Newman not in pits
Posted: Monday, April 12, 2010 6:35 pm
By: By STEPHEN HAWKINS, AP Sports Writer
AVONDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Ryan Newman broke a 77-race Sprint Cup winless streak Saturday night at Phoenix International Raceway, taking the lead after a late caution and holding off Jeff Gordon in a two-lap shootout.
Kyle Busch was cruising to what would have given him a weekend sweep when a caution flag came out with three laps remaining. When the lead-lap cars pitted, Busch took four tires and came out eighth — behind six cars that took only two tires and Jimmie Johnson, who also took four and was seventh out of the pits.
Gordon beat everybody out of the pits, but spun his tires on the restart in a green-white-checker finish. Newman then charged inside and took the lead, and held on for his first victory since the 2008 Daytona 500.
Newman, driving the No. 39 Chevrolet owned by Tony Stewart, had led only two laps before the final two. That lead came during the first caution only 21 laps into what became a 378-lap race — instead of the scheduled 375, already 63 more than last spring — on the oddly shaped mile track.
“I couldn’t believe it. I saw the white flag and I was like I don’t have that far to go,” Newman said. “Every restart, I had been on the inside and I couldn’t get going. … I held my line and got a good shot off Turn 2. That’s all we needed.”
It was Newman’s 14th career victory in 303 starts, but the first time a No. 39 car has been to Victory Lane (286 races).
Johnson, who had won four of the previous five races at Phoenix, finished third and increased his series points lead — from 14 to 36 over Matt Kenseth. Greg Biffle had been second in points before finishing 22nd Saturday night, the first time this season he wasn’t in the top 10.
Denny Hamlin, racing only 10 days after surgery to repair the torn ACL in his left knee, drove the entire race and finished 30th, two laps off the pace. He had moved up to 13th before an extended pit stop to repair damage from being hit and to address an electrical problem.
Newman snapped Hendrick Motorsports’ string of six consecutive victories at Phoenix, and gave Chevrolet its 10th straight win at the track. Chevy drivers had the top five spots, with Mark Martin fourth and Juan Pablo Montoya fifth.
Matt Kenseth was sixth and Carl Edwards seventh in Fords, while Busch finished eighth in his No. 18 Toyota.
Busch had taken the lead from Johnson on a restart on lap 263, then stayed in front and was seemingly on way to his first Cup victory of the season. But the caution came out when Scott Riggs blew a right front tire — while running just ahead of Busch — and ran into the wall.
Busch won the Nationwide race Friday night at Phoenix in dramatic fashion when he benefited from a late caution.
In the Nationwide victory, Busch took four tires on the final stop and was 10th on the restart with eight laps left. It took him only three laps to dart through the field and take over the lead.
Busch had lost his lead on a disputed restart that led to a red flag and was penalized on the ensuing restart to drop to 19th place and 20 seconds behind. If not for that last caution, during which he collided with his teammate on pit road, he would have never been able to win that race.
“I thought Kyle stole one last night,” Newman said. “So it’s even.”
Before Busch took the lead Saturday night on a restart, Johnson had led 66 consecutive laps and had built a 1 1/2-second lead over Montoya until David Ruetimann’s accident brought out the seventh of nine cautions.
On that restart, Busch went ahead while Johnson and Montoya were bumping each other behind him.
The race that featured 20 lead changes among 13 drivers was slowed by 59 caution laps. Newman won with an average speed of 99.372 mph by a margin of .130 seconds.
Busch and Johnson both led 113 laps, and Montoya led 104.