Newman wins first of season

Published 5:44 pm Monday, June 21, 2004

By By SCOTT NOVAK / Niles Daily Star
BROOKLYN -- Call it a home field advantage.
South Bend, Ind.'s Ryan Newman led the NEXTEL Cup Series in victories last season with eight, including the August race at Michigan International Speedway.
But heading into Sunday's race Newman had yet to find victory lane.
That all changed in the DHL 400 despite losing a lap early on.
Newman held off hard-charging rookie Kasey Kahne to win his first race of the season on the track he considers "home."
Newman nearly didn't have a chance to win his second straight race of the season as at lap 22 he had to make a green flag pit stop because of overheating.
Jeff Gordon dominated the early part of the race before a blown engine eliminated his chances to win.
A pair of veterans then took over the race as Dale Jarrett and Sterling Marlin both led the race until fading toward the end.
Another recipient of the Lucky Dog pass, Kahne, was tearing through the field in the later stages of the race and was bearing down on Newman when the day's final caution flag flew on the closing lap.
After two weeks of controversy on how the races have been scored and the use of caution flags, NASCAR really didn't want to see another race come to a close under caution, but it did.
On the final lap, well behind the leaders, P.J. Jones hit the wall forcing a caution flag which ended any chance to see if Kahne would catch Newman at the finish line.
Behind Newman and Kahne were Jarrett, Jimmie Johnson, who was fourth and Elliott Sadler, who was fifth.
Marlin finished sixth with defending series champion Matt Kenseth finishing a quiet seventh.
Points leader Dale Earnhardt Jr. struggled for the fourth straight race, but appeared to be heading for his fifth straight Top 10 finish when he and Kevin Harvick got together just prior to the next-to-last caution causing a flat right rear tire.
Earnhardt Jr. was forced to pitch under the yellow dropping him to 21st and costing him the points lead.
Johnson, who trailed Earnhardt Jr. by 58 points entering the day, took over first place in the standings.
Earnhardt Jr. now trails Johnson by seven points.