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Newman takes surprise Phoenix win

Winner Ryan Newman leads Jeff Gordon at the final restart, Phoenix, 2010Ryan Newman claimed an unexpected first victory of the season, beating Jeff Gordon on the final restart at Phoenix International Raceway.

The driver nicknamed 'The Rocket' took on only two new tyres when the field pitted under the final caution, which came out with four laps remaining. He was one of six cars in the leading group to gamble on a shorter stop, while those who had been leading before the caution opted for four tyres.

Jeff Gordon led the field to the green for the final time but he had too much wheelspin at the restart, and Newman made the most of his rival's mistake to grab the lead and hold on to it for the final two miles of racing in the green-white-chequered finish.

Newman had not been in a position to win the race before the final caution, but had run consistently in the top 10. Before he made the call for new right-side tyres in the end, he had just overtaken Clint Bowyer for fifth place.

The Stewart-Haas Racing driver's victory is his first race win since joining the team last year, and ended a 78-race winless streak that dated back to his Daytona 500 win for Penske Racing in 2008.

"I kind of threw [crew chief Tony] Gibson under the bus because he wanted to put four [new tyres] on and I said just give me two, I like the track position," Newman said about his key strategy choice.

"I would rather block. I was in a good position there obviously. I restarted on the bottom side earlier in the night and could not get going a couple of times. So on two tyres I was kind of impressed. We had a lot of guys behind us on two tyres so it was a good situation to be in."

For the second race in a row, Gordon led the final sprint of the race but failed to take the victory. Although he seemed frustrated at losing a race that could have been his, he still praised his team for putting him in a position to win.

"I just couldn't get it done for our team," said Gordon. "I spun the tyres on the restart and Ryan had a good jump on me getting into [Turn] 1. It was pretty much game over at that point. We had a good car, we were the second place car, we finished second, I'm still pretty happy and proud of that effort."

The race looked for the most part like a three-way battle between Jimmie Johnson, Juan Pablo Montoya and Kyle Busch.

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver was unquestionably the biggest loser of the day as he was comfortably leading the race and on his way to a comfortable first win of the season when Scott Riggs hit the wall right in front of him due to a right-front tyre issue, causing the final caution to come out.

Busch changed four tyres and dropped from the lead down to eighth, but was unable to make any progress in the last two laps.

Reigning series champion and points leader Johnson led for 113 laps - the same as Busch - and ran second until the final caution. From seventh on the final restart he made up four spots to cross the finish line in third.

"I actually made the call for four tyres," said Johnson. "It seems like lately four tyres work in a lot of races in the closing miles. I was hoping for one caution. I felt like if there was one caution that would bunch things up I had a shot at it. I restarted seventh and with another lap or two, we would have been there."

Earnhardt Ganassi's Montoya showed great pace again, leading for 104 laps after passing Tony Stewart on lap 39. He would later battle with Johnson, eventually losing the lead to him on the fourth restart of the day. In the final two laps, he made up four places to take a solid fifth place that brings his streak of bad results to an end.

"We were a little faster with the sun out," said Montoya referring to the daylight portion of the race. "But we were a top five all day; even a top three or two. We kind of got lost there a little bit at the end.

"But I don't know. In those green-white-chequereds, it's all about luck and about timing. You take two [new] tyres and you get three restarts and you finish 15th, you know? We thought we did the right thing and we still got a top five out of it. So I was very happy. We needed this; we really needed this."

Mark Martin had a difficult day for the most part, but still ran on the lead lap while struggling for balance. In the last portion of the race he suddenly started to move up, breaking into the top 10 before a similar call to Gordon and Newman's allowed him to jump up to third for the final restart, ending up fourth behind Johnson at the finish.

Roush Fenway's Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards scored top tens, as did Bowyer and JGR's Logano. Polesitter AJ Allmendinger led for the first few laps and finished 15th in the end.

Johnson continues to lead the Sprint Cup standings ahead of Kenseth and Roush Fenway's Greg Biffle.

Pos  Driver             Car        Laps
 1.  Ryan Newman        Chevrolet   378
 2.  Jeff Gordon        Chevrolet   378
 3.  Jimmie Johnson     Chevrolet   378
 4.  Mark Martin        Chevrolet   378
 5.  Juan Montoya       Chevrolet   378
 6.  Matt Kenseth       Ford        378
 7.  Carl Edwards       Ford        378
 8.  Kyle Busch         Toyota      378
 9.  Clint Bowyer       Chevrolet   378
10.  Joey Logano        Toyota      378
11.  Marcos Ambrose     Toyota      378
12.  Dale Earnhardt Jr  Chevrolet   378
13.  Kevin Harvick      Chevrolet   378
14.  Robby Gordon       Toyota      378
15.  AJ Allmendinger    Ford        378
16.  Brad Keselowski    Dodge       378
17.  Martin Truex Jr    Toyota      378
18.  Sam Hornish Jr     Dodge       378
19.  David Ragan        Ford        378
20.  David Reutimann    Toyota      378
21.  Scott Speed        Toyota      378
22.  Greg Biffle        Ford        378
23.  Tony Stewart       Chevrolet   378
24.  Jamie McMurray     Chevrolet   378
25.  Jeff Burton        Chevrolet   378
26.  Regan Smith        Chevrolet   378
27.  Bobby Labonte      Chevrolet   378
28.  Scott Riggs        Chevrolet   377
29.  Paul Menard        Ford        377
30.  Denny Hamlin       Toyota      376
31.  Elliott Sadler     Ford        375
32.  David Gilliland    Ford        374
33.  Kevin Conway       Ford        371
34.  Terry Cook         Dodge       367
35.  Kurt Busch         Dodge       366
36.  Travis Kvapil      Ford        309
37.  Brian Vickers      Toyota      288
38.  Joe Nemechek       Toyota      281
39.  Kasey Kahne        Ford        276
40.  Max Papis          Toyota      214
41.  Johnny Sauter      Chevrolet   161
42.  Dave Blaney        Toyota      160
43.  Michael McDowell   Toyota      149
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