DOVER, Del. - Pole sitter Ryan Newman failed to lead the first lap of the event when teammate Rusty Wallace overtook him for the initial tally, but he did lead the only lap that really counts: the last one. Newman was in the catbird seat when...
DOVER, Del. - Pole sitter Ryan Newman failed to lead the first lap of the event when teammate Rusty Wallace overtook him for the initial tally, but he did lead the only lap that really counts: the last one. Newman was in the catbird seat when Casey Mears hit the wall bringing out the ninth caution of the day with twelve laps left to be scored setting up a five car, six-lap shootout to the checkered flag.
Newman held off the hard-charging cars of Jeff Gordon and Bobby Labonte to score his third career victory and second this season.
"It was just clean air," said Newman. "Our car was a little bit tight. It enabled me to be fast out front. I hung onto it, and I had to do what I could on that restart and get a good jump."
Newman finally broke a streak of bad luck that has plagued his sophomore season. Newman has a win at Texas earlier this season and four poles, but he has been involved in accidents at California, Talladega and Daytona, and has five finishes of 38th or worse. And it wasn't easy. Newman lost power- steering in the No. 12 Dodge at lap 220, and was forced to manhandle the car the rest of the event.
"I wouldn't say it was the toughest of my career," Newman said of the victory. "But it was definitely tough. You've got fast guys behind you. I didn't have the mechanical advantage as far as having power steering. I couldn't get my tires cleaned off very well. I was focused on it, and I had to do a little blocking myself going into turn one on Jeff (Gordon).
"From what I understand he had to do the same for Tony (Stewart), but it worked out pretty good. We finished the last six laps under green, which typically doesn't happen sometimes on these restarts with five to go."
"I'm definitely tired," Newman commented on his lack of power-steering. "My arms hurt, my back hurts, my neck hurts, and I'll be really sore tomorrow and probably Tuesday, but it pays good to win you know."
Newman's win marks two entries for the NASCAR stat book; this is the first time Dodge has seen victory lane at Dover since Richard Petty did it in 1975, and the first time a Cup race has been won from the pole since 1999 (Bobby Labonte).
Jeff Gordon survived an early skirmish with Sterling Marlin to bring the No. 24 Hendrick Chevy home second. Gordon got into the back of Marlin's Dodge; Marlin spun, hit the retaining wall causing right rear damage on the Intrepid. Marlin finished 35th.
"A lot of things happened to us today," said Gordon. "So, to come home second I am pretty happy..we had a really good car, but it was a little tight all day. We put one set of tires on and it got super loose, so I told the guys to tighten it up. The last set we put on wasn't loose, it was tight and it just killed us. I tried to give Ryan a run there on that restart, and I got inside him, but I knew I wasn't going to do much because I was so tight."
Bobby Labonte marks his fifth consecutive top-five finish bringing the No. 18 Chevy home third.
"It was a great run," said Labonte. "We started 13th and we never could get out of that position for the first 100 laps or so. The guys made some good pit stops and made some good adjustments on the car, and we were able to pass a few cars after a few laps and got all the good out of it that we could. We took the lead there that one time but the car got too loose, and we backed up a little bit and came home third."
It was a hardscrabble day for the No. 20 Chevy of Tony Stewart. Stewart was clearly the class of the field leading twice for 67 laps in the early stages of the event. During pit stops under the day's fifth caution flag at lap 138, Stewart, who was leading the race, was penalized for having his right front tire slightly out of his pit box. He was held on pit road, which sent him from first to 32nd one lap down.
Stewart displayed how stealth the No. 20 Chevy Monte Carlo was by running down the leaders and getting back on the lead at lap on the restart at lap 218.
Stewart diligently worked his way back through the lead lap cars, finishing fourth.
"When you've been through the things we've been through lately, it's hard not to be disappointed even with a fourth-place finish.," said Stewart's crew chief Greg Zipadelli. "I guess when you get home and realize you led laps and were back up there battling for the lead, once again, then it might all seem different. Not getting our lap back any sooner than we did sure didn't help things, either."
Johnny Benson came from the 30th starting spot to reap his first top-five of the season, placing fifth.
"It was great," said Benson. "The Valvoline Pontiac was running good. It was a long way back where we had to start, but I am really proud of my guys. Our pit stops were great all day. I was making a couple of spots on the track and they made up a couple of spots in the pits. If you keep that up all day.I held up my end and they held up theirs, and we got a top-five out of it."
Weather and wrecks blemished the running of the Armed Forces Family 400 at Dover. Rain slowed the event for twelve laps, and the action was marred nine times by cautions for 68 laps.
The first yellow came on the races initial lap, just as Rusty Wallace passed pole sitter Ryan Newman, rookie Casey Mears scraped the wall setting off a chain reaction accident involving seven cars including Mike Skinner, Ward Burton, Jack Sprague, Jeff Green, Tony Raines and Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
"I just got loose off turn four," said Mears. "I feel bad for the Target guys. They've had a tough year so far. I've been learning so much. The goal today was to finish the thing and get some laps under our belt and have a good run. I guess with the track being green and being a little dirty up top I got loose and got in the fence."
Earnhardt, who qualified 12th, but was forced to start at the rear of the pack after a practice crash; caught the back of Skinner's Monte Carlo causing slight sheet metal damage to the nose of the No. 8 DEI Chevy. Earnhardt managed to stay out of trouble the rest of the afternoon and garner an 11th place finish.
Defending race winner, Jimmie Johnson, who has won the last two events, (The Winston, Coca Cola 600) led thirty-six laps and looked like a shoo-in for a top-five finish before trouble befell the No. 48 Chevy at lap 277. Johnson lost control of his Monte Carlo hitting the wall while running in third place. He finished 38th.
"I just lost it off turn two," said Johnson. "I chased it, had it saved a couple of times, but I ran out of racetrack. I brushed the outside wall, and when I did that, it turned me down into the inside wall. It's a disappointment. I feel bad I let it get away from me, but we'll come back next week."
Winston Cup championship points leader Matt Kenseth placed the No. 17 Roush Ford in seventh and retains the top spot in the rankings. He now sits 171 points ahead of second place Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Jeff Gordon is third, followed by Bobby Labonte and Kurt Busch.
Notably the pole sitter in yesterday's Busch series event, Joe Nemechek, also won from the top starting spot.