Newman controls Chevy 400

Posted: Sunday, September 07, 2003

RICHMOND, Va. Ryan Newman dominated a late long run and then held on through three restarts the last with four laps to go to win Saturday night Richmond International Raceway.

Newman, whose crew said he might not have enough fuel to finish under the long green-flag run that started with 77 laps to go, got a break when Robby Gordon crashed with 19 laps left. That, caused a seven-lap caution in the Chevrolet 400.

He appeared to be pulling away from Kevin Harvick when the race went back to green with 14 laps to go. But he lost that edge when debris on the track caused the yellow to fly to the 12th time, setting up the nine-lap dash to the finish.

Again Newman was pulling away, but Ricky Rudd, running third, nudged Harvick on the frontstretch, sending him slamming in the wall. That brought out one more yellow and one more chance for Newman to be caught.

On the single-file restart, Newman's Dodge pulled away from that of Jeremy Mayfield and he got his series-high sixth victory.

Rudd finished third in a Ford, followed by that of Jeff Burton and the Dodge of Rusty Wallace.

Afterward, Rudd and Harvick parked side-by-side on pit road and crew members gathered to try to keep them apart.

The drivers exchanged words as Harvick jumped on Rudd's hood crumpling the sheet metal and Harvick wound up throwing what appeared to be his head and neck restraint device at Rudd. Both drivers were summoned to the NASCAR hauler.

They had tangled on the track when Rudd won this race two years ago, with Rudd later comparing Harvick to a ''bull in a china shop.''

''This stuff after the race is kind of ridiculous,'' Rudd said after climbing from his car, claiming that Harvick seemed to be having a problem with his car before the crash and that he tried to avoid him.

''He must have had a problem,'' Rudd said. ''He put on the brakes and I got in the back of him. It wasn't on purpose.''

Harvick, who wound up 16th, didn't see it that way, contending Rudd hit intentionally.

''If he's going to take a cheap shot at us, he's going to get one back,'' Harvick fumed.

Harvick, who had finished second three weeks in a row, defended teammate Johnny Sauter for winning Friday night by spinning out Winston Cup leader Matt Kenseth in a Busch series race.

This night turned out well for Kenseth, even after some early trouble, because of late trouble for Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Harvick. Both had problems while contending for the win.

Kenseth extended his points lead to 418 over Earnhardt and 441 over Harvick with 10 races remaining a nearly insurmountable advantage if his consistency continues. It Kenseth's 20th top-10 run in 26 races.

Earnhardt, running third with 46 laps to go, suddenly slid up the track in the second turn, saved the car but immediately went to his pit.

He re-emerged in 23rd place, two laps down, and finished 17th.

For nearly 300 laps, the race looked like it might belong to Jeff Gordon, who led four times for 126 laps and seemed to be the strongest.

But coming out of a caution with 126 laps to go, Gordon told his crew he thought he had a tire going flat and he faded rapidly to ninth. Gordon was hoping for a caution to fix the problem without losing laps, and he got one, but the problem continued after a tire change. He finished 10th.

Hearn wins pole in record time

JOLIET, Ill. Richie Hearn expected to be in California this weekend, doing a six-hour, go-kart endurance race with his father and a bunch of buddies.

No offense to them, but he's much happier being where he is.

Just 10 days after Team Menard hired him for the IRL's Delphi Indy 300, Hearn won the pole Saturday in record time. His lap at 223.159 mph was the fastest ever in qualifying at the Chicagoland Speedway.

''It's real easy to get down on yourself when you're sitting at home, watching all these races on TV,'' Hearn said. ''This kind of helps me remind myself I can drive a race car. Hopefully I'll get more chances.''

Tomas Scheckter will join Hearn on the front row Sunday, qualifying at 223.083. Starting third will be Felipe Giaffone, racing for the first time since breaking his right leg and pelvis in an accident July 6.

''Someone told me that when you crash, you come back better, so that is what I'm expecting,'' Giaffone said. ''It feels great to be back and to be doing well. It was a hard eight weeks.''

Defending champion Sam Hornish Jr. will start eighth. Helio Castroneves, who leads a very tight points race, will start ninth.

It's been a hard four years for Hearn. He finished third at the Indianapolis 500 in 1996, the best finish by a rookie that year. But he bounced between CART and IRL for the next three years, and hasn't had a full-time ride since 1999.

His only other race this year was at Indianapolis, where he drove for Sam Schmidt Motorsports. But a crash with Jaques Lazier knocked him out of the race in the 61st lap.

Hearn was so discouraged that he tossed his racing gear into a closet when he got home, not even bothering to wash his suit.

Then, on Aug. 26, he got a phone call telling him Team Menard was looking for someone to fill in for Vitor Meira, who is out with a broken wrist. Hearn had two hours to dig out that racing suit, pack a bag and catch a flight to Indianapolis.

The next day, he was on the track testing.

''It's real easy sometimes to just say, 'Forget it,' because it's hard to get a ride,'' Hearn said. ''I still believe that I can do it, and I'm glad that these guys gave me a chance to prove that to them.''

Hearn knew he had a good car after two days of practice, battling back and forth with Scheckter for the fastest times. They figured they would be close when it counted Saturday, and they were.

Scheckter, who already has won two poles this year, was the eighth car on the track and ran 223.083. That broke the qualifying record Hornish set last year.

''It was good,'' Scheckter said. ''But not good enough.''

Eleven more drivers qualified before Hearn got on the track, none going faster than Scheckter. But Hearn ran 223.159 on his first lap, and didn't even bother going for a second.

''I think I could have gone a little quicker, but we didn't want to push it,'' Hearn said. ''No reason to go any further.''

The pole is the second of Hearn's career, but his first since New Hampshire in 1996.

While Hearn's deal with Menard is only for this race, he's hoping he can convince the team to run a second car for the last two races if he does well. And if history is any guide, he will.

In the first two Delphi Indy 300s, the polesitter went on to win.

''I'm just going to enjoy this while I can, and worry about tomorrow tomorrow morning,'' Hearn said. ''You can't really predict anything. I'm just going to do the best I can and, hopefully, be on top at the end.''

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