Originally created 09/22/03

Rule gives advantage to Newman



DOVER, Del. - If there's a loophole in the NASCAR rulebook, leave it to Ryan Newman and Matt Borland to find it first.

The driver and crew chief turned the very rule they dislike most into a benefit Sunday in the MBNA America 400 at Dover International Speedway. The new provision that allows one car back onto the lead lap during every caution period became the advantage that helped them win their seventh race of the season.

Newman not only was given one of the free passes to the lead lap, he exploited the same rule to make three pit stops for gas that allowed him to run the final 107 laps without another stop.

"It worked in our favor," Newman said after winning $160,460. "We dealt with the rules we had to play with, and that's what won us the race."

This week, NASCAR imposed new rules concerning racing under caution. Starting at Dover, drivers no longer were allowed to race back to the flag stand to gain positions or get back on the lead lap once the caution lights are displayed. NASCAR wanted to stop the mad scramble back to the line and, in return, the sanctioning body decided the lead car one lap down would automatically be promoted to the lead lap.

Newman had the lead on Lap 45 when his car cut a right-rear tire, but fell one lap behind the leaders by making the unscheduled pit stop. It took Newman 243 laps to be the first car one lap down, and when the caution flag waved for debris in the second turn, it put Newman back on the lead lap and in position to turn the finish into a matter of fuel mileage.

Since his position on the restart was guaranteed, Borland figured they hand nothing to lose by making three stops under caution to top off the gas tank. No matter how long they remained on pit road or how many times they stopped, the rule stated they would be the last car among the lead-lap cars during the restart.

The extra stops for gas meant they didn't have to stop in the final 100 miles for gas. And once everyone else stopped, Newman assumed the lead with 73 laps to go and never gave it up.

"We figured out 10 laps before the caution (when Newman got back on the lead lap) we could turn this into an advantage," Borland said. "We had nothing to lose (by making the extra stops). You know you're going to be the last car one lap down on the re-start, so it was a no-brainer."

Especially for Newman and Borland, who both own engineering degrees and are considered two of the smartest people in the garage area.

Newman was outspoken about the policy of awarding lead-lap status to cars that were a lap down. In fact, before the race he said cars that are a lap down "probably deserve to be a lap down."

Afterwards, his position softened a bit.

"It's still opinionated," he said. "If there's 42 cars on the lead lap and one car is way off the lead lap, he gets something for nothing. If you're working hard to get your lap back, maybe that's something else. You can call it earning your lap back."

Jeremy Mayfield made Newman's run to victory interesting with 16 laps to go by pulling even with Newman, but his Dodge eventually faded to a second-place finish, 100 yards behind the winner.

"We had a chance to win," Mayfield said. "We put on a good show. My car was tight and I slid up into him once; his car was loose and he got down into me. But it was good, hard racing. The rules are still the safest way to go. He was still good enough to win the race."

Jim Hunter, a NASCAR vice president, said Newman made full use of the rule's intent.

"That's exactly what the rule's for: A guy with tough luck early in the race and he's good enough to be the first car one lap down, I would rather give him a lap back than see him race for it (during caution)," Hunter said. "The reason Ryan Newman won was he was ahead of Jeremy Mayfield. It put them in position to win the race. It didn't win the race, it put them in position to win it."

Hunter said NASCAR would review the rules this week.

Tony Stewart finished third, followed by Kevin Harvick in fourth, Jeff Gordon in fifth, Jamie McMurray in sixth, Greg Biffle in seventh, Jimmie Johnson in eighth, Matt Kenseth in ninth and Rusty Wallace in 10th.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. led three times, but he had problems with a tire and crashed hard in the second turn. He was flown to Bay Health Medical Center for an examination for a concussion and released late Sunday.

Newman averaged 108.802 mph and became the third driver in three years to sweep both races at Dover.