Ryan Newman passed Dale Earnhardt, Jr. with 11 laps to go at Texas Motor Speedway to secure his second career victory, and the first win for Dodge this year. Newman and crew made a chancy call by taking only two tires on the final pit stop. The...
Ryan Newman passed Dale Earnhardt, Jr. with 11 laps to go at Texas Motor Speedway to secure his second career victory, and the first win for Dodge this year. Newman and crew made a chancy call by taking only two tires on the final pit stop. The win propelled Newman from 15th in championship standings to eighth, and garnered the first win for Penske since switching to Dodge at the end of last season.
Newman's big break came on lap 224 when he inherited the lead during a set of green flag pit stops that were interrupted by a caution flag; one of ten yellows that slowed the event. Newman stayed out front, until he pitted on lap 286.
The two-tire call looked like it might have been a mistake, as the No. 8 Chevy of Earnhardt, Jr. rocketed past Newman and pulled away by almost twenty car lengths. Newman, however, slowly roped in Earnhardt, and eventually scooted past him on lap 323. Earnhardt, whose car had been ill-handling for most of the race, and got tighter has the run went on. Earnhardt could not keep up with Newman as the No. 12 Penske Dodge soared to a three second lead over the field.
"I told everybody this morning we were trying to turn the corner and today I think we did," said Newman. "Track position was key for sure. We had to make the decision on that pit stop and taking two tires guaranteed us the first position. I didn't think four tires would make that much difference, and it didn't except for right there on the restart."
After Newman's pass, Earnhardt, Jr. still had to hold off the hard charging No. 24 Hendrick Chevy of Jeff Gordon. Gordon and Earnhardt bumped and banged to the line, but in the end it was the No. 8 Chevy by 0.002 seconds over Gordon.
"Man, I'm pretty surprised and happy to finish second," said Earnhardt. "I mean, I won't be happy until we win a championship, but we weren't one of the best cars out there today. We were maybe a top-10 car, and we struggled with the handling for much of the race, but track position was so critical today that once we were able to get up near the front, we were able to stay there.
"He [Earnhardt, Jr.] made it hard on us," Gordon said. "If we'd have been going for the win, we probably would have wrecked."
Jerry Nadeau scored his first top-five finish of the season coming home fourth. Mark Martin was fifth.
Cautions flew as wrecks and engine failures changed the complexion of the event at several key moments during the race. Early on it was the Elliott-Elliott show with Bill Elliott and Elliott Sadler dominating much of the race action. However, both drivers' would be in the garage by race end.
After leading 43 of the first 45 laps, Bill Elliott's No. 9 Evernham Dodge Intrepid's engine failed.
"I'm snake bit, that's all there is," Elliott said. "When I shifted to high, it started missing. I don't have any idea what happened to it. There's a lot of moving parts in the motor and I just don't know."
Sadler, led 91 laps before he lost control when the No. 38 RYR Ford became loose after a recent pitstop, hit the inside retaining wall in turn two on lap 169.
"I'm not sure if it was a bad set of tires," said Sadler. "Or, actually, if we had a right rear going down, I just told them two laps before then 'Man, I am going to wreck this thing it's so loose'.
"When I got out of the car I looked and the right rear was flat, but I probably did that when I skidded. But, a very hard hit."
Elliott finished 43rd and Sadler 40th.
Pole sitter Bobby Labonte was also swept up in an accident, he finished 37th. Labonte's teammate and defending series champion, Tony Stewart was not able to turn around his otherwise unpleasant weekend.
After having his primary car impounded by NASCAR on Friday for failing inspection, Stewart experience engine problems in his back-up car on lap 293. Stewart was out of the race in 34th position.
Matt Kenseth remains perched on top the champion leader board, 155-points ahead of teammate Kurt Busch.
"We had a great day," commented Kenseth. "Our car handled really good, but I know what Tony Stewart was complaining about last year with traffic. We just really, really struggled in traffic. I don't know if it's a Ford thing or if that's how it is for everybody, but when we were in front we could fly.
"All day the guys did a good job and had good pit stops. At the end with the way the pit deal worked out we lost a lot of track position and we didn't have the best stop at the end. We just got too far behind, but, overall, it was a great day to come back and finish sixth."
Earnhardt, Jr. climbs up to third in the race for the Winston Cup followed by Michael Waltrip and Jimmie Johnson.