Friday, June 4, 2004

Newman sees Dover as cure for ailing season

Auto racing

The Associated Press

DOVER, Del. - Ryan Newman insists a race on The Monster Mile could be exactly what's needed to jump-start his season.

Dover International Speedway is one of the most demanding tracks on the NASCAR Nextel Cup circuit. Still, Newman is confident he can end an 18-race drought with a victory Sunday in the MBNA America 400.

He beat the high-banked concrete oval twice last year. That's particularly impressive because he overcame adversity both times.

"The bottom line is we've proven we can get around the racetrack and we can win here," Newman said. "Now, the determining factor is we've got to go back and repeat."

Last June, Newman was forced for half the 400-mile race to muscle his 3,400-pound Dodge around the track without power steering.

In the fall race, Newman recovered after losing two laps because of a flat tire.

The speed that has led Newman to 21 poles and nine victories in less than three full seasons on the circuit is put to good use here.

"Cars are able to pass instead of beating on each other," Newman said.

Newman was expected to be one of a handful of drivers battling for the top spot in the standings, but stands in ninth place.

"We've got no excuse," he said.

Newman's toughest opponent might be Jimmie Johnson, coming off a pole-race sweep last weekend at Lowe's Motor Speedway. Johnson crashed last spring at Dover, and finished eighth to Newman in the fall after sweeping the races here in 2002.

But Newman and Johnson are by no means staging a match race. Sweeps at Dover also have been accomplished in the last decade by Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart and Rusty Wallace, who set the track qualifying record of 159.954 mph in 1999.

CRAFTSMAN TRUCKS: Carl Edwards won the pole for Saturday's MBNA America 200 race at Dover, Del. Edwards drove his Ford to a lap of 152.893 mph, about two-hundredths of a second quicker than the Chevrolet of Jack Sprague.

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