Newman Takes IROC Opener
February 13, 2004 | 7:11 P.M. EST
The win was not declared final until race officials had time to review the highly contested battle to the finish line between Newman and Busch, which resulted in Newman's car going below the yellow line, considered out of bounds on the 2.5-mile, high bank tri-oval. The pass was ruled legal due to the fact that Newman and Busch would have made contact resulting in a possible multi-car crash had Newman not put his car below the stripe.
Newman said, "Just a great race I'm not just saying that because I won it, but the best I've ever seen. The cars are very, very competitive. I think with nine laps to go I was still either last or second to last."
Regarding the pass for the finish, Newman said, "If you're forced down there (below the yellow line) then you have the right to resume your position, if you just pass somebody down there without being forced then you're the one that gets the penalty. I was at the point-of-no-return as far as not letting off and instead of spinning him out I went below the yellow line."
Busch said, "Newman was behind me so I went to the bottom to leave just about half a car-width between me and the yellow line, which would have not allowed him to go below me, but he was able to squeak underneath with a tremendous run and get to the start/finish line before me."
Reigning NASCAR Nextel Cup Champion, Matt Kenseth finished third followed by fellow NASCAR driver Jimmie Johnson in fourth. The best showing from the open wheel contingent came from 18-time World of Outlaws Champion, Steve Kinser rounding out the top-five.
Of his third place finish and first Crown Royal IROC race, Kenseth said, "It's a blast. All the cars are the same speed. It's just about where you draft and what kind of hole you got yourself into as far as air goes. It's a lot of fun to drive. The cars are really stable, it was really a blast."
The 2004 Crown Royal IROC opener introduced a format change devised to break the race into two segments in order to heighten the level of competition. At lap-25 a competition yellow realigned the field with the leader taking the point and the remainder of the field being allowed to choose, in order of position, which lane to restart the race. Bonus points were awarded to the first three positions crossing the finish line at lap-25. NASCAR driver, Kevin Harvick picked up three bonus points for leading with, NASCAR Craftsman Truck Champion, Travis Kvapil getting two points for placing second and Kurt Busch getting one point for placing third.
IRL IndyCar Series drivers, Helio Castroneves Scott Dixon and Scott Sharp finished sixth, eighth and ninth respectively. Scott Sharp starting sixth, ran in the top-five for most of the first segment of the race.
There were 14 lead changes among six drivers running three and four-wide throughout the 40-lap, 100-mile event. The only incident took place after the finish of the race when NASCAR Nextel Cup driver, Jimmie Johnson, finishing fourth, was tapped and went into a broad slide coming out of the tri-oval. No contact was made and the entire field got by without incident.
The Crown Royal IROC Series will make its first appearance at Texas Motor Speedway on April 2 when the series will resume with Race Two of the four race series. Race Three will take place on September 9 at Richmond International Raceway and conclude with Race Four at Atlanta Motor Speedway on October 30.