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Tony Gibson's first Cup win as a crew chief is quite satisfying

  Normally cool and calm, Tony Gibson got a big roar out of his first Sprint Cup tour win, Saturday night with Ryan Newman (Photo:Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern


   Tony Gibson is stoic and calm, more so than most crew chiefs in this emotional business.
   Nothing ever seems to faze him.
   Which is why he worked so well with Mark Martin during those days at DEI.
   And Gibson had that same cool game face on even late Saturday night after making the cool move that put Ryan Newman in position to win.
    "Don't get me wrong...I'm excited," Gibson said with a slow grin. 
    "But it's one thing Alan Kulwicki told us, after we'd won the race, I think it was Rockingham, when we beat Bill Elliott there a long time ago: we were all cheering and happy, and he looked at us and said 'That's what you all get to do. You get paid to win.'
     "So it's exciting for me.  I know tomorrow I'll be pumped up and screaming and hollering. But right now I'm just trying to soak it all in."

   Gibson, like running mate Darien Grubb, is one of the most underrated, unsung crew chiefs on the Sprint Cup tour. But just as Grubb came into his own last season, taking Tony Stewart into the championship playoffs, now it looks like Gibson too, who made a key call in Saturday night's victory by Ryan Newman, is starting to come to the fore.
    Gibson and rival crew chief Steve Letarte both opted for two-tire gambles on the last round of pit stops, with just a few miles to go in the Subway 600, while dominating Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson took four.
    So – like at Martinsville the last time out, two weeks ago – the final restart had Newman and Jeff Gordon on the front row.
    At Martinsville Gordon was the leader and took the preferred inside line for the green; here Saturday Gordon was again the leader and took the preferred outside line.
    However, like at Martinsville, Gordon got beat again.
    And Newman's win, while it shouldn't be that much of a surprise, was a surprise, considering all the stuff that had gone on through the earlier parts of the race, which was, up till the final moments, a duel between Busch and Johnson.
    Gordon spun his tires at the green, Newman got a decent start and reached the first turn just ahead.
    "I knew, from what my car had done every restart, is a push down into turns one and two," Newman said. "But I got a good start and hooked the apron just right.  Got a good run to the green, which is so difficult here."
    And Gordon said when he couldn't get a run back at Newman coming off the second corner that he was in trouble.
    Indeed. Newman was gone.
    Still Gibson kept his cool: "I didn't really get excited...because we've been in this position and something's happened. 
    "So I didn't get excited until I saw the car come off the corner and headed to the flag.  That's when I got excited.  I knew we had it.
    "I didn't get excited....didn't get nervous at all, because I know how quick things can turn around. You can have an issue and not finish the deal. 
    "But I got excited when I saw the front of the car come off turn four. Then I knew we had it."

    For Gordon it was another close-but-no-cigar.
    And, believe it or not, it's been over a year since Gordon's last tour win, at Texas last spring.
    No wonder he seems to be pressing this season.
   "Oh, man, it was a hard fought race for us, for sure," Gordon said after coming in three lengths short.
    Particularly in trying to pass Matt Kenseth. The two had a thing the final miles at Martinsville the last time out, and they're still not over it, apparently.
   "I don't know if that's the way the whole year is going to go, or if that's just 'Take this for Martinsville,'" Gordon said.
   "I figured that was going to happen.  He ran in the back of me earlier in the race, and I was like 'Okay.' Then he made sure it took me about 30 laps to pass him. 
    "I tried to race him clean....so I don't have to call him after the race again."
    However, these two champions will likely have a few more run-ins this season, if they're both going for the title.
   Gordon hasn't won a title since 2001; Kenseth's last title was 2003. But both are in the running right now.
   "I was real happy our team made gains as the race went on and got our car better -- got ourselves in position," Gordon said. "Those are the things you look at as a race team -- what you're going to need to battle for more wins and this championship."
   Gordon made a classy move of going to victory lane to congratulate Newman: "It's been a long time since he's won, and I know that meant a lot to him and that team.  It's good to see those guys win. 
    "He told me it was a great restart -- he said 'Yeah, I finally got a good one.'"
    Crew chief Steve Letarte's two-tire call was a gamble, a good gamble as it turned.
    "I really like the kind of calls that Steve makes," Gordon said. "He's gutsy; he's not afraid to take chances. 
    "And they've paid off for us, I'd say, more times than not.
    "At Martinsville it was the right call -- I still feel we should have won that race.
     "I'm frustrated because I spun the tires on this restart. We really had ourselves in the right position to win.
     "But I'm excited our team has really improved this year, and I like how we get stronger as the race goes on.  That's something that we haven't had for a while.
    "We're up in the points, and we're knocking on the door for wins. You can't ask for a whole lot more than that.
    "If you do that enough times, you're going to get yourself to victory lane."
    And not just to congratulate someone else.

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