BROOKLYN, Mich. -- Ryan Newman finally got his first victory
of 2004, making up a lost lap to win Sunday at Michigan
Newman led NASCAR's Nextel Cup series with eight victories a
year ago, but had not finished better than third this season before
winning the DHL 400 -- the 15th race of the year -- on Michigan's
fast 2-mile oval.
It didn't look like this was going to be Newman's day either,
after the radiator on the front of his Penske Racing South Dodge
became blocked by trash early in the race. The engine overheated,
forcing Newman to make a green flag pit stop on the 22nd of 200
"We just picked up some paper or something and had to make a
stop,'' Newman said. "It's better to be safe than sorry. After
that, we just had to work our way forward.''
Newman regained the lead lap near the midway point in the race
and steadily worked his way forward, passing Dale Jarrett for the
lead on a restart on lap 178.
Nine different drivers had won here in the last nine races, but
Newman, who won here last August, ended that streak. He became the
first driver to win back-to-back races at MIS since Mark Martin in
August 1997 and June 1998. It was the 10th victory of his Cup
Jarrett, who held on to finish third for his first top-five
finish since he won at Rockingham in the second race of 2003, was
unable to stay with Newman at the end. He couldn't hold off
hard-charging rookie Kasey Kahne for the runner-up spot on lap 199.
Sterling Marlin finished sixth after having one of the strongest
cars all day and leading several times. Marlin fell out of
contention when he pitted for the final time under caution on lap
Jarrett took the lead and Newman moved to second when both chose
to stay on the track and gamble on going the rest of the way
without changing tires or adding gas. Both had pitted on lap 152.
After two weeks of confusion and controversy over scoring
problems and miscues by NASCAR officials, Sunday's race came off
without a hitch. But there were some questions when a caution flag
came out on the final lap with the crashed car of P.J. Jones
sitting in the middle of the track in turn two, far behind the
NASCAR spokesman Mike Zizzo said the yellow was waved because
there were at least six cars racing on the track behind Jones'
wreck and NASCAR did not want to delay the safety crew from
reaching him. Jones was not injured.
"I'm glad the fans saw a noncontroversial race and a great
race,'' said Elliott Sadler, Jarrett's Robert Yates Racing
teammate, who finished fifth after running near the front most of
The final yellow flag kept Newman from having to deal with the
fast-closing Kahne. The 24-year-old Evernham Motorsports driver,
still looking for his first win, came up with his fourth
second-place finish of the season after also charging back from
losing a lap early with handling problems.
"We were on newer tires, so I think at any time we could have
caught him,'' Kahne said. "We were pretty darn good there at the
end. If it had gone to the finish, I would have come up about a car
Jimmie Johnson finished fourth and moved ahead of Dale Earnhardt
Jr. by seven points in the season standings. Junior struggled most
of the day, lost a late gamble on a two-tire stop and finished
Seventh-place went to defending series champion Matt Kenseth,
followed by Bobby Labonte, rookie Brian Vickers and Michael
Kurt Busch, last year's race winner, finished 11th.
It looked for a while like pole winner Jeff Gordon was going to
run away with the race. He led 81 of the first 88 laps before the
engine in his Chevrolet blew up in a cloud of white smoke.
"We're making such great power these days and we've got the
reliability,'' Gordon said of his Hendrick Motorsports team.
"Unfortunately, that wasn't the case today.''
Tony Stewart also had a difficult day after being penalized and
sent to the rear of the 43-car field for the start for leaving the
prerace drivers meeting early. The former series champion worked
his way back to the top 10, but crashed with Greg Biffle on lap
193, bringing out one of the nine caution flags in the race.