Newman storms through

Ryan Newman warned last week following his engine trouble at New Hampshire, the first week of the NASCAR play-off season, that if his car ran as well everywhere as it did there then the rest of the field should watch out

Newman storms through

In Sunday's MBNA 400 at Dover Downs, Newman proved to everyone that he meant what he said. Newman led 325 of the 400 laps, lapped up to eighth place, and won the race with ease. The victory was just the second of the season for Newman, who won eight times last year.

His gain the standings was only marginal, moving from ninth to eight among the top 10 and 107 points behind with eight races to go. Yet, he showed that he means business.

Newman took the lead at the start from pole-winner Jeremy Mayfield, then yielded it briefly to Matt Kenseth on Lap 33. He was passed only one other time, when he handed it to aggressive Kurt Busch on Lap 185, but he gained it back a couple laps later, after Busch had earned his five points for leading.

The top 10 contenders ran near the front all day, which could indicate either a degree of preparation and caution on the part of the leaders, and, or, that after the Robby Gordon incident at New Hampshire, the non-contenders had learned to respect the play-off runners.

The only one of the contenders to have real trouble was Matt Kenseth, who missed the tricky entry to the pit road and knocked the front end off his car in hitting a tyre barrier protecting the first few pit stalls. Kenseth was able to return after extensive repairs, 53 laps down, but he gained only one position and parked it near the end. He finished 33rd and slipped to seventh in the rankings, 99 marks behind.

Mark Martin finished second, with Jeff Gordon pulling out third place with a poor-handling car. Gordon thus took the play-off lead, by one point over last week's co-leader, Busch, who finished fifth. Former co-leader Dale Earnhardt Jr came in ninth, a lap down, and now stands third, 18 digits behind.

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