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Bob Pockrass, NASCAR Scene


Ryan Newman was sore after a frightening, end-over-end crash that sent his car flipping, rolling and skidding down the track at Talladega Superspeedway.

He was just as sore at NASCAR officials.

It was just six months ago when Newman tapped Carl Edwards’ spinning car, launching it into the air and into the catchfence at Talladega.

“I’m just really disappointed,” Newman said. “We had this race back here in the spring and complained about cars getting airborne and now, ironically, I’m the guy that gets upside down. … I wish NASCAR would do something.”

NASCAR did do something to try to keep cars on the ground. It decreased the size of the holes in the restrictor plates from 60/64ths of an inch to 59/64ths of an inch. It also prohibited bump-drafting in the turns.

But two cars – Newman’s and Mark Martin’s – ended up getting airborne in a race that was fairly tame for the first 100 laps before drivers began racing two- and three-wide. Newman’s accident occurred when he got tapped by Marcos Ambrose as cars slowed in the draft.

“It was a boring race for the fans,” Newman said. “That [wreck] is not something anybody wants to see, at least I hope not. If they do, go home, because you don’t belong here.

“It’s just a product of this racing and what NASCAR has put us into with this box and these restrictor plates with these types of cars – with the [no passing below the] yellow line, no bump-drafting, no passing. Drivers used to be able to respect each other and race around each other. Richard Petty, David Pearson and Bobby Allison and all those guys have always done that. I guess they don’t think much of us any more.”

That’s not true, NASCAR Vice President Robin Pemberton said.

“Drivers are fortunate that they can take the spills that they do and you can talk to them 15-20 minutes after they climb out of the car,” Pemberton said. “And like anything, we’ll get together and we’ll talk about it.

“It’s racing and a lot of times you can’t prepare for every situation like that. … We try to work with the teams and the drivers in here. We respect what they say and what they have to offer, and if it’s something we feel we have to work on, we work on it.”

Although Newman was uninjured, it took workers more than five minutes to flip the car over and cut off the roof so he could climb out.

“We don’t need the cars getting upside down like this,” Newman said. “This is ridiculous. There is way more technology than that to help us out. Whether it is a speed issue, a roof-flap issue, whatever. I said it myself in the media center after the spring race here, and now to be the guy standing here trying to live it all out again,

I’m just happy I am living it out.

“It is a shame that not more is getting done. I don’t know. I guess maybe I expect NASCAR to call me. I am the only guy out there with an engineering degree. I would like to have a little respect on my end.”

Pemberton said the race was typical of Talladega – periods of single-file racing following by a spectacular crash in which cars occasionally get airborne. He said Newman’s accident would be analyzed.

“We’ll go back and look at the numbers and see if there is anything that needs to be done,” Pemberton said. “We’ll go back and we’ll evaluate what happened today.”

Not everyone involved in the Newman wreck thought it was ridiculous.

“Everybody was pretty calm up until that point,” Kevin Harvick said. “It looked like somebody just hooked the 39, but other than that I thought it was a pretty calm Talladega. Obviously we had some crashes there at the very end. … I don’t think the restrictor plate had anything to do with it.”

The hood of Harvick’s car was damaged but he was able to finish the race despite getting an up-close look at the inside of Newman’s car.

“It’s kind of how our year has gone,” Harvick said. “If there was one car he was going to land on top of, it was probably going to be us.”

Martin, a longtime critic of restrictor-plate racing, agreed that the crashes were typical of Talladega and not the product of the rules.

“They didn’t create that [Newman] wreck that brought the caution out that made a green-white-checkered [finish]; that was just a sense of urgency time,” Martin said.

“That’s what we had here. They haven’t created that, that’s what it is.

“People were trying to make it to the end. They got pretty close.”

And some got upside down. Newman left frustrated, Martin maybe not so much.

“It’s a success if I walk out of here,” Martin said. “I’ve had a successful day. I climb on that plane, I go home, I see my family, it’s all good.”