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Emotional, very emotional: Ryan Newman and crew chief Tony Gibson, in victory

  Crew chief Tony Gibson, up on the pit wall, fist raised in celebration, as Ryan Newman smokes his tires in victory (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern

   Ryan Newman? Now who would have thought...
   "Just at the right place at the right time," Newman said jubilantly after stealing Saturday's Subway 600 from Kyle Busch, Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon in the final miles.
   Grand Theft Auto?
   After going through a very emotional victory lane – it's been a long time since his last Sprint Cup tour victory, in February 2008 – the old Newman wit was once more clear: "I thought Kyle stole one last night (in that Friday Nationwide win)...so he's just even now.
    "It's racing, man. It's racing all the way up until the checkered flag falls. You never know what happens.
     "That's why fans love the sport -- the strategy and the drama, and what's going to happen, and how teams play it out: Four tires, two tires, no tires.
    "I'm surprised that there wasn't a guy that went out there with no tires just to see. There were 24 cars in the lead lap, so it's like 'Why wouldn't you?'
    "Some guys just don't take that risk, and I was glad that they didn't tonight."
    When the full field of lead-lap cars all pitted, under a late yellow with less than 10 miles to go, Tony Gibson, Newman's crew chief, was one of only six men opting for two new tires instead of four.
   Four-tire stops late worked for winners at Bristol and Martinsville the last two times out.
   This time, though, Newman and Jeff Gordon, both on just two new tires, duked it out the final three laps for the win. And it was Newman's good final restart and an uncharacteristically bad restart for Gordon that made the difference.
    Newman was emotional, yes, but so was Gibson – it was his first Cup tour win as a crew chief, surprisingly for some with such a good reputation and such talent. And the crewmen are all DEI guys.
    "It was pretty big," the generally stoic Gibson said. "A lot of those guys were in tears, because most of us have been together for nine years. And we won with Dale (Earnhardt) Jr. (in Nationwide/Busch)....and it had been a long stretch since we'd won a race.
     "We'd come close....but didn't make it happen.
     "So it was pretty exciting for those guys.
     "I'm more happy and more proud for those guys than for myself....because I feel like those guys have followed me wherever I've gone. So I feel like I owe it to them.
    "To see those guys and hopping up and jumping up and down, it just brings back memories."
    "I thought two years ago (when working with Mark Martin) we were going to make it happen here this same race. But it didn't.
    "Then we had four good shots last year with Ryan to win, and I thought it was going to happen, and we didn't make it happen. We kind of let him down.
     "So I was beginning to wonder if it was ever going to happen.
     "But I knew if we just kept the faith and worked hard together -- our friendship is really strong, I think that's one of the biggest things that's helped us over the last couple of months: building our relationship as friends outside of racing. That's a big part of our success."
    Newman himself was uncharacteristically subdued for much of the victory ceremony.
   "I don't know if I have enough words...." he said of the feelings inside.
     "The last restart I didn't really know what to expect.
     "The inside lane (where he had to restart from) hadn't been the ideal lane all day.
      "I'm not sure if Jeff (on the outside lane) didn't get a great restart, or what....
     "I didn't feel I did.
     "But it was just the right place at the right time: Two tires paid off...clean air....just 'right time, right place.'"
    And it's been a long, long time coming.
   Which was surprising, not just to Newman. He joined the tour with Roger Penske and was a big star, winning, right off the bat. Then came the slump.
   "It was a long time coming for me -- 77 races," Newman said. "But to see Tony Stewart (his teammate now, and car owner too) win so many races last year and us be so close but not get that victory...this is really awesome for us and our team."
   That final restart was key. And this isn't a great place for restarts.....check out the problems Kyle Busch had Friday night, for instance.
    "This is one of the longest straightaways we have before the green flag from turn four," Newman explained.
    "Most tracks are D-shaped, and you can see (the starting line). But here it's really hard to gauge, at least when you're mid-pack, what to expect on a restart.
       "I had one opportunity earlier in the race when I was on two tires, and it didn't pan out at all. To come back later in the race and be on two tires, and  still be able to pull it off was amazing."
    Two tires? Why not four? "Gibson wanted to put four on it...but I said 'Put two on me,'" Newman said. "I didn't want to get jumped by a bunch of guys that did two."
    Emotionally the long dry spell, Newman said, "was tough. It was tough last year, I'm not going to kid you.
    "It's the same organization for Tony Stewart, and he won all those races.
    "Looking back at it, we were close. But we gave some of our races away, and we know that.
     "We knew what we needed to do to make our team better.
     "And I feel we've done that. We proved that.
   "The emotional part: when I first started in the series, it just came easy. I was with a great team, had great crew chief, great pit stops. All those things just kind of came easy to me.
    "Then in 2005 we got to struggling a little bit. I got a win here or there, but it was not dominant like we were back in 2002 and 2003.
    "Here I thought a top-five for us was going to be a good day. Two top-fives in a row, that's something we hadn't done since May or June last year.
     "I was happy we were competitive...more competitive than we had been here last year. We made improvements, and that gives us an opportunity to win.
    "Fortunately the yellow came out and we proved that."


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Mike is 100% correct that

Mike is 100% correct that this race went on way too long. The last fifty laps were great but how many, especially rhose in the East, were awake to see them? 500KM would have been fine...maybe 450; all we would miss would be lap after lap of cars in a line waiting for that last 50, just as we see in other races. With TV rating dropping so badly that ABC pulled the plug on network coverage for most of the Chase, NASCAR has to be more proactive. When the sport was hot,NASCAR just had to collect all the money coming in from gate and TV revenue. Now, the drop off in interest has been as dramatic as was the jump in interest a few years so. NASCAR has not stood still with many changes implemented this season so give BF and the boys credit. However, there is much more to be done to block the breach. For example, the middle part of the race could be livened up by giving 30-50 bonus points for leading at half time, followed by a 20 minute intermission during which time cars could be serviced and the TV folks could put on a good half time show such as in done in most other sports. This would break the race up into two parts and in effect provide two races in one. The Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte would be a good place to start!

He would have won with Mark

He would have won with Mark Martin in 2008, if he would have believed Mark saved enough fuel. Congrats Ryan. Hendrick Motorsports continues its dominance at PIR.

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