Dover Downs: Newman's lucky seventh

Ryan Newman claimed an improbable victory in the MBNA 400 at Dover Sunday, beating fellow Dodge driver Jeremy Mayfield in a head-to-head duel over the final segment. It was the seventh win of the year for Newman, who also won on the 'Monster Mile' earlier this year

Dover Downs: Newman's lucky seventh

Newman took the lead early, but his chances for victory appeared to have gone when he suffered a puncture. The unscheduled pit stop dropped him all the way to 42nd place, a lap in arrears. Newman progressively made his way back through the field, however, and also benefited from NASCAR's new yellow-flag rules which allow the first car in line one lap down to get a free pass of the pace car.

Yet the move of the race might have been made by Newman's crew chief, Matt Borland, who passed up a fuel stop under caution that obliged his man to run 106 laps on a tank of fuel. That was about 14 more than the car could do on green-flag laps, but the Borland gambled there would be enough yellows to make it. He turned out to be right.

Dale Earnhardt Jr helped Newman's cause by spinning into the wall on lap 362, striking the concrete with the driver's side of his Chevy. Earnhardt was momentarily knocked unconscious by the blow, and so was extracted carefully from the wreck by the safety crew. After being checked over in the medical center, Earnhardt was flown to a nearby hospital for a complete examination. His 37th place finish dropped Junior back to fourth in the Winston Cup point standings.

Mayfield gave Newman all he could handle after passing Tony Stewart for second on lap 351. The Evernham Motorsports Dodge tried repeatedly to edge underneath the Penske car, but never could make a pass stick and finally slipped back by a few critical car lengths in the final 10 laps as his car tightened up. Stewart, who had looked like having the strongest car in the field at mid-race, "settled" for third, plainly frustrated afterward by inconsistent performance from his tyres.

Barely less frustrated was point leader Matt Kenseth, who said he was "embarrassed" by his team's performance. The DeWalt Ford was a midfield runner most of the day but, as has been the pattern this year, Kenseth made the best of a bad day, eking out a ninth place that maintained his position atop the standings, 436 clear of Kevin Harvick, who finished fourth, and 473 ahead of Jimmie Johnson.

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