Pocono: Newman makes it four

In a game more of carburetors and computers than of man and machine, Ryan Newman had enough fuel at the finish to win Sunday's Pennsylvania 500 at Pocono Raceway. Newman, who started on the pole, fought off a charging Kurt Busch over the final 12 laps to win for the second time in three weeks and the fourth time this season, best among all drivers

Pocono: Newman makes it four

As at Chicago and New Hampshire, however, the race was decided by the timing of cautions and a sequence of cause-and-effect moves in the pits, framing the action in the 40-lap fuel window.

Newman ran away to a 4s lead in the opening dash, then pitted relatively early on lap 32. Most teams pitted again under caution on lap 50, with Rusty Wallace emerging the leader. More caution stops followed on lap 69, with the next round of green stops coming around lap 109.

Michael Waltrip and Dale Earnhardt Jr. stretched the interval to lap 117, bringing the gas gauge into sharp focus. Both had gone 41 laps since their last stops, and conceivably both would need just one more stop to the finish.

The caution on lap 119 allowed the rest of the teams to pit, although many remained outside the window. Waltrip moved to the lead with Earnhardt second.

From there, teams fretted over computers, weighing fuel mileage against track position. A caution on lap 154 did little to dispel the confusion, falling as it did with 46 laps to go. Several teams topped off before the restart on lap 159, giving Newman the lead.

On the restart, Newman led Earnhardt, Waltrip, Terry Labonte and Busch. Two subsequent cautions for 10 laps helped teams conserve fuel, and all were able to make it to the finish.

Newman said he and his team never considered giving up position for fuel. "That was just the gamble our team was willing to take," he said. Statistically, at this track, you get a couple of cautions in the last 50 laps."

Earnhardt was in the same position: "On the last stop, we figured we were a gallon short. We ran four laps under caution with 20 laps to go and were half a gallon short. We ran six more laps under caution, and that put us plus a half or plus a gallon."

Busch passed Earnhardt for second on lap 191 and closed on Newman. He could make up ground through the first turn, but Newman was better in the second and third turns and could pull away on the long front stretch. He won by 0.307s.

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