FONTANA, Calif. (March 27, 2011) — The torrid early-season pace continues for Ryan Newman, who posted a fifth-place finish in Sunday’s Auto Club 400 Sprint Cup race.
It was Newman’s fourth straight top-10 result and his third top-five in the first-five races of the 2011 campaign.
The fifth-place finish at Auto Club Speedway lifted Newman from fourth to second in the driver point standings. He trails leader Carl Edwards by nine points.
“It’s been an amazing start and the script is playing out the way we were hoping it would during the offseason,” said Newman. “We were off a bit in the beginning of today’s race, but we made a few adjustments and the U.S. Army Chevrolet kept on getting better and better. The only bad news for us is that we didn’t win the race.”
Newman added, “What makes me even more excited about our recent success is that we are making our Soldiers proud of their team. These Soldiers, who are deployed in more than 80 countries, are our best fans and they give us the inspiration to keep battling with a never-give-up attitude.”
There were a couple of key moments for Newman and the No. 39 U.S. Army team during the 200-lap, 400-mile event. The first came during a Lap 76 pit stop when crew chief Tony Gibson opted for two tires instead of four. The result vaulted Newman to second place in track position.
“That was a key decision that really paid off,” noted Newman. “We pretty much stayed up there the rest of the race.”
Another key moment was near the end of the race (Lap 187) when Gibson and Newman jointly agreed not to pit for fresh tires.
“At that time we were running in sixth place and felt we could hold off the cars behind us that took fresh tires,” explained Newman. “I guess we did one better by finishing fifth.”
Regarding the decision not to pit, Gibson said he got more nervous when more cars behind the Army Chevy didn’t pit for new tires.
“I was hoping for more cars to pit, but Ryan did one great driving job,” said Gibson. “We’re going to ride this success as long as we can and build up a point cushion. Realistically you know there are going to be some bad days. But right now we’re enjoying ourselves and having plenty of fun.”
Newman’s teammate, Tony Stewart, finished 13th and is sixth in driver points.
The race winner was Kevin Harvick. Rounding out the top-five in order were: Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth and Newman.
The next Sprint Cup race is Sunday (April 3) at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway.