Hello ... Newman

DEAN MCNULTY

, Last Updated: 10:04 AM ET

DAYTONA, Fla. -- Maybe NASCAR should just change the name of its signature race to the Daytona 90 because, for the second consecutive year, it took 410 miles before the Daytona 500 got exciting.

At the end, it was Ryan Newman in the No. 12 Dodge giving team owner Roger Penske his first Daytona 500 win to go with his record 14 Indianapolis 500 victories.

To complete the sweep for Penske South Racing, Kurt Busch came from nowhere to put his No. 2 Dodge in second place.

The Penske rout was the most unlikely of outcomes. The Dodge teams had pretty much been overlooked as the media and fans concentrated on an expected battle of the super teams -- Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolets and Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas that never really materialized.

One by one, the Hendrick stars -- Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Casey Mears -- were taken out, either be accident or mechanical failure.

Only pre-race favourite Dale Earnhardt Jr. was there at the finish line bringing his No. 88 Chevrolet home in ninth place.

"I made the wrong choices with the runs I got," Earnhardt said. "If you're in the right line, the help goes with you."

It was heartbreak for Toyota and Gibbs, however, as Kyle Busch in the No. 18 Camry with teammate Tony Stewart in the No. 20 Camry and Denny Hamlin in the No. 11 Camry dominated the race leading 134 of the 200 laps.

Stewart would finish third and Kyle Busch fourth with Hamlin 17th.

However, the record will show that Dodge put six cars in the top 10 with Reed Sorenson finishing fifth in the No. 41 Dodge, Elliott Sadler sixth in the No. 19 followed by Kasey Kahne in the No. 9 and Robby Gordon in the No. 7.

It was the end of a long drought for Newman, who had gone 81 races stretching back to September 2005 at New Hampshire without a victory.

Yesterday, Newman said that he never had any doubt that he had the car to win the biggest race in NASCAR.

"I know sometimes people will come up to you on race day and say 'today is going to be your day' and you know it usually doesn't mean anything. But (yesterday) I actually felt like it was going to be my day from the moment I woke up in the morning."

Newman -- who had a volatile relationship with former Penske teammate Rusty Wallace -- said that the key to his win was getting the push at the end from Busch.

"That's the way teammates are supposed to work," he said. "He has been a great teammate every since he arrived here."

Stewart was visibly upset that he let what he considered a sure win get away from him and the Gibbs team.

"(I am) disappointed, obviously," he said. "It would be a lie to come in here and say I was happy about, you know, going from first to third on the last lap of the Daytona 500. I just made the wrong decision on the backstretch.

"It's probably one of the most disappointing moments in my racing career."

Kurt Busch, who started 43rd after his team gave his 2007 points to rookie Sam Hornish Jr., said that everybody underestimated the Penske squad.

" I don't know if we're in the same calibre as the Gibbs and Hendrick cars are right now," he said. "But it's definitely great to finish 1-2 and to be leading the points right now."

It was the third second-place finish at Daytona for Busch but he said that at only 29-years-old he's confident that he'll get to victory lane before his career is over.

"There's going to be another Daytona 500 next year and maybe then it will be my turn," he said.

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TOP-FIVE FINISHERS

1. Ryan Newman Dodge

2. Kurt Busch Dodge

3. Tony Stewart Toyota

4. Kyle Busch Toyota

5. Reed Sorenson Dodge


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