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Sprint Cup - Ryan Newman Dover Race Report

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Dover, May 16, 2011: For Ryan Newman, Dover International Speedway has always been one of his favorite and best racetracks on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series circuit, but Sunday’s FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks is a race that Newman and his No. 39 Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) team would rather forget.

“I’ve never driven so hard for so little,” said Newman after the race. “I’m not trying to beat up the guys because they know and they’re just as frustrated as I am right now. We just couldn’t get it right today. No matter what change we made, we didn’t make our Haas Automation Chevrolet any better.”

Unfortunately, Newman’s day was a disappointment from the drop of the green flag. After qualifying was rained out on Saturday, the field was set by taking the fastest lap each driver posted during Friday’s practice sessions, per new NASCAR rules for 2011. Newman started 28th.

From the beginning, Newman struggled with handling issues, which continued throughout the 400-lap event at the 1-mile oval. The car started out extremely tight, and Newman told crew chief Tony Gibson that the front end of his car wouldn’t turn at all. Under caution at lap 19, Newman pitted for four fresh tires and the pit crew removed a half-rubber out of the right-rear spring.

Only a few laps into the run, Newman told his crew that the change had somewhat helped the racecar but that he was still too tight. At lap 40, NASCAR had a competition caution in order to check tire wear since it had rained on Saturday and overnight into Sunday morning. Under the caution, Newman pitted once more for right-side tires, fuel and wedge and air pressure adjustments. Newman and Gibson opted to take only two tires in hopes of gaining track position.

Newman gained several spots and restarted in 17th place at lap 45. However, the adjustments did not help his handling woes. The Haas Automation Chevrolet was too free in, too tight in the center and even tighter exiting the corners. By lap 60, Newman had fallen out of the top-20. By lap 105, Newman was in 25th place and had lost one lap to the leaders. Throughout the course of the 400-lap race, Newman was unable to make up the lost lap because of his ill-handling racecar.

He finished the race in 28th place, two laps down to the leaders.

“We never hit it from lap one,” said Gibson following the race. “We were extremely tight, and then as the rubber built up on the racetrack, we’d get loose. We were slinging big things all day long and we couldn’t keep up with it. It’s just hard to take when you’re sitting there watching him struggle and you can’t do anything to help.

“I’m sorry to all the fans out there of Ryan Newman because we didn’t do him a very good job this weekend. We appreciate all of our sponsors. We’ll keep our heads up and keep digging. We’ve got a great race team and a great driver, and we’re going to one of our favorite race tracks next week – Charlotte.”

Both SHR drivers struggled with the handling of their respective machines as Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Mobil 1/Office Depot Chevrolet Impala, finished 29th.

Matt Kenseth won the FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks to score his 20th career Sprint Cup victory, his second of the season and his second at Dover.

Mark Martin finished 2.122 seconds behind Kenseth in the runner-up spot, while Marcos Ambrose, Kyle Busch and Brian Vickers rounded out the top-five. Clint Bowyer, Carl Edwards, Martin Truex Jr., Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick comprised the remainder of the top-10.

There were six caution periods for 28 laps, with nine drivers failing to finish.

With round 11 of 36 complete, Newman dropped from sixth to seventh in the Sprint Cup championship standings. He now has 340 points and is 76 markers behind series leader Edwards. Stewart dropped three positions to 10th in the standings. He has 328 points and is 88 points back of Edwards.

The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the May 21 NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway. The non-point-paying event begins at 7:30 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by SPEED beginning with its pre-race show at 7 p.m. (SPEED’s “RaceDay” will begin at 4 p.m.)