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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Penske finally wins NASCAR showcase

Mike Brudenell Detroit Free Press

DAYTONA, Fla. – Roger Penske, who helped Detroit stage a resounding Super Bowl XL in 2006, captured the one motor sports gem missing from his shelf Sunday when Ryan Newman won the 50th Daytona 500 in a breathtaking finish from teammate Kurt Busch.

Newman, driving the wheels off the No. 12 Alltel Dodge, and Busch, giving him a push all the way around Daytona International Speedway on the last lap, gave Penske his first 500 victory in 30 years of trying.

“This goes to the top of the charts for Penske Racing,” said Penske, a 14-time winner of the Indianapolis 500.

Busch, driving the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge, followed Newman across the stripe, with Tony Stewart in the No. 20 Home Depot Toyota third. Dale Earnhardt Jr., in the No. 88 AMP Energy/National Guard Toyota, was ninth, and bitterly disappointed after looking like a good bet to win the race toward the end.

“This was just a great effort,” said Newman, who hadn’t won a NASCAR Sprint Cup race in more than two years. “He (Busch) and I just stayed together. It’s awesome, we’re a family. I just couldn’t have done it without Kurt. I just don’t have the words. It’s the most awesome thing that has happened to me.”

With his father spotting for him and his grandparents in the stands, Newman, who qualified seventh, was fourth when the race was restarted with just two laps to go.

Said Penske: “Ryan ran a masterful race. This is just unbelievable. I’ve been coming here 30 years trying to get to victory circle. This was just a great team effort.”

Known for his withering pole runs, Newman stood on the gas and put Penske, his car owner and Birmingham billionaire, into the 500 history books.

Busch, the 2004 Cup champion, attached himself to Newman’s bumper and the pair drafted to a 1-2 Penske finish.

Busch, who had all sorts of trouble during the race, at one point running onto the grass down the back straight to avoid hitting a car, was pleased for Newman.

“I’m excited to be part of helping Ryan win,” said Busch. “I was very emotional crossing the line. … It was great to do it for the Captain (Penske) today. It’s a great day for Penske. We had big hearts and we persevered.”

For a while, it appeared the Toyotas would run away with the Great American Race. Kyle Busch, in the No. 18 M&M’s Toyota, was dominant throughout most of the race, leading the most laps but finishing just fourth.

Defending Cup champion Jimmie Johnson crashed out of the 500, in what was a difficult day for Hendrick Motorsports. He was credited with a 27th-place finish, while Casey Mears, who also wrecked, was 35th and Jeff Gordon, the four-time series champion, 39th, falling out of the 500 with suspension problems.

Earnhardt’s finish was the one bright spot for Hendrick. The newest member of the mega team drove hard all day but faded in the dash to the line in the final laps.

Stewart, looking to win his first Daytona 500 in his 10th start in the race, did everything in his power to give Joe Gibbs Racing and Toyota the victory.

But he couldn’t match Newman and Busch, who ganged up to give Penske the win.

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