Newman Paces The Chase

The 2005 edition of the "Chase for the NEXTEL Cup" got off to a roaring start - especially for Ryan Newman.

Newman began NASCAR's championship season on the right note holding off Tony Stewart in a side-by-side duel to win his first race of the season in Sunday's Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Int'l Speedway.

Newman slipped his ALLTEL/Mobil1 Dodge around Stewart's Home Depot Chevrolet with two laps to go and held on to score his 12th career NEXTEL Cup Series victory.

It was his first win since Dover last September, snapping a 35 race winless drought for the Penske South Racing driver.

Newman pitted first among the leaders of the race during the final round of stops and when the day's tenth and final caution waved, found himself in the lead with 16 laps to go.

Stewart was able to moved around for the top spot with eight laps to go but couldn't make it stick as Newman worked past him again on the next to last lap.

"We didn't know what was going to happen with us pitting before anyone else," said Newman. "Fortunately, it cycled through."

Stewart led 173 of the 300 laps but came up one position short of sweeping both New Hampshire races this year.

Matt Kenseth edged Roush Racing teammate Greg Biffle for third with Dale Earnhardt, Jr. rounding out the Top 5.

Rusty Wallace, Mark Martin, Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Burton and Kevin Harvick completed the first ten finishers.

The victory raised Newman from 10th to a tie for third in the standings with Wallace at 5,190 points, 40 behind Stewart. Biffle stayed in second, 20 points off the lead.

Newman and Stewart's exciting battle for the win over the final ten laps capped off a day of fireworks and high emotions, which started early.

Defending series champion Kurt Busch got knocked hard into the second turn wall on lap three after making contact with Scott Riggs. After his badly damaged Sharpie Ford limped around to the garage area, Busch made a beeline to Riggs' pit stall to have a conversation with crew chief Rodney Childers.

"The 10 just got into us," Busch said. "I think he got loose and just came up into us."

Childers said the contact was incidental and that Riggs by no means meant to take Busch out of the race.

"They've had some past experiences with us," Childers said. "He took us out at Indianapolis and we forgave them. This was an accident and he'll have to forgive us. I feel sorry for those guys. I know they're in the Chase."

Busch was able to return to the race nearly 66 laps down and wound up finishing 35th.

Round two of the day's battles came on lap 49 when Kyle Busch made contact with Kasey Kahne, sending the Evernham Motorsports Dodge around and hard into the backstretch wall exiting turn two.

Kahne was able to refire his car and chased Busch down before driving into the side of the Kellogg's Chevrolet.

NASCAR parked Kahne's Dodge for the rest of the day and ordered him and owner Ray Evernham to the NASCAR hauler after the race.

But the day's main event took place on lap 191 with an incident that will certainly have other ramifications later this week.

After Joe Nemechek and Mike Bliss touched and crashed racing through turns one and two, Michael Waltrip and Robby Gordon tangled on the backstretch.

Gordon's Jim Beam Chevrolet took the brunt of the contact and was badly damaged. As the field paced around under caution, Gordon tried to back down into Waltrip's car as the NAPA Chevrolet drove by, narrowly missing Stewart in the process.

Gordon climbed from his car and, helmet in hand, waited for the field to come around again before hurling the helmet into the rear quarter panel of Waltrip's No. 15.

"Everybody thinks Michael Waltrip is such a great guy," Gordon said to TNT's national television audience afterward. "Well he's not a good guy, he's a piece of (expletive)."

A red flag was displayed as NASCAR cleaned up the debris around the race track. All 43 crew chiefs were then issued a warning to stop the on and off track wild activity or cars would be parked for the remainder of the race and possibly next week as well.

Gordon and Waltrip were also invited to the NASCAR hauler after the race.

The series now heads to Dover International Speedway next Sunday afternoon.

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