LONG POND, Pa. - Ryan Newman held off the hard charging No. 97 Ford of Kurt Busch to score his fourth win of the season and fifth of his career. A late race caution bunched the field and set-up a three car shoot out at lap 189 between the cars of...
LONG POND, Pa. - Ryan Newman held off the hard charging No. 97 Ford of Kurt Busch to score his fourth win of the season and fifth of his career. A late race caution bunched the field and set-up a three car shoot out at lap 189 between the cars of Newman, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Busch.
"I think out last stop there when we just took two tires was the biggest call of the day," commented Newman. "We knew we were going to have a lot of laps on the left-side tires. When you've got a tire as good as the one Goodyear brought, you don't have to worry about it.they gave me the go- ahead on that last restart that I was good with fuel, and I just put the pedal to the metal and did the best job I could which was apparently good enough."
The only other concern besides Busch for Team Penske was fuel mileage, a topic that has dominated the circuit the last six weeks.
"I knew that we needed some caution laps," said Newman. "I was doing the best I could to save some fuel and yet at the same time stay out front. Those are two things that are contradictory and hard to do. The cautions played to our favor for sure. I think in hindsight we wouldn't have been able to make it if we hadn't had those cautions."
Pole sitter Newman led 88 laps on his way to victory lane; the win moves Newman from 13th to ninth in the chase for the last Winston Cup trophy.
Kurt Busch and the No. 97 Roush team had to settle for the runner-up spot. It's an outstanding finish for the Roush Ford team, who battle sway bar issues earlier in the race when the tension chain came undone and had to be threaded back together during a pit stop. They were able to rebound and garner their eighth top-ten of the year.
"The difference today was turn three," said Busch. "A lot of teams set up for different corners. I whooped his (Ryan Newman) butt in turn one, we were equal in two and he got me out of three, so he was just able to get down the long straightaway better than us. We could have had a bad day out of what happened with our right-front control arm, but we kept digging and my crew chief gave me the fuel mileage I needed to finish second."
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. held off DEI teammate Michael Waltrip to garner a third place outcome. It is Earnhardt's 13th top-ten of the season. The stellar finish for the No. 8 team was sorely needed to boost their championship dreams, since the June event at Pocono some six weeks ago this is Earnhardt's first top five.
"I like Pocono a lot," commented Earnhardt. "What's not to like? It's a great race track, a lot of fun and real challenging. I get better every time I come here. It seems like we get a little better cars coming here too. The guys did a great job, and I'm real proud of them. It's hard to pass in the back. I didn't have anything for the 12 (Newman). I was good for about two laps and then I'd get tight behind him."
"We got a lot of points," Earnhardt continued. "I just tried to get a win, but we'll take these third-place finishes anytime we can get them."
Earnhardt was pleased with the result, but revealed that he has tired of all the fuel mileage strategies and discussions that have plagued the series over the last several events.
"I get tired of hearing about it from my guys" said Earnhardt. "When they tell me that I need to try and save fuel. I don't think I've ever had anybody tell me how to save fuel. I've been around this sport a long time. I don't think anybody really knows. You put it in high gear and you hope that helps, but I don't know if it helps or not. I just sat there and rode around in high gear, pushed the clutch in and let the motor idle down the straightaway instead of putting load on it. Maybe that helped, I don't know. Those caution laps sure saved it."
Waltrip was fourth, gaining his eighth top ten in 2003 for the DEI No. 15 Chevy team.
"It's lucky when things happen in your favor for no apparent reason," said Waltrip. "We had a strategy, a plan and the team implemented that plan and everything went perfect until the last run. Unfortunately, the car just got way too tight. The thing I like about Pocono is there are a lot of grooves out there and I could goof around and find me another place to run and pick up some time.
"We preserved a top five. I'm proud of my team. I think in my 18-year career, that's the most top-fives I've had in one season and we've still got about half the season to go."
Terry Labonte continues to rack up great finishes with a fifth place Sunday. The top-five punctuates a real resurgence of the No. 5 Hendrick team. It's the sixth top ten for Labonte this year, and fifth in the last eight events.
"The car wasn't as good as it was in the first race here," said Labonte. "We made some adjustments. I've been awful proud of these guys. We're just so much better than we were last year."
It was a tough day for some of the top contenders in the race for the championship. Jeff Gordon wrecked the No. 24 Chevy on lap 124 and finished 36th; dropping him down to third in standings, 308 points behind leader Matt Kenseth.
Bobby Labonte, who entered Pocono, fourth in the championship leaves in the fifth position after a lap-181 accident relegated him to a 30th place result. Labonte's loss is Jimmie Johnson's gain, as Johnson climbs a spot into fourth, 430 markers short of the catbird seat.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr.'s third place result is good enough to send him up the ladder one rung to second, 232 points short of Kenseth.
Notably, Ricky Rudd making his much celebrated 700th consecutive career start Sunday lost an engine on lap 121, and finished 39th.