RIR race report

Newman rocks with win to roll in victory lane (Richmond, VA) Deep Purples, Black Velvet, and more colored the sky like stage lights for Chevy's Rock n' Roll 400 at Richmond International Raceway. NASCAR Winston Cup horsepower handlers took ...

Newman rocks with win to roll in victory lane

(Richmond, VA) Deep Purples, Black Velvet, and more colored the sky like stage lights for Chevy's Rock n' Roll 400 at Richmond International Raceway. NASCAR Winston Cup horsepower handlers took center stage as the green flag dropped with Mark Martin leading from the front row. Bud Pole Winner, Mike Skinner, drifted for a rear end start after crumpling his GO Army Pontiac in Friday's "Happy Hour" practice.

Martin led the first circuit, but Roush teammate Greg Biffle took the hand off for lap two. Jeff Gordon, not content with a fifth place start, motored into the lead for lap three. Gordon led until Robbie Gordon trapt off his Cingular Wireless Chevy on the backstretch for the first caution on lap 22. Gordon, part of a cadre participating with the Rock n' Roll theme, carried the band TRAPT on his car for the event.

After pit stops for several rearward riding entries, Jeff Gordon again assumed a green flag lead followed by South Boston, VA. native Jeff Burton. Ryan Newman worked past Burton by lap 50 to follow the leader, while Ward Burton moved in behind his sibling to occupy fourth. By lap 55, Gordon caught the tail end of the field, as Newman looked to take advantage of the slower cars and post to the leaderboard. Neck and neck on the backstretch, Newman fell in line to cross the stripe. Greg Biffle brought out the second caution by looping his Grainger Ford on the frontstretch. Michael Waltrip made a Blowfish of his front right tire, sending him to pit road for a Hootie of a stop. Jason Leffler stayed on track under caution and inherited the lead. Jeff Gordon, Ryan Newman, and Kevin Harvick fought for third behind Mike Wallace, who also opted not to pit under the caution.

Leffler made the best of his lead, pulling to a 10 car length advantage by lap 80. Newman slipped back to eighth, behind a charging Jimmy Spencer and Ward Burton. Series point leader, Matt Kenseth took a smoky, circular ride to bring out another caution on lap 83, with Elliot Sadler also looping the M&Ms candy machine to avoid Kenseth. This time around, Mike Wallace chose to stay out with the lead over Jeff Gordon.

Wallace felt the pressure from Gordon by lap 90, as Harvick and Jeff Burton went for third. As Gordon cleared Wallace on lap 94, several cars made contact on the backstretch, blocking up access with another caution. Steve Park, Dave Blaney, Bill Elliott, Dale Jarrett, Kenny Wallace, Johnny Sauter, and Kyle Petty all sustained damage in the incident. After an extensive clean-up, lap 111 marked the restart.

Jeff Gordon went door to door with Robby Gordon's lap machine at the line, but Jeff pulled clear for fresh air. While Jeff Burton looked to Wallace's bumper for second, another backstretch melee ensued collecting just as many as the time before on lap 120. Pit road was the busiest venue in the area with Tony Stewart making a big move behind Gordon on a two tire stop. Pit strategies played out as Harvick remained on the track followed by last week's winner Terry Labonte. Robby Gordon led to the stripe from his tail end position on the lead lap, as Ricky Rudd pulled his homestate ride up to third.

Caution waved again for Stewart on lap 128, as he backed into the turn three SAFER barrier, giving Robby Gordon his free pass to freedom and lead lap prominence. Harvick maintained until caution seven, when Terry Labonte took over. Labonte held position, but Jeff Burton again gained control three laps later. Dale Earnhardt Jr. brought the crowd to its feet by overtaking Burton and leading for 30 laps through halfway. Jeff Gordon swapped paint and place with Earnhardt Jr. for several laps, before pulling clear on lap 214. Earnhardt stayed in Gordon's tracks before again making his move on lap 242.

Earnhardt surfed through lap traffic until lap 267, when Jamie McMurray went around off turn four. As pit stops shuffled up the top runners, Gordon beat Newman, Harvick, and Earnhardt for position. Newman looked to the outside for the lead on lap 276, with Harvick and Earnhardt training around Gordon. Newman stretched his lead, as Bobby Labonte and Earnhardt maintained close sight on his lead. Jimmy Spencer made his move into the Top 5 occupying fourth, before falling off the pace as caution waved on lap 318. Debris in turn two caused yellow and strategy continued to play out, as the leader did not pit. Spencer suffered mechanical failure and pulled behind the wall.

Newman, Earnhardt Jr., and Harvick stayed put, while several others dipped in for fuel and rubber with just over 75 laps remaining. Newman paced around with Earnhardt in tow, while Robby Gordon and Ricky Rudd worked into the Top 5 with less than 50 remaining. Earnhardt Jr. went wide in turn two due to a flat right front and surrendered the third position with a costly green flag pit stop. Newman walked away from Harvick poised to claim victory at Richmond with less than 40 remaining.

Harvick caught Newman in lap traffic, searching high and low for a way to the lead. Newman held in a three-wide slide, with Harvick losing ground on lap 375. Robby Gordon found the outside wall after contact with Jeff Burton, bringing out he caution with only 17 laps remaining. Gordon was racing with Burton for fifth when they touched and Gordon met the SAFER barrier. The leaders stayed put again under caution, rolling the dice in an attempt to rock into victory lane.

Debris flapped in turn two, for a quickie caution on lap 388. With lap cars relegated to the rear, a ten lap shootout was set to go. Harvick went to work under Newman, but lost control in turn one, with help from Ricky Rudd, backing into the "soft" wall. Jeremy Mayfield powered into second past Rudd with four laps left on the restart. Newman held the advantage to the white flag, as Mayfield tried to close on the final lap to no avail. Newman rocked to victory, while Mayfield and Rudd rolled to pit road with solid finishes.

Harvick pulled up against Rudd's ride for a friendly exchange of profane babblings before crewmembers and NASCAR Officials pulled Harvick from the scene. Rudd emerged with his own thoughts, "I got into the back of Harvick, not sure if he had a problem, but he got on the brakes way early and I got into him. I lost position trying to let him gather it up", added Rudd, "but he's a little mad I guess. So he pulled up over here. After a race we really don't need this sort of crap."

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jeff Burton , Ward Burton , Bill Elliott , Jeff Gordon , Dale Jarrett , Matt Kenseth , Bobby Labonte , Terry Labonte , Jeremy Mayfield , Tony Stewart , Michael Waltrip , Steve Park , Jason Leffler , Mike Skinner , Kyle Petty , Jimmy Spencer , Kevin Harvick , Greg Biffle , Robby Gordon , Mike Wallace , Ryan Newman , Jamie McMurray , Johnny Sauter , Dave Blaney , Mark Martin