Newman rockets to win in Michigan

Newman rockets to win in Michigan

Ryan Newman battled back from early troubles with his racecar and then held off a hard-charging Kasey Kahne in the closing laps to win the DHL 400 at Michigan International Speedway on Sunday. Ryan Newman. Photo by Eric Gilbert. Kahne...

Ryan Newman battled back from early troubles with his racecar and then held off a hard-charging Kasey Kahne in the closing laps to win the DHL 400 at Michigan International Speedway on Sunday.

Ryan Newman.
Photo by Eric Gilbert.
Kahne was running fifth on the restart with four laps to go and worked his way by Jimmie Johnson, who was missing third gear and was slow on the restart. Kahne powered around Dale Jarrett at the start/finish line with one lap to go and was closing on Newman when the yellow came out with half a lap to go.

Newman rolled off the grid in the fourth position, but collected some paper on the grill of his ALLTEL Dodge early in the race causing the engine temperature to soar. He was forced to pit and lost a lap to the leaders. Newman was given the "lucky dog" free pass back to the lead lap during a caution on lap 89.

Newman became the ninth leader of the race when he passed Jarrett with 23 laps to go. He held off Jarrett on the restart and then cruised to his first win of the season.

"(It's) an awesome victory for our team," Newman said from victory lane. "We had to find a way back. We had a fast car -- just needed to work our way forward."

Kahne, who rallied for his best finish in eight races, didn't think he could catch the leader even if the race had ended under green.

"I probably would have finished about a car length behind him," Kahne admitted. "It's cool to have a one-two Dodge finish."

Newman led the series with eight wins in 2003, but had managed just four top fives so far this season. He was coming off three straight sub-par finishes, including last week at Pocono where he crashed and finished 30th.

Jarrett was running fourth when the race restarted with 37 laps to go. He was looking for his first victory in more than a year.

"I haven't had many chances to win races lately," he radioed to his crew while under caution. "They better get the hell out of my way."

Elliott Sadler and Dale Jarrett.
Photo by Autostock.
Jarrett moved up to third and then passed teammate Elliott Sadler for second with 29 laps to go. Kahne took the position from Jarrett, who finished third and picked up his first top-5 finish of the year.

"I would have liked to see the end of the race caution free," said Jarrett. "I think that would have helped us. At the end, we got to be a tick loose - that was from basically driving the tires off it."

Kahne made up for a bad start with his fourth second place finish of his rookie season. He had an ignition problem on the pace lap and stalled his specially painted green Dodge at the start/finish line. Kahne re-fired the car before the race started, but lost a lap early in the race because of a poor handling ride.

"That car was tough to drive early in the race," admitted Kahne, who moved up to 11th in the point standings and within the 400-point cut-off of the leader for the "Chase for the Championship". "(Crew chief) Tommy Baldwin and the while team did a great job to fix it. The car took off better on the final four-lap run then it did before that."

Johnson finished fourth and took the points lead from Dale Earnhardt Jr., who finished 21st.

"There at the end, we were really coming on and that last restart really hurt me more than anything," Johnson said. "I have the points lead and that's what we want."

Earnhardt started 11th, but struggled with his set-up and dropped back quickly. He moved up to fifth when he took two tires during a yellow flag stop with 23 laps to go, but couldn't hold off the cars that took four tires.

"The car wasn't any good," Earnhardt admitted. "From the start of the race, the car wouldn't turn. We changed things, but nothing happened. It was good to be in the (points) lead. We may get it again, but not running like this."

Sadler, who was the fastest car during happy hour on Saturday, rounded out the top-5.

"It's great to get two top fives for Robert Yates today," said Saddler, who credited his teammate Jarrett with helping him get his car set-up for a good run. "I've got the best teammate in the world."

Hendrick pilots Jeff Gordon, Brian Vickers and Johnson swept the first three spots in qualifying on Friday. It was the first time in modern history that drivers from the same team started in the first three positions.

Gordon led the first 80 laps of the race before making a green flag stop. Johnson worked his way past Michael Waltrip and then inherited the lead with Gordon on pit road. When green flag stops cycled through, Gordon was back at the front until his engine blew up on lap 89, taking him out of the race.

Jeff Gordon out with blown engine.
Photo by Phil Schilke.
"I was coming down the back straightaway and started to feel it vibrate," Gordon said from the garage. "We've been talking about horsepower a lot and were making some serious horsepower. We've been having some great success with reliability. We had a great car. I was having a lot of fun out there."

All-time series wins leader Richard Petty was on hand as the Grand Marshall of the race. Petty, whose son Kyle Petty finished 18th, gave the command to start the engines for the Father's Day event.

Mark Martin started 15th, but slowed just after taking the green flag to start the race. Jeff Burton, his Roush Racing teammate, was trailing the Viagra Ford and nudged Martin's bumper. Other cars scrambled to avoid Martin, including Petty, who dropped down to the apron in turn 1. Martin spent 19 laps in the pits while his crew worked to repair his transmission.

Half a lap later, Brendan Gaughan got into the wall after exiting turn 2 on the first lap. Robbie Gordon dropped down to avoid Gaughan, but bumped into Kurt Busch and then spun down the backstretch. Gordon's car suffered front-end damage and after running 23 laps, he took it to the garage for repairs.

Gaughan worked his way back to the front through the first half of the race. He blew around Jarrett in turn 2 to take the lead on lap 103. Gaughan has started among the first 10 cars in four of the past six races, but after a 16th place finish on Sunday, has managed just one top-10 finish in that time.

Pitstop for Brendan Gaughan.
Photo by Phil Schilke.
"Racing is an up and down deal," an exasperated Gaughan said after climbing out of his car, which is co-owned by Roger Penske, who also fields the Dodges of Newman and Rusty Wallace. "We were pretty darn good and something happened one lap and shot me up the racetrack. I still don't know what happened."

Jamie McMurray was rebounding from a poor qualifying effort on Friday, working his way from 30th to fifth in the first 100 laps, before his engine let go on lap 117.

"Something big broke and put a hole in the block," McMurray explained. "It's a tough day. We've really improved our motor program, but when you come to a place like this, these things happen. This place is really hard on motors."

Several cars had engine troubles at Michigan. In addition to Gordon and McMurray, Rusty Wallace, Ward Burton and Joe Nemechek also had engine troubles at the two-mile speedway, where cars were turning more than 9,500 rpm throughout the afternoon.

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Jeff Burton , Ward Burton , Jeff Gordon , Dale Jarrett , Rusty Wallace , Michael Waltrip , Kyle Petty , Joe Nemechek , Kurt Busch , Ryan Newman , Jimmie Johnson , Jamie McMurray , Richard Petty , Kasey Kahne , Brendan Gaughan , Brian Vickers , Robert Yates , Eric Gilbert , Elliott Sadler , Roger Penske , Mark Martin