Newman wins Chevrolet 400 at Richmond
Monday, September 8th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ Ryan Newman dominated a late long run and then held on through three restarts _ the last with four laps to go _ to win Saturday night Richmond International Raceway.
Newman, whose crew said he might not have enough fuel to finish under the long green-flag run that started with 77 laps to go, got a break when Robby Gordon crashed with 19 laps left. That, caused a seven-lap caution in the Chevrolet 400.
He appeared to be pulling away from Kevin Harvick when the race went back to green with 14 laps to go. But he lost that edge when debris on the track caused the yellow to fly to the 12th time, setting up the nine-lap dash to the finish.
Again Newman was pulling away, but Ricky Rudd, running third, nudged Harvick on the frontstretch, sending him slamming in the wall. That brought out one more yellow and one more chance for Newman to be caught.
On the single-file restart, Newman's Dodge pulled away from that of Jeremy Mayfield and he got his series-high sixth victory.
Rudd finished third in a Ford, followed by that of Jeff Burton and the Dodge of Rusty Wallace.
Afterward, Rudd and Harvick parked side-by-side on pit road and crew members gathered to try to keep them apart.
The drivers exchanged words as Harvick jumped on Rudd's hood _ crumpling the sheet metal _ and Harvick wound up throwing what appeared to be his head and neck restraint device at Rudd. Both drivers were summoned to the NASCAR hauler.
They had tangled on the track when Rudd won this race two years ago, with Rudd later comparing Harvick to a ``bull in a china shop.''
``This stuff after the race is kind of ridiculous,'' Rudd said after climbing from his car, claiming that Harvick seemed to be having a problem with his car before the crash and that he tried to avoid him.
``He must have had a problem,'' Rudd said. ``He put on the brakes and I got in the back of him. It wasn't on purpose.''
Harvick, who wound up 16th, didn't see it that way, contending Rudd hit intentionally.
``If he's going to take a cheap shot at us, he's going to get one back,'' Harvick fumed.
Harvick, who had finished second three weeks in a row, defended teammate Johnny Sauter for winning Friday night by spinning out Winston Cup leader Matt Kenseth in a Busch series race.
This night turned out well for Kenseth, even after some early trouble, because of late trouble for Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Harvick. Both had problems while contending for the win.
Kenseth extended his points lead to 418 over Earnhardt and 441 over Harvick with 10 races remaining _ a nearly insurmountable advantage if his consistency continues. It Kenseth's 20th top-10 run in 26 races.
Earnhardt, running third with 46 laps to go, suddenly slid up the track in the second turn, saved the car but immediately went to his pit.
He re-emerged in 23rd place, two laps down, and finished 17th.
For nearly 300 laps, the race looked like it might belong to Jeff Gordon, who led four times for 126 laps and seemed to be the strongest.
But coming out of a caution with 126 laps to go, Gordon told his crew he thought he had a tire going flat and he faded rapidly to ninth. Gordon was hoping for a caution to fix the problem without losing laps, and he got one, but the problem continued after a tire change. He finished 10th.
Less than 100 laps into the race, Kenseth spun in the fourth turn, sparking a series of cautions that slowed the first half for 49 laps.
The race went back to green five laps later, but lasted just over four laps before a seven-car pileup on the backstretch. The accident took out none of the leaders, but took 18 laps of yellow to clean up and eventually caused three cars to return to the race after having their front fenders removed.
Burton apologized to Robby Gordon for ruining a great comeback.
Gordon, who caused the first caution when he crashed on the 24th lap, rallied from three laps down and was running fourth when the front of Burton's car clipped the rear of Gordon's entering the third turn in the late going.
``I got into him,'' Burton said. ``It was 100 percent my fault.''
``He did nothing wrong. I got in there, got loose, got into him and I wrecked him. He ought to be mad. I don't blame him for being mad. I didn't mean it.''