Newman wins NASCAR race

March 30, 2003 at 5:38 PM
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FORT WORTH, Texas, March 30 (UPI) -- After appearing to make a mistake by not pitting for four tires during his final stop, Ryan Newman still was able to lay the rubber to the road Sunday and win the Samsung/RadioShack 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.

Newman passed leader Dale Earnhardt Jr. with 10 laps to go and drove away for his second career victory.

Driving a Dodge Intrepid, Newman held the lead when the field pitted for the final time during a caution period on lap 287 of the 312-lap race. While the rest of the cars on pit road changed four tires, Newman's Penske Racing South crew decided to change just two.

Newman still led when the green flag waved on lap 289 but was not there long. On the next lap, Earnhardt drove his Chevrolet Monte Carlo inside of Newman at the start-finish line.

But over the long run, Newman's car only got better and he was able to track down Earnhardt and make the race-winning pass. The Purdue University graduate pulled away to defeat Earnhardt by 3.405 seconds for his first win of the season.

"I told everybody this morning, we were trying to turn the corner," Newman said. "I think we just did. Track position was key and we were in the position we had to make a decision. I didn't think the four tires were really going to make that much of a difference. In the end, it didn't."

"I was sitting there thinking the 12 (Newman) had made a mistake by not taking four tires," Earnhardt said. "I guess it wasn't a mistake after all."

Earnhardt barely got second in a side-by-side duel with fellow Chevrolet driver and four-time Winston Cup champion Jeff Gordon. The margin was .020 seconds.

"I had a good car, but good enough," Earnhardt said. "The car was getting tighter and tighter and it got so tight, we couldn't hold him off. We had quite a race and got a lot of points today, which is what we needed. We didn't look that great today, but we got it back up front."

"It was a battle and we had both gotten real tight, he made it real difficult on me," Gordon said. "If it had been for the win, we both would have probably wrecked. But it was for second place, so it was best we didn't."

In front of an estimated crowd of 200,000 that ignored unseasonably cool temperatures, Newman led four times for 77 laps and averaged 134.509 miles per hour. Elliott Sadler, who led three times for a race-high 91 laps, crashed on lap 169.

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