Originally created 10/12/03

Tires prove difference for Stewart

CONCORD, N.C. - Ryan Newman tried to turn Saturday night's UAW-GM Quality 500 into a math problem. Tony Stewart made it a race.

When Newman built a seven-second lead late in the race with a unique combination of pit and fuel strategy, Stewart relied on his own strategy of four new tires and a bullet-fast Chevrolet in the final 38 laps at Lowe's Motor Speedway.

For once, new tires and a fast car were the right way to go.

Stewart made a compelling charge in the final laps, running side-by-side with Newman for three laps before finally passing him with six laps to go.

Newman's team calculated how many laps they could run on their final tank of gas and they stopped when they reached that window. By pitting 30 laps before everyone else, he gained track position later in the race when everyone else made their final stops.

From there, all he had to do was drive to his ninth victory - seventh in the past 14 races - of the year.

The majority of Newman's wins this year have included some sort of pit and fuel strategy. Even with that kind of success, none of the other lead-lap cars were tempted to follow Newman onto pit road.

The rest of the lead-lap cars stopped with about 38 laps to go. Some took gas only to gain track position, but Stewart, who led a race-best 149 laps, opted for the tried-and-true strategy of gas and four new tires.

"It was about time the fastest car won a Winston Cup race," Stewart said. "Enough of that fuel mileage (stuff)."

Once Stewart got in front, he pulled away to a 50-yard victory over Newman.

"It was a blast," Stewart said. "I knew fresh tires would make a difference."

Jimmie Johnson was third. He had mixed emotions about how the race ended.

"I knew this wouldn't be a fuel mileage race; tires are too important here," he said. "I'm happy to see it didn't work, but they were about (six) laps from making it work. Those guys are crunching numbers and making it work. We never would have thought that strategy could have worked here. It almost did."

Newman said his early stop was to fix a vibration, not a matter of strategy.

"I'm disappointed we had a shot to win the race and not follow through," Newman said. "When you're that close to the No. 1 spot it takes a while to get over it."

Newman said he held off Stewart as long as he could, but once Stewart got beside him there wasn't anything he could do.

"It's hard once the tires fall off," Newman said. "I think Tony's car fell off there at the end or he would have come up and passed me real fast. Once he got in front of me, I tried to come back, but my tires fell off too much. That was it. We were out of (pit) sequence and that's what did it."

Bill Elliott finished fourth, followed by Jeff Gordon in fifth, Bobby Labonte in sixth, Jamie McMurray in seventh, Matt Kenseth in eighth, Dale Earnhardt Jr. in ninth and Kevin Harvick in 10th.

After posting his two worse finishes of the year to lose 177 points from his lead in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series point standings, Matt Kenseth showed early signs of a rebound.

He started 29th but was fifth after 90 laps. On the 116th lap, his Ford bumped with Kevin Harvick's Chevrolet in the second turn, but he wrestled with the car to keep it from spinning.

Sixty laps later Kenseth called in on his two-way radio that he had lost his power steering. The team replaced the cap to the power steering pump and he avoided major trouble, although the stop dropped him back to just an eighth-place finish.

Despite his problems, he actually gained eight points on second-place Harvick in the standings heading into next week's race at Martinsville, Va.


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