NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Look Back: Third Time’s a Charm for Newman in 2003
As the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series returned to Kansas Speedway for the third time, fans wondered if Jeff Gordon would continue to dominate the track to become the first driver to win a Sprint Cup Series race in the facilities first three races or would someone dethrone him of his hold on Kansas Speedway?
For two-time runner-up Ryan Newman, it would be a long day as he looked for a way to break into victory lane. For the first 239 laps, it seemed Newman wasn’t destined to win at Kansas, but with 28 laps to go he would pass NASCAR veteran and one of the most popular drivers in the Sprint Cup Series, Bill Elliott, and go on to capture his first win at Kansas. The win was the eighth of the 2003 season for Newman.
However, the win didn’t come without a gamble. Newman and Crew Chief Matt Borland made the decision to not pit for gas or tires with 65 laps to go and instead try to utilize the opportunity to gain valuable track position.
“It was like playing poker,” Newman said. “We play the fuel card when we need to. It was as much luck as skill.”
It seemed all day that Elliott would be the man in victory lane as he led 115 laps. As the end of the race neared however, Elliott got caught in slower lap traffic allowing Newman to slip by for the victory. With the win, Newman would jump to fourth in the point standings.
Two-time Kansas Speedway winner Gordon would have to settle for a fifth-place finish after dealing with an ill handling car for most of the day. “It just got tighter and tighter as the day went on,” said Gordon. “We were pretty good for a few laps, and then it would get tight again.”
Newman would finish sixth in the final point standings.