Ryan Newman rallied back from a one-lap deficit to win the MBNA 400 at Dover. The No. 12 team took a gamble on fuel mileage, running the last 106 laps on one tank of gas to garner a series-high seventh win of 2003 for Newman. Newman was able to ...
Ryan Newman rallied back from a one-lap deficit to win the MBNA 400 at Dover. The No. 12 team took a gamble on fuel mileage, running the last 106 laps on one tank of gas to garner a series-high seventh win of 2003 for Newman. Newman was able to economize on fuel to land his eighth career win, although he confessed it was no easy feat.
"Trying to save fuel from the driver's seat is not really easy to do when you are trying to go fast," said Newman.
At times the No. 12 team believed they were 20 laps short on fuel, but a series of late race cautions played into their stratagem, allowing Newman to scrimp and save just enough to make the checkered flag, do some burn outs, and steer the Dodge Intrepid to victory lane.
Newman was strong in the races early laps, but fell one lap down after cutting a right-rear tire. Under NASCAR's new caution policy (where driver's are not allowed to race back to the yellow-flag but the first car a lap down automatically gets their lap back) Newman was able to get back on the lead lap at 288.
"The car was awesome until we got that flat tire," said Newman.
Earlier this weekend, Newman criticized the new caution policy stating, "I just don't want to see guys get their lap back and not earn it." Oddly enough, Newman becomes the first victorious benefactor of the new addition to the NASCAR rulebook. Without the free pass, Newman may have been able to make his lap back, but with the new guideline it was guaranteed.
Newman and crew chief Matt Borland made the decision to come down pit lane twice and top off fuel, finally restarting on lap 297 back on the lead lap. When the leaders pitted on lap 327, Newman stayed out and gained the top spot. The No. 12 Penske Dodge did not pit again, and held off the advances of the fast-approaching No. 19 of Jeremy Mayfield. Mayfield and Newman swapped paint in the closing laps, but Mayfield could not pass the No. 12.
"Once we got back in clean air the car was a lot better speed wise," said Newman. "From there on it was just a matter of holding off (Mayfield). Jeremy raced me really clean, and I thank him for that. We got into it once coming off Turn 2. But he never cut me a fender when he could've, and that goes a long way."
Jeremy Mayfield faded from Newman's bumper the last two laps, but held on for second. This is Mayfield's second top-two finish in three races.
"The motor ran good all day," said Mayfield. "It's the best car I ever had here."
Reigning Winston Cup champion Tony Stewart was third. It is only Stewart's fourth top-three finish of the season. Stewart was not pleased at the end of the event, and was quite vocal about his disgust over the tires, which he felt cost his team a win.
Stewart pitted for four tires with 73 laps to go, after leading twice for 97 of the 400 laps.
"They sponsor all these teams, and basically what it is hush money to keep us from talking about it," Stewart said. "And I'm tired of covering their a**. I mean, it's pretty bad that the sets of tires are so bad that you can't make an adjustment on the car and go out and win the race when you've got the fastest car on the track."
Kevin Harvick earned fourth, and scored his sixth top-five in the last eight events.
"We had a great car in the beginning and just a slight push in the center at the end," said Harvick. "But we had great pit stops and moved up to second in the points. If we keep having runs like this the rest of the season, it'll be a great thing for this team."
Four-time Winston Cup champion Jeff Gordon rounds out the top five. The strong finish ends a streak of bad luck for the No. 24 team; this is Gordon's first top-five finish in the last seven races.
"This feels good," said Gordon. "I knew if we just kept working at it that we'd have a good strong day. I'm glad it came here in Dupont's backyard down the road from Wilmington. I thought we were going to be better than that. We had a car there a couple of times that was a top three car, we thought. So to come out here with a top five after the way our last month and a half has been, is good. We'll take it. We're happy with that."
Series rankings leader Matt Kenseth finished ninth, extending his lead to 436 points over the competition.
"We ran terrible. I'm really ashamed of the way we ran," said Kenseth. We were just way off. We weren't very good the whole time we've been here. We came in to make changes off the first set of tires and the car was totally different all day. We really struggled."
The familiar second place name of Dale Earnhardt, Jr. in the championship race saw his first Cup title slip further out of reach.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was involved in a single car crash on lap 365, smacking the No. 8 DEI Chevy into the outside wall. Earnhardt has to be assisted out of the car by safety workers and strapped to a backboard. After being checked out at the infield care center, he was transported to a local hospital for further observation and released a few hours later.
Earnhardt suffered a mild concussion, bruised arm and foot. He will fly home this evening and see his personal physician tomorrow.
Earnhardt wound up 37th, which slides him to fourth in championship standings.
Kevin Harvick moves up one spot into second place in the standings, followed by Jimmie Johnson who also climbs up the ladder one position. Ryan Newman rounds out the top-five championship contenders.
More on the Winston Cup race from Motorsport.com's NASCAR Editor:
Earnhardt Jr transported to hospital, then released
Stewart unhappy with Goodyear after Dover