Ryan Newman Captures Historic 50th Running Of The Daytona 500
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (February 17,2008) – It was worth the wait.
Ryan Newman and the No. 12 alltel Dodge team gave owner Roger Penske his Daytona 500 win in the historic 50th running of "The Great American Race." Penske teammate Kurt Busch pushed Newman to the lead past Tony Stewart on the Superstretch on the last lap while Stewart settled for third place.
Newman, whose previous best finish in the Daytona 500 was third in 2006, has won in both the IROC and ARCA series at Daytona International Speedway. With his dad spotting for him, he picked up his first win in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series since September of 2005. This is the first time that a non-Chevrolet has won the Daytona 500 since Ward Burton won in a Dodge in 2002.
“I don’t have the words,” Newman said. “It’s probably one of the most awesome things that’s ever happened to me. To understand all the history of NASCAR, of racing in general, to be looking face to face with all the (previous Daytona 500 winners at the driver’s meeting) – the greats that were on stage up there – and now to be part of one of those guys and part of that team, it’s just awesome.”
Newman, who received a record purse of over $1.5 million for his trip to Gatorade Victory Lane, remembers watching the prestigious race from the grandstands.
“I remember my dad pulling me out of middle school,” Newman said. “I’m not exactly sure of the year, maybe ’90, ’91. We sat up in Seagrave Tower. It was just awesome to be able to look at the Seagrave section after the checkered flag fell and realize where you’ve been and where you are. There’s just so much honor that goes along with it. It will take a long time for it to set in.”
Busch, who had to take the past champion’s provisional to qualify for the race due to an electrical problem during his Gatorade Duel , started 43rd. This is Busch’s third runner-up finish in “The Great American Race”.
“I was emotional pushing him across the line,” Busch said. “It felt incredible to have a Penske 1-2 finish today. To have Newman jump up in front of me, I thought that was the most beautiful thing in the world because I knew one of us Penske cars was going to win at that point.”
“I’ve been here almost 30 years trying to get in Victory Lane,” car-owner Roger Penske said. “To achieve this with this kind of competition – with Ryan, the student of the sport. We’ve worked hard; we’ve come close. I think this was a pure team effort. Ryan drove a masterful race, as he’s done many times and come up short. But today was special for us.”
Tony Stewart had his No. 20 Home Depot Toyota out in front going down the backstretch on the last lap when he tried to block Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch, leaving the top lane open for the Penske Racing teammates to make a charge for the lead.
“It’s pretty tough to come in here and say that I’m happy to go from first to third on the last lap of the Daytona 500,” Stewart said. “I just made the wrong decision on the backstretch and tried to get down in front of Kyle. It’s hard to explain – it’s probably one of the most disappointing moments of my racing career tonight.”
Sam Hornish, Jr., former Indy 500 winner and the third Penske Racing Dodge in the field, was competing in his first NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Daytona International Speedway. Hornish rolled off the grid in 19th and moved into the top 10 in just over 10 laps. He remained in the lead pack for the majority of the race and was the top finishing rookie, coming in 15th.
Kyle Busch, in the No. 18 M&M’s
Toyota, had arguably the strongest car all day long. He moved from 24th to second in 22 laps and led 86 of the 200 laps, the most of any driver. Kyle, who finished fourth, made a move for the lead on the final restart but went below the yellow line going into Turn 1. He gave the position back to avoid penalty and was blocked by Stewart when he looked low and tried to take the lead in the final lap down the backstretch.
Defending Daytona 500 champion Kevin Harvick experienced mechanical problems early on, but the No. 29 Shell/Pennzoil team was able to salvage a 14th-place finish.
Newman received a gold Harley J. Earl trophy to commemorate the 50th running of the Daytona 500. He will also take part in an induction ceremony at the Daytona 500 Experience, the official attraction of NASCAR, Monday morning where his car will be on display for fans to see until next year’s Daytona 500.
The 50th running of the Daytona 500 was kicked off by the Sprint Pre-Race show which included legendary rock and roll singer Chubby Checker, Michael McDonald – former member of The Doobie Brothers – and Kool and the Gang. Legendary country music duo Brooks & Dunn served as a musical backdrop to a tribute honoring the former winners of the Daytona 500 with songs fitting the occasion such as “Hard Workin’ Man” and “Proud Of The House We Built”.
Grammy-Award winning country music star Trisha Yearwood sang the National Anthem as USAF Thunderbirds rumbled over historic Daytona International Speedway. Seven-time Daytona 500 champion Richard Petty took a turn on the other side of the green flag as he served as the Honorary Starter.
Tickets for the Coke Zero 400 Powered by Coca-Cola are available online at www.racetickets.com or by calling 1-800-PITSHOP.