TALLADEGA, Alabama — Making his first career superspeedway start in the Nationwide Series at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway, Ryan Newman and the No. 33 Kevin Harvick Inc. (KHI) Rheem team started the Aaron’s 312 from the pole position, Newman’s first superspeedway pole in any NASCAR series, and he narrowly missed victory as first-time winner David Ragan made a pass in the final yards of the last lap to earn his first career win in NASCAR.
“I have to thank everyone at KHI for putting together a great car and to Kevin and DeLana (Harvick) for letting me drive this car,” said Newman after climbing from the No. 33 Rheem Chevrolet. “Ernie Cope and these guys worked hard and we had a great day. We were in a good situation there with (Dale Earnhardt) Junior pushing us; I just didn’t expect the 6 car (Ragan) to come so fast, but I guess he had someone pushing him. These ECR engines are great, good enough to win the pole and good enough to win the race.”
Starting the race from the first position, Newman was quickly shuffled back to the fifth position on the first lap as the field ran two and three wide around the high banks of Talladega. In typical restrictor-plate racing, Newman was shuffled as far back as 23rd on lap 17 only to be leading the race on lap 33 followed by Earnhardt Jr., Jason Leffler, Carl Edwards and rookie Scott Lagasse Jr.
The first caution of the day came on lap 54 when the No. 29 and 99 cars were involved in a wreck. The No. 33 team came down pit road in the sixth position, and after taking four tires and fuel, restarted the race in the 14th position on lap 58. With teams deciding on various strategies of fuel-only, two tires and four tires stops, the stop by the No. 33 team put Newman in position to do a fuel-only stop at the end of race.
Continuing to run fast laps and shuffling from the front to 15th and back, Newman was sitting in the 11th position when the second caution flag of the day waved on lap 87. Due to a vibration Newman was feeling, the team decided to change four tires and add fuel instead of completing the fuel-only stop originally planned. Newman restarted the race on lap 92 in the 18th position. Two laps later the caution was out again and Newman stayed out to restart the race on lap 98 in the 17th position.
Newman moved back into the lead on lap 104. With Earnhardt, Jr. pushing Newman as he had done throughout most of the race, the pair was trailed by Tony Raines, Ragan, and Brad Keselowski. With several late-race cautions, NASCAR was forced to extend the race to a green-white-checkered finish. Leading the race on the final lap, the No. 5 of Earnhardt Jr. pulled to the outside of Newman to make a pass for the lead, but as Newman blocked the No. 5 car, the middle lane opened and Ragan passed Newman to win his first race in one of NASCAR’s top-three series. Crossing the finish line in second place, the No. 33 team now leads the NASCAR Nationwide Series Owner’s Point Standings by 22 points over the No. 18 of Joe Gibbs Racing.
April 25, 2009
Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway
Race: 8 of 35
Driver: Ryan Newman
Owner’s Point Standings: 1st (+1 spot, 22 points ahead of 2nd)
Race length: 117 laps/311.22 miles
Banking: 33-degrees in the turns
16.5-degrees on the frontstretch
2-degrees on the backstretch
Track layout: 2.66 mile
Number of Laps Led: 3 Times for 21 Laps
Number of Race Cautions: 6 for 20 Laps
First Practice: 12th (49.793 seconds; 192.316 mph)
Final Practice: Ryan Newman and the No. 33 Rheem team did not participate in final practice, happy with the car after the first practice session was complete.
Qualifying: 1st (51.518 seconds; 185.877 mph)
Next on the Nationwide Series Schedule:
Date: May 1, 2009
Track: Richmond (Va.) International Raceway
Event Name: Lipton Tea 250
Driver: Kevin Harvick