February 17, 2008
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (cbssportsline.com/AP) -- Ryan Newman snapped an 81-race winless streak Sunday, using a huge push from teammate Kurt Busch to give car owner Roger Penske his first Daytona 500 victory.
Penske, the most successful owner in open-wheel history with 14 wins in the prestigious Indianapolis 500, now has a victory in NASCAR's showcase event.
It only took him 23 years to get it.
It came in the historic 50th running of The Great American Race, and it came in thrilling fashion.
"We did something very special for the Captain tonight," runner-up Kurt Busch said.
The Penske cars were quiet for 199 of the 200 laps, letting Joe Gibbs Racing stars Tony Stewart and Kyle Busch race each other in a battle of Toyotas. With one lap to go, it appeared Stewart finally would get a Daytona 500 win in his 10th try.
Running out front in the high line, he held off the two Penske cars as they circled the famed speedway. With a pair of teammates closing in on him, Stewart didn't feel safe running out alone with no allies.
So at the last second, he dropped low on the track to line up in front of Kyle Busch. The JGR teams had talked about using teamwork all week, and Stewart thought he would need Busch to make it to the checkered flag.
But the decision backfired when the two Penske cars flew past him on the top, and Newman pulled away for his first win since New Hampshire in September 2005.
"I just made the wrong decision on the backstretch," a dejected Stewart said. "My intention was to get in front of Kyle and pull Kyle along with us. It's hard to explain. It's probably one of the most disappointing moments in my racing career."
And for Joe Gibbs Racing and the entire Toyota camp.
Toyota seemed destined to win its first points race in NASCAR's top series behind the strength of JGR, which joined the manufacturer this season and gave it instant credibility. After a strong month of testing and a Denny Hamlin win in one of Thursday's qualifying races, the JGR cars seemed poised to battle mighty Hendrick Motorsports for the win.
Instead, Stewart had to settle for third, Kyle Busch -- who led a race-high 86 laps -- finished fourth and Hamlin was 17th in a disappointing day for JGR.
It was a stark contrast to the euphoria in the Penske camp, which finished 1-2 in NASCAR's Super Bowl.
The Associated Press News Service