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Monday, February 21, 2011

Ryan Newman shows grit at Daytona

There is no question that restrictor plate racing isn't a favorite of the #39 team. Ryan Newman has had more than his share of challenges on restrictor plate tracks like Daytona. 

Prior to Sunday's opening 2011 season race, Newman's crew chief Tony Gibson commented to Scene Daily about his expectations. 

"If we can come out of there with a solid top-20 finish, then we know our mile-and-a-half program has been good; our short–track program has been good,” Gibson said. “The rest of our season is great. It’s just the darn restrictor-plate races that we can’t seem to get through.

“We finally finished one [plate] race, and that was the last Talladega race. Up until then, we had not finished a restrictor-plate race in almost two years. You just can’t give up those points, because there are 12 other guys [in Chase contention] that aren’t going to have those problems. When we made the Chase in 2009, we had a problem at Daytona, we wrecked, but we didn’t’ have those problems from there on out.

“For us, it’s all about coming out of Daytona with a decent finish. If we can start our season out good, the rest of the season will be fine.”

While Newman's finish was slightly short of the team's expectations, his was a decent finish, given the circumstances. 

Even some bad luck at the end can't take away from Newman's stellar performance in the first 186 laps of the 200-lap race. Newman's car was fast, both in and out of the draft. He led laps. 

In fact, he led 37 laps, the highest number of anyone in the field. 

Newman finished in 22nd place Sunday, eaking out 24 points. 

What was more important than race stats, Newman showed his grit. After the first wreck he got caught up in, Newman came back to make his way up to the 10th position. Then another wreck causing heavy damage to the #39 car. Gibson announced they were done because the radiator was involved. 

"Just put some water in it and let me get back out there," Newman said as he coaxed his car to the finish.

Newman and Stewart-Haas Racing can be proud of what Newman accomplished in the 53rd running of the Daytona 500. 

Newman's performance in the Budweiser Shootout was also worth noting. There too, he was oh-so-close to taking the checkered flag with leading laps and a 3rd place finish. 

Now, it is on to Phoenix, the track that scored Newman's most recent win.