newman and the No. 39 Haas Automation/U.S. Army team scored their best result of the 2009 season by finishing third as part of a wild ending to Sunday's Aaron's 499 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Talladega Superspeedway.
Newman, who led twice for 10 laps, earned his first top-five of the season in a spectacular finish that saw Carl Edwards' Ford spin in front of Newman's Chevy as they headed toward the checkered flag.
Edwards' car flipped over Newman's hood and windshield before slamming the catch-fencing that separates the front stretch from the grandstands. Despite not being able to see from the massive damage his car received from the altercation, Newman drove his No. 39 Chevrolet Impala SS across the finish line in third place.
"We just rode around in the back kind of expecting what happened to happen, and it did," Newman said. "We just kept our nose clean for the most part. Denny Hamlin pushed me to the front, and Junior (Dale Earnhardt) was very honorable and stuck to his word and pushed me on that last restart. I was wide open, and Junior was pushing me pretty much all the way around the racetrack.
"When I saw Carl flying up in front of me, I thought he was actually going to spin down to the bottom, but the back of the car caught air. I guess the bottom line is that I kept my foot in it. I knew I was going to bounce off the wall, and we still finished third. Unfortunately, it's another destroyed racecar for Stewart-Haas Racing, but it was a solid top-five finish and a good points day for us."
Long before the green flag dropped, Newman and his No. 39 team devised a plan for the Talladega event. Because of the race's reputation for producing "The Big One," in which multiple cars are damaged and unable to finish the race, Newman and teammate Tony Stewart opted to drop to the back of the field and safely ride during the early stages of the 188-lap event.
The idea was to avoid any potential accidents that could happen in the tight-racing pack of cars and to save their equipment until the end of the race. The strategy seemed to quickly pay off as the two cars were able to avoid a 14-car incident on lap seven.
Under the caution flag, Newman thought he had hit debris from the multi-car wreck, so he pitted for four tires and fuel. When the race restarted, Newman once again fell to the back of the field, telling his team that he "just wanted to ride."
During the second run of the race, Newman told crew chief Tony Gibson that his No. 39 Chevrolet was just a little too loose, and that he would need to be tighter for the race's closing laps.
The team had the opportunity to tighten up Newman's racecar when the caution flag waved at lap 29. Newman pitted for four tires and fuel and wedge and air pressure adjustments. Again Newman returned to the track and went to the back of the pack.
Although Newman admitted to getting antsy and wanting to mix it up earlier in the race, he told Gibson that it was just "too risky" to get into the pack of racing cars and he believed they were "better off" to stick to the course they were on.
Newman's teammate agreed. Over the course of the race, the duo stuck close together and communicated with one another via their in-car radios.
With 35 laps remaining in the race, Newman and Stewart decided it was time to make their move. Although Stewart said he didn't believe he had the best car to push Newman, he told his driver that he would stay with him as long as he could.
Newman wasted no time making his presence known as he worked to find the best and fastest lane on the racetrack. By lap 178, Newman had been pushed into the top spot. A caution at lap 180 set up the final three-lap shootout of the race.
Newman and Earnhardt jumped out front, but as the two cars came to the white flag, the drafting tandem of Edwards and Brad Keselowski overtook them. Coming out of turn four for the final time, Keselowski turned Edwards. Newman moved to the high side of the racetrack in hopes of avoiding the spinning car of Edwards, but he shot up the racetrack right in front of Newman. With nowhere to go, Newman tagged Edwards in a violent crash.
Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Old Spice/Office Depot Chevrolet Impala SS, finished 23rd. Stewart, who had drafted with Newman for much of the race, lost a cylinder on the final restart which caused him to drop to the back of the lead-lap cars.
Stewart continues to lead the Stewart-Haas Racing driver lineup in the championship point race by maintaining his fourth-place position in the standings after round nine of 36. Newman gained four spots to climb to 13th-place in the standings. Stewart is 67 markers arrears new series- point-leader Kurt Busch, while Newman is 266 points out of first and just 30 points out of the 12th-place cutoff for the Chase for the Championship.
Keselowski won the Aaron's 499 to score his first career Sprint Cup victory. In just his fifth Sprint Cup start, Keselowski became the 10th driver to notch his first Sprint Cup win at Talladega, joining Richard Brickhouse, Dick Brooks, Lennie Pond, Ron Bouchard, Bobby Hillin Jr., Davey Allison, Phil Parsons, Ken Schrader and Brian Vickers. Keselowski's win was also the first victory for Phoenix Racing, owned by James Finch.
Earnhardt finished .175 of a second behind Keselowski, while Newman, Australian-born Marcos Ambrose and former Formula One driver Scott Speed rounded out the top five. Busch, Greg Biffle, Vickers, rookie Joey Logano and Jeff Burton comprised the remainder of the top 10.
There were nine caution periods for 33 laps, with 12 drivers failing to finish the 500-mile race.
The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the May 2 Crown Royal 400 at Richmond International Raceway in Virginia. The race begins at 7:30 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by FOX beginning with its pre-race show at 7 p.m.