Newman wins at Chicagoland

JOLIET, Ill. - Ryan Newman watched a few different pit strategies and worked out a few of his own to score his fourth career victory and his third this season. For the second week in row, fuel mileage played a part in the victory. "The guys...

JOLIET, Ill. - Ryan Newman watched a few different pit strategies and worked out a few of his own to score his fourth career victory and his third this season. For the second week in row, fuel mileage played a part in the victory.

"The guys back at the shop lay the foundation for what we do as far as building the house on the weekend," said Newman. "We came here and got it all up in one weekend today."

Newman led twice for 67 laps; he took the top spot for the last time on lap 210 and led to the end. The break of the race for Newman happened when the No. 12 crew pitted for the final time and mathematically figured out that Newman's Dodge Intrepid could make it to the last lap on gas.

Other contenders were not so lucky, and the advantage helped Newman garner the lead and hold it to the checkered flag.

"We didn't make drastic changes to the car today," said Newman. "The track tightened up a little bit, but the guys did an awesome job in the pits making changes and making the car faster. Goodyear had an awesome tire. The durability was strong, and we didn't have any problems with it. He (Kevin Harvick) had a fast race car, but when we got out in clean air that made a lot of difference. I was really worried about him until I got out in clean air. We stretched the fuel mileage as far as we could. Fortunately we were able to capitalize on everything."

Polesitter Tony Stewart finished second. Stewart got lucky while running third, when the No. 29 of Kevin Harvick ran out of gas running second with three laps to go. Stewart inherited Harvick's spot; the No. 29 Chevy fell back to a 17th place finish.

"We had a great car until we ran out of gas," said Harvick. "The car started out loose and then got tight towards the end of each run. That's what happened there at the end with Ryan (Newman). I couldn't get up to him because the car was just too tight off the corners.

"We all thought we had the pit strategy worked to perfection. Before we came in that last time, we took a gas n' go that we thought would make up for about six laps that we thought we'd be short. Unfortunately, it didn't work out that way for some reason."

Stewart led three times during the 400 mile event, for a race high of 80 laps. The second place finish propels Stewart from 11th to eighth in the championship standings.

"To come here and get the pole and then finish second this weekend was not exactly what we wanted," said Stewart. "We had a really good car all day. We had one change that we should have made yesterday but I didn't ask for it and should have asked for it. That held us back a little. All in all we had a good day. This Home Depot Monte Carlo was bad fast. The thing has been good everywhere we've been with this particular car."

Jimmie Johnson, who had to change his engine after morning practice Saturday, started from the back of the pack Sunday afternoon but did not stay there for long. Johnson's car was a powerhouse all afternoon, as early as lap 49 Johnson had worked the No. 48 Chevy into the top fifteen. Johnson led twice for 25 laps, before finishing third.

"It was obviously a great run for us," said Johnson. "We had a lot of problems throughout the weekend with a blown engine and brakes hanging up. All kinds of crazy things went wrong with the race car. But I'm thankful that my guys have such great attitudes about things and we just laughed it off.

"We started at the back today, 43rd, and ended up third. So we're real happy about that."

The No. 24 Chevy of Jeff Gordon grabbed fourth, making this his tenth top- ten of the 2003 season.

"We had a solid run," said Gordon. "I'm real happy with that."

Michael Waltrip rounds out the top five, scoring his fifth consecutive top- five outcome this year.

"I'm happy," said Waltrip. "We are just a notch off. We can almost run with the leaders but not quite. And that's pretty consistent week in and week out. It's fun to run like we are but it would be better if we could get up there and mix it up for the win."

Jamie McMurray was the highest finishing Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate in eighth. This is McMurray's fourth top-ten finish this year.

"We started out really strong," said McMurray. "But the track changed and I was afraid to make many changes to the car. I was a little bit tight, but we just didn't keep up with our car all day like we should have. Eighth is still pretty good for us. We've been about a 15th place car every week, so to bring it home eighth, I'm pretty happy with that."

There were seven cautions for 36 laps. The biggest of which came at lap 207, when the No. 41 of Casey Mears made contact with the No. 10 of Johnny Benson. Mears squeezed by, while Benson wiggled and spun collecting three cars in turns three and four. The No. 18 of Bobby Labonte got the worst of it. Labonte backed his Chevy into the wall and promptly exploded into flames. Labonte quickly exited the vehicle, throwing himself on the grass, pounding the ground with his fists.

"It was just frustrating," said Labonte. "The fire was one thing, but it was just frustrating to be out of the race. We had to battle back there and got up to 13th. It's frustrating that it had to happen. You hate to see it. All the safety stuff in the car worked great and I feel fine. I smell like a BBQ pit, but other than that I feel fine.

"We had a bad break there," continued Labonte. "We had to come back in and lost a lap. We got going pretty fast. It looked like someone got into the No. 10 car (Johnny Benson) and he got down low and spun to the inside and clipped me in the left rear I guess. It was pretty close. I thought I had made it. We backed into the fence and then we had this problem with the fuel cell blowing up again and it makes for a bad scene. It looked worse than it was."

Also involved were the No. 01 of Mike Wallace, and the No. 45 of Kyle Petty. All drivers were uninjured in the multi-car crash.

Matt Kenseth maintains his spot as the Winston Cup point leader with a 12th place finish, 165 points in front of the field. Kenseth's large margin is the ninth largest point lead at the halfway point of the season since the point system was implemented in 1975.

Jeff Gordon moves up one notch to second in standings, while Dale Earnhardt, Jr. drops a spot to third after finishing 38th. Earnhardt lost control of the No. 8 Chevy on lap 206 smacking the wall hard in turn two. He crumpled the back end of his Monte Carlo and was done for the day.

"We had just made a pit stop and made a lot of adjustments," said Earnhardt. "I told the boys the car was tight. But I just couldn't drive another lap. I'm fine. We just had to go through loops to drive it. I just lost control of it. It's unfortunate, but it was a handful. It was out of control."

"I think I may have had a flat tire," Earnhardt continued. "But we had just pitted three laps before that. So I think we just over-adjusted and I wasn't going to make another corner. It was too bad but I couldn't handle it."

Earnhardt is now 258 points out of first place. Drivers rounding out the top-five in series rankings are Bobby Labonte and Michael Waltrip.

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Matt Kenseth , Bobby Labonte , Tony Stewart , Michael Waltrip , Kevin Harvick , Mike Wallace , Ryan Newman , Casey Mears , Johnny Benson , Jimmie Johnson , Jamie McMurray