Originally created 09/22/03

Newman sweeps at Dover



DOVER, Del. -- Ryan Newman overcame a flat tire that cost him two laps, then gambled on fuel and completed a sweep Sunday of the races at Dover International Speedway.

He went the final 106 laps without stopping to get his seventh win this season, benefiting from two late caution flags that slowed the field for 12 laps. Newman didn't have to race hard to get the first lap back because of NASCAR's new rule awarding a lap to the highest-scored car off the lead lap.

Although it worked out for him, Newman is opposed to the new rule.

"I just don't want to see guys get their lap back and not earn it," he said. "Once we got our lap back it was just sort of a fuel mileage race."

This was the first Winston Cup event in history in which racing back to the flag stand under caution was prohibited. NASCAR outlawed the practice after Dale Jarrett's wrecked car sat precariously in the middle of the track as others attempted to unlap themselves or improve their positions a week earlier in New Hampshire.

Newman regained the second lap by staying on the track on lap 328. Then, on old tires, he held off hard-charging Jeremy Mayfield, who harassed him for 10 laps until Newman opened a five-car-length lead with 15 laps to go.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. was injured when he crashed late in the race. He was taken to Bayhealth Medical Center for evaluation. Earnhardt's father, a seven-time series champion, was killed in the Daytona 500 in 2001.

"He raced very clean," Newman said of Mayfield. "I felt I used up everything in my car."

Mayfield reached the rear deck of Newman's car and got inside twice, but was unable to hold the low line and eventually faded.

"I was not blocking him, but taking up everything in my line," Newman said. "The car was awesome until we got that flat tire."

It came on the 46th lap, giving Newman 354 to recover.

"We just kept trying to get the balance back and finally did there at the end," he said.

Mayfield was satisfied to match his best finish this season.

"The motor ran good all day," said Mayfield, winless since 2000. "It's the best car I ever had here."

Car owner Ray Evernham has spent much of this season denying that Mayfield will be fired, and the driver addressed that.

"You hear a lot of rumors, but whoever tears this race team apart is crazy," he said.

Newman's victory in the $4.6 million MBNA America 400 came 3 1/2 months after his first career win on The Monster Mile. Newman, the only Winston Cup driver with more than four wins this year, now has eight in his career.

Series leader Matt Kenseth finished ninth after starting from the pole, and increased his points advantage to a season-high lead 436 over Kevin Harvick after 28 of 36 races. Kenseth was awarded the pole on the basis of car-owner points when NASCAR canceled qualifying last week because of approaching Hurricane Isabel.

It was the second straight sweep on the high-banked concrete oval, where Jimmie Johnson won twice last year. It was the ninth sweep since the track went to two races in 1971.

Todd Bodine was the first beneficiary of the rule change, getting a free pass after Joe Nemechek brought out a caution by blowing a tire and hitting the wall on the 79th lap. The race continued under caution for 28 minutes while the wall was repaired.

The winner led 106 of 400 laps, his Dodge beating that of Mayfield by 1.152 seconds. Newman averaged 108.802 mph in a race slowed for 63 laps by seven cautions. There were 13 lead changes among seven drivers.

Tony Stewart was third in a Chevrolet, followed by those of Harvick and Jeff Gordon.

Jamie McMurray, Greg Biffle and Johnson were next. After Kenseth came Rusty Wallace.

Earnhardt spun out and hit the wall in turn two. He was taken on a stretcher to the infield medical center, where he was reported to be conscious, a NASCAR spokesman said.

Earnhardt was transported from the track to the hospital by helicopter.