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Teammates Ryan Newman & Tony Stewart sweep 1-2 in New Hampshire

  Ryan Newman, surprisingly emotional, celebrates a sorely needed victory, in Sunday's New Hampshire 301 (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


   By Mike Mulhern


   Another gas mileage finish?
   Yes it was again here Sunday, in what has been something of a fuel mileage summer on the NASCAR tour. And in the closing miles no one, even the drivers, seemed to know just who had how much gas.
   But Ryan Newman and teammate Tony Stewart both had just enough to make it to the finish line.

   And Stewart -- the owner -- was jubilant that Stewart the driver wound up second in Sunday's Lenox 301….because Newman's victory made it a one-two finish for Stewart's team, on a warm and sunny New Hampshire afternoon, in what has been for Stewart and Newman a ragged, erratic season.
   While Sunday's Lenox 301 may have been lacking in much of the door-banging action that this sport is known for, there was still tension in the air down the stretch.
 "I never thought we'd make it," Tony Gibson, Newman's crew chief, said. "We were two or three laps short. And I was telling him to slow down."
   "I was nervous first when Tony said we were eight laps short," Newman said. "Then, even after some yellows he told me again we were still eight laps short.
   "But I was more worried a yellow would come out with five to go, and then we'd have to decide how to play it out, if we'd have a green-white-checkered."
  "The crew chief was screaming 'You've got to back down!' so you've got to measure risk versus reward in these gas mileage races," third place finisher Denny Hamlin said.
   Hamlin surprised himself by finishing without running dry.
   Kurt Busch and some others weren't so lucky. Busch had one of the cars to beat, but he too had to try to save fuel in the closing miles, and he came up short, running out and fading from second to 10th. Jamie McMurray also ran out, as did Juan Pablo Montoya, and Jeff Gordon.

    Though drivers played rough, there was not as much action perhaps as anticipated on a big short track like this. Here, though, Brian Vickers gets the worst of it in a three-wide battle. (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   Stewart himself might have been sweating it too – because he ran out of gas here last fall in a similar scenario, while leading, in the first race of NASCAR's championship playoffs. That gamble might have cost him a shot at the title.
   However the playoffs are still several weeks away, and Stewart and Newman came in here both winless, both struggling, and both trying to hang in the top-10 and make the championship cut.
   So they were quite willing to gamble.
    Newman and Stewart started one-two and finished one-two, in a very rare finish. The last time any NASCAR team did that was in 1989.
  "We just needed one day when we didn't have something stupid go wrong," Stewart said. "It was a perfect day. This is big.
    "It's no secret we've been struggling this year.
    "It's easy when things are going good, but I'm proud of how we've come to this point from where we were at the start of the season."
    "This puts us in a lot better position," Newman said of the looming chase.
    Stewart hasn't been in a very good mood much of the season, snapping, sometimes almost snarling with sarcasm, as the troubles continued.
    But even in victory Stewart's attitude was still snappish.
    Of course Stewart himself hasn't won a tour even since last October in California. And Newman's last win was well over a year ago, at Phoenix, in April 2010.

     Ryan Newman (39) and teammate-owner Tony Stewart 1-2 for Sunday's start...and 1-2 again at the finish, in front of a crowd estimated at some 95,000, not quite a sellout but still nice. (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

    It was a hot afternoon, but Stewart said that didn't bother him, even though he was running here on barely three hours of sleep, after running a Sprint car race at Eldora Saturday night.
    Stewart has been looking for a new competition director for several weeks now, since releasing veteran Bobby Hutchens in early June. Stewart says he's no closer to signing anyone, but he's still working on it.
    It was a disastrous day for Kyle Busch, who lost a right-front tire to excessive brake heat, hit the wall, and wound up 36th. That cost him the Sprint Cup points lead.
   Carl Edwards, running third late in the race, faded to 13th. But that was enough to put him back atop the standings, 19 races into the 36-race season.
   Points this season are generally awarded one per finishing position, with the last place finisher getting one point, the next to last getting two points, and so on. And there are some bonus points for winning.
   Edwards, perhaps ironically, returns to the Sprint Cup tour lead just as speculation was swirling through the NASCAR garage that he may have decided to move from the Jack Roush team at the end of the season over to the Joe Gibbs team. No one would offer any comment on the heated speculation. Roush himself said he hadn't heard the reports and didn't know what might going on in that department. Both Roush and Edwards have insisted on keeping their contract renegotiations a private matter. However it is past the midpoint of the season and many in the sport are wondering why, if Edwards is indeed going to stay with Roush -- as would seem logical -- that no deal has yet been signed.
   It was also a bad day for Brad Keselowski, the Kansas winner who came close to winning at Kentucky last weekend. Keselowski blew a tire too and wound up 35th.
   On the other side of things, Jimmie Johnson survived a ragged day – which featured a spinout – to pull off a fifth, remarkably.
   But teammate Jeff Gordon, who had the fastest car most of the day, had numerous problems, including electrical issues that forced him to make up a lap. Down the stretch, though, Gordon appeared to have regained enough track position – up to third late – to be able to challenge for the win. However he was forced to conserve gas in the closing miles and couldn't make a run for the lead, and then he ran out of gas while running fourth the last lap and finished 11th.
   Hamlin seemed a beaten man early in the day. And it's been a rough season for him.
   "We didn't have a very good car in the beginning, but once we got track position we could run with those guys," Hamlin said. "But then when we had to go into fuel-saving mode, man, that's hard for a driver."


Jimmie Johnson showed how champions do it -- recovering from this potentially devastating spinout and rallying to finish fifth (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)




Instead of routinely testing

Instead of routinely testing to see if any team has an advantage in horsepower, they should test the cars for gas mileage, which seems to have at least as much effect (if not more) on the ability of a team to win a race. If a team has an advantage, to achieve parity, they should be forced to reduce the size of their gas tank by a gallon or more.

An alternative is to set a minimum time limit for a race, and the driver who uses the least gas, but finishes under the time limit, is declared the winner.

perhaps we could just limit

perhaps we could just limit the amount of fuel a team can use in a race, and force them to become fuel efficient. i think cars should at least manage 10 mpg, shouldnt they?

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