By David FerroniAugust 24, 2009
BRISTOL, Tenn. (Aug. 22, 2009) -- A calculated pit strategy plus a late-race charge resulted in a sixth-place finish for Ryan Newman in Saturday night's Sharpie 500 Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway.
The strong finish in the U.S. Army/Haas Automation Chevrolet vaulted Newman from ninth to seventh place in the driver point standings. He is 84 points inside the Chase cut line with two races remaining before NASCAR's championship playoff commences. (see driver standings below)
The pivotal point of the race for Newman and the No. 39 team was when crew chief Tony Gibson called for two tires while the majority of the teams took four following a caution for light rain on lap 422 of 500. The decision paid off as Newman jumped nine positions -- from 11th to second -- when the race was restarted on lap 432.
From that point on, Newman hung tough in the top 10. He was positioned in eighth place when the race was red-flagged on lap 493 for a multi-car accident. He went on to pick up two spots in the closing laps.
"Taking two tires was a good call by (crew chief) Tony Gibson," said Newman, who ran in the top-12 for the majority of the race. "We came out second, got some track position and made the best of it by finishing sixth. The U.S. Army/Haas Automation Chevrolet was pretty good and we managed to come away with a strong finish."
"Ryan drove a great race and it was an awesome night for us," said Gibson. "We gambled a little by taking two tires at the end thinking the rain was going to come. Then I got a little nervous when the rain didn't come, but the U.S. Army Chevy ran great on two new tires. The pit crew really stepped up and did an outstanding job. We're like our Soldiers -- we fight hard every week no matter where we finish."
Newman's teammate, Tony Stewart, had radio issues and finished 33rd. He remains first in the point standings.
The race winner was Kyle Busch. Rounding out the top five in order were: Mark Martin, Marcos Ambrose, Greg Biffle and Denny Hamlin.
Saturday night's 500 lapper topped off a history-making week for Newman, who became the first NASCAR driver to compete in four races in the same week at the same track.
The Bristol quadruple had a slow start for Newman, who was involved in an early accident in Wednesday night's Modified race. He came back strong on the same night with a fourth-place finish in the Camping World Truck Series event. He also had a respectable run in Friday night's Nationwide race, finishing 13th.
"It was a challenging schedule but also plenty of fun," said Newman. "When you represent our Soldiers you know what it takes when it comes to preparation and mental toughness. I take a lot of pride wearing the Army uniform and every time I compete I want the Soldiers to know that we never give up and will always fight hard to complete the mission."
Newman and the Army team will continue that fight at the next Sprint Cup race -- Sept. 5 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.