Newman pits at Darlington, on his way to his second Top
5 finish of the Winston Cup season.
NASCAR traditionally mandates a bright yellow stripe be placed on the back of a rookie's car to warn the more experienced drivers. But with Ryan Newman second in points, and Jimmie Johnson in fifth place after Darlington, maybe NASCAR should look at putting the stripe on the front on the car.
Without a doubt, rookies Ryan Newman and Jimmie Johnson have taken the NASCAR world by storm. Newman currently sits in second place, a mere 99 points behind Winston Cup leader Sterling Marlin. Johnson, after his second top-ten finish in a row, has moved up to claim the fifth place in the points chase. In the world of professional sports, this is nothing less than remarkable.
As the crusade goes on, Newman holds the edge over Johnson. Newman has four top-ten finishes and including Darlington, two top-five finishes to his credit. Newman has been the highest finishing rookie in four of the five races this year, and in the Raybestos Rookie of the year battle, Newman leads Johnson by only a single point, 71-70.
After hitting the wall during Happy Hour, Newman had to start the race with the backup car at the back of the field.
"We had a great qualifying run Friday but we cut a left rear tire down in practice and it got loose and got up in the wall," said Newman. "I had to go to the backup car for the race. It says a lot about the team to bring a brand new racecar right off the truck with no time on the racetrack at all. The first lap this car turned today was the first lap of the race. The pit stops were awesome; just a great day for us in the Alltel Ford. There are a lot of good things we can bring out of this."
Late in the race at Darlington, it just may have been a vision of what we can expect for years to come, Newman and Johnson racing side by side for position.
"We had a heck of a time holding off Jimmie (Johnson, fellow Raybestos(r) Rookie) off at the end. It's a great run for the Alltel Ford. To come from the back with a backup car and finish in the top-five just says a lot about the team and the preparation we have. It was an awesome day for us, to come here and not hit the wall once. It was a big change from yesterday I guess. The guys did an awesome job in the pits; the pit stops were great. We got the breaks there for us with getting the lap back when we got a lap down in
the pits. There were pros and cons about the whole day but overall it ended up pretty good."
As good as Newman was, Jimmie Johnson was almost as good. Johnson finished in sixth place at Darlington and is now in fifth place in Winston Cup points. Johnson is 158 points behind points leader Sterling Marlin and is only 10 points behind fourth place Rusty Wallace.
For Johnson, grabbing a top-ten at Darlington is the high point of his short, yet successful career.
Johnson is fifth in Winston Cup points, and is just a
point out of the Raybestos Rookie of the year lead.
"It's the highlight of my career to come to Darlington and be this competitive," said Johnson. "Rookies aren't supposed to run well here and I hope we made DW look bad. There's a bunch of us up there. It was a great battle. Late in the race I wanted to get by Ryan for the Raybestos Rookie of the Year battle. I had him three or four times but the way this track is and where the line is just because I had position on him doesn't mean that I was going to get the pass done. I wasn't going to go two wide into turn one. I've been wrecked there twice in my Busch career late in the race and I wasn't going to do that to us. I thought we could have beaten him but I used my stuff up on the bottom trying to get by him. I'm very happy with my sixth place finish."
Raybestos Rookies Ryan Newman and Jimmie Johnson have raised the bar in which all rookies are judged. In all likelihood, these two will compete for the rookie title straight through Homestead. And that yellow stripe on the back of their car, it just lets the other drivers know they have just been passed by one of the hottest drivers on the Winston Cup circuit.
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