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Daytona Beach, FL (Sports Network) - Ryan Newman came from fourth on the final restart to win the 50th running of the Daytona 500 at the Daytona International Speedway. The No.12 Alltel Dodge driver took the checkered flag 0.092 seconds ahead of Penske Racing teammate Kurt Busch.
The victory was Newman's first "500" win and the 13th of his Sprint Cup career.
"It was all about Kurt Busch, I couldn't have won it without him," said Newman. "It was just being at the right place at the right time."
Two-time Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson brought the field to the green flag for 200 laps of restrictor-plate racing and the start of the 2008 racing season.
He didn't last there long as Michael Waltrip took the lead on the backstretch and led the first lap. Two laps later Johnson with Denny Hamlin behind him retook the lead. Then it was Hamlin's turn as the field jumbled on every lap. Stewart and Jeff Gordon also led a lap before the race was even 18 laps old.
On lap seven, defending Daytona 500 champion Kevin Harvick radioed in that he thought his engine was about to "blow up." He dropped to 34th, but continued on without pitting.
While Harvick was deep in the field and Waltrip was dropping with a suspension problem, a couple of cars were flying towards the front. Busch started 24th and was as high as second after 22 laps and NASCAR rookie, but three-time IndyCar Series champion Sam Hornish Jr., started 19th and cracked the top- five.
Hamlin was looking strong having led 25 of the first 50 laps.
Lap 35 saw the start of green flag pit stops since the race had gone caution free. Hamlin finally gave up the lead on lap 38. Gordon inherited the top spot after the field had cycled through pit stops, but Busch and Hamlin both got their Toyota-powered machines around the three-time Daytona 500 winner.
Busch and Hamlin continued to play around with each other, experimenting for later in the race. Gordon seemed content to follow the two young racers with Earnhardt Jr. in fourth and Kenseth having jumped up into the top-five.
Meanwhile, Hornish Jr. made an unscheduled stop on lap 58 with an unknown vibration. Racing continued up front with Busch, Hamlin, Gordon and Earnhardt Jr. still mixing it up.
The first caution flag of the day came out on lap 79 for debris.
Through 80 laps, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas had led 70 laps (Busch 30, Hamlin 32, Stewart 8).
Reed Sorenson and Kurt Busch elected to stay out and they were one-two as they went back to green, with Kyle Busch, Gordon and Hamlin completing the top- five.
Kurt and Kyle Busch teamed up to get around Sorenson and Kurt earned the five- point bonus. On the next lap Mark Martin, last year's runner-up, suddenly slowed with a tire problem that left him a lap down to the field.
Kyle Busch is still leading the race at the midway point with only one car out of the race - Joe Nemechek.
On lap 108 Kenseth, with a good push from Greg Biffle charged past Kyle Busch for the lead. One lap later it was Biffle's turn to earn five points, but Kyle Busch quickly returned to the top spot where he had been for most of the race.
Just before the mid-point, Ryan Newman began to move through the field. By lap 100 he was up to second and on lap 120 he took his first lead of the race.
Green flag pit stops began on lap 120 and Kurt Busch was caught speeding. The penalty left him almost a lap down. Brother Kyle Busch returned to the top with Newman, "Junior," Stewart and Bowyer in tow.
Hamlin was not among the top-10 and had left-rear fender damage which was hurting his aerodynamic package. He was one second a lap slower than the leader and in 29th place.
Through 150 laps and Busch was still fighting out all challenges. He had led a total of 81 laps and on the next lap clinched the "most laps led" bonus.
With 46 laps left, Gordon pulled his car into the garage with a control arm bracket. He was out of the race.
"We saw signs of this in testing, we went back to the shop and braced everything as best we could to prevent this from happening," said Gordon. "It's a product of the type of suspension we are running...it wasn't safe for us to be out there."
Biffle beat Kyle Busch off pit road, but the No.18 JGR Toyota didn't wait very long before making a move. Two lap later Busch was the leader.
On lap 160 David Ragan tried to slip in front of Matt Kenseth and the two collided bringing out the caution flag and ending the hopes for both drivers.
While everyone came in, "Junior" stayed out on the track getting the five- point bonus. The crew thought he had enough fuel to get to the finish, but tires was the big question. Dave Blaney also stayed out and was second, Stewart was third. Kyle Busch restarted in 11th place.
After just one lap, Busch was up to sixth and flying.
Thirty-two laps to go and Kasey Kahne with a huge push from Stewart brought them around the outside of "Junior" for the lead. Stewart was showing a lot of horsepower and easily charged past Kahne on the next lap.
Earnhardt Jr. fought back, got to Stewart's bumper, got him loose and retook the lead as the two battled side-by-side. Stewart grabbed it back and the two friends, who always work well at restrictor-plate tracks, were one-two with 25 laps remaining. But looming behind them was Kyle Busch, now in third place.
Twenty-four laps remaining and Johnson was clipped by Hornish Jr. and went spinning through the infield grass coming off turn 2. His chance of winning the "500" - over.
Busch (two tires) and Stewart (four tires) pitted among the leaders and they came out ninth and 11th, respectively. Earnhardt Jr. remained on the track and in the lead. Bowyer and Newman also stayed out and were just behind the leader.
Bowyer and Newman had fresher tires than Earnhardt Jr. and passed him for the lead. But Busch was coming again, he was sixth. Then Bowyer got spun going into turn 1 with help from Juan Pablo Montoya.
The caution flag came out and the race was down to 13 laps.
Newman inherited the lead with Montoya, Jeff Burton, Biffle and Busch lined up behind him. Stewart was sixth.
They got two laps of green flag racing and Busch got up to fourth before Blaney got turned into Mark Martin. Meanwhile, Burton dropped to the bottom of the track and grabbed the lead from Newman, who fell back to third behind Biffle.
Eight laps to go and the green flag dropped to restart the race.
Busch held his position for about half a lap and then ducked to the bottom and into second place behind Burton. Then Mears got knocked into the wall setting up a three-lap shootout for the victory.
It would be Burton, Busch, Stewart and Newman on the restart.
The flag dropped and Busch went to the bottom. Stewart went to the top and no one went with Burton who fell back. Stewart, with Newman on his tail, grabbed the lead with two laps to go.
Stewart then slid to the bottom of the track to pick up teammate Kyle Busch and it left Newman and Kurt Busch with a clear line at the top of the track. Kurt gave Newman a great push and Newman had the lead coming out of turn four. The No.12 Dodge kept it straight and he collected his first Daytona 500 win.
"I was very emotional pushing Ryan to the win," said Kurt Busch, who started 43rd and finished second.
"I thought I ran one of the best races of my life, I just couldn't finish it off,' said Stewart.
Stewart, Kyle Busch and Sorenson complete the top-five. Defending Daytona 500 champion Harvick's engine lasted the entire race and he finished 14th, while series champion Johnson was credited with a 27th-place result.
The next race in the series is scheduled for Sunday, February 24th at the California Speedway.
02/17 19:14:27 ET
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