Newman content to race in corners

Posted: June 06, 2004

DOVER, Del. — Give Ryan Newman an inch, and he'll take a mile.

Newman said as much yesterday during a morning media session at Dover International Speedway, explaining how he won both races here last season.

"Once the track widens out, the corners are the best places to pass," Newman said, looking ahead to his start on the outside of the front row for today's MBNA America 400.

"The straightaways here are so banked [nine degrees] and so narrow, you wait for the guy to slip up in the corners to have a shot to go around the outside of him," he said. "That's pretty much it. The best race [of the weekend] is typically the Cup race, because the track does widen out so much because of the rubber on it."

But due to the amount of rain that fell on the track yesterday, washing the tire treads out of the concrete racing surface, it could take a while before the drivers are able to find that "third groove."

Still, you can bet Newman will be searching for that high lane that enabled him to beat Jeff Gordon here last June and edge Jeremy Mayfield in his return in September.

"I've gotten myself in trouble with other drivers by going three-wide here a couple times, but that's just part of it," Newman said. "Typically, the fastest groove is on the bottom of the track, but if the higher grooves are to your liking, then you try to make them fast."

The 26-year-old from South Bend, Ind., has finished among the top 10 in all four of his starts at Dover. A 160.643 m.p.h. run in Friday's qualifying put Newman's No. 12 Dodge alongside Mayfield, the pole-sitter, on the starting grid.

Mayfield set the track speed record with a lap at 161.522 m.p.h. in the No. 19 Dodge.

Postponed. Wind and rain, the kind that render umbrellas useless and keep race cars parked, blew through Dover International Speedway yesterday.

While the weather cleared up just long enough for the Nextel Cup cars to complete their final practice, the afternoon Busch Series race was called off when scattered showers and diminishing daylight thwarted repeated efforts to dry the track.

The MBNA America 200 did start, but just 28 of the scheduled 200 laps were completed before officials brought out the red flag with Bobby Hamilton Jr. in the lead. The cars were parked and covered with tarps along pit road for nearly two hours before the call went out for the drivers to return to their vehicles. Within minutes, though, another downpour sent the competitors running for shelter and had crew members scrambling to recover the cars.

More than 5 1/2 hours after the initial green flag, the race was finally postponed at 6:46 p.m. NASCAR has rescheduled the event for 11 a.m. tomorrow.

Hamilton, who debated whether to go home for a day, will be excited when the race does resume.

"The type of race car we had today, it would be easy for me to climb in there and fire it off into the first corner again, knowing that the car will be there," he said. "If you're in the zone and you're fast, it's great. I'll drive in the rain if they want me to."

Craftsman Truck Series. Kelly Sutton's maiden race at Dover International Speedway was a struggle almost from the start, as the Monster Mile jumped up and bit her and seven other drivers in a crash just seven laps into Friday's MBNA America 200.

Sutton is a 32-year-old Craftsman Truck Series rookie and the first driver with multiple sclerosis to compete in any NASCAR circuit. She was not hurt in the accident. After the crew repaired her No. 02 Chevrolet Silverado, Sutton returned to the track to complete 113 of the 200 laps.

By finishing 27th in the 35-truck field, Sutton moved up five spots in the season standings to 33d.

Contact Pete Schnatz at 215-854-5817 or pschnatz@phillynews.com.

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