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Winston Cup Series

Sunday, April 6

Newman spin caused wreck
Associated Press

TALLADEGA, Ala. -- Ryan Newman got another wild ride at a restrictor-plate race, blowing a tire that knocked half the field out of Sunday's race at Talladega Superspeedway.

Newman blew his left rear tire on the third lap of the Aaron's 499, triggering a massive 27-car accident that had driver after driver criticizing what's become a routine in restrictor plate races.

``It's three- and four-wide racing and one guy makes a mistake and it takes everyone with him,'' Jeff Burton said. ``That's the problem with this kind of racing _ there wasn't anything anyone could do.''

Newman, who flipped his car several times through the infield grass in the season-opening race at Daytona, lost his tire between Turns 1 and 2. His No. 12 Dodge hit Mark Martin, then turned right and slammed nose-first into the wall.

The car tipped on its side before hitting the ground, sliding to the bottom of the track and briefly catching fire.

Dozens of cars collected behind him _ including Newman's teammate Rusty Wallace _ as driver after driver was unable to avoid slamming into one another through the smoke and crumpled sheet metal.

``You can see the `Big One' coming every lap and you just wait for it to happen,'' said Bobby Labonte, who also wrecked at Daytona. ``Running that close, there's nothing you can do to avoid it.''

A tire, possibly off of Newman's car, went sailing over the Turn 2 fence to the outer grounds of the track.

Crews raced to their garage stalls, standing around in frustration as they waited for their cars to be towed off the track. Newman's team worked furiously on his crumpled Dodge, the hood smashed so badly it was pushed up into a 90 degree angle.

Newman, last week's race winner at Texas, was sore from the accident and angry over his second straight wreck in a restrictor-plate race.

``This is just the way the races are here,'' he said after changing into street clothes.

Asked what the solution was to avoid big accidents, Newman was curt: ``Don't come here. We've got other race tracks we can go to.''

Drivers have varying opinions on restrictor-plate racing, usually depending on whether or not they wreck.

Carburetor restrictor plates and aerodynamic devices are used to keep speeds under 200 mph in the interest of safety at Talladega and Daytona, the circuit's two biggest and fastest layouts.

The plates create large packs of cars running bumper-to-bumper and side-by-side for almost the entire race.

But because this wreck was caused by Newman's blown tire, and it happened so early in the race, it's possible that the outcome would have been similar at almost every other race track.

That was little consolation to the slew of drivers standing helpless around their crumpled cars while 26 others continued on with the race.

``I think about 20 of us are in the garage right now and that's upsetting,'' Wallace said. ``I really didn't think this was going to happen today.

``I started out with a good feeling because I really believe we all have a little more experience, we're a little smoother and have more respect for this type of racing. But it didn't work out.''

Among those involved in the accident were the Chip Ganassi Racing rookies Casey Mears and Jamie McMurray, Ricky Rudd, Jimmy Spencer and Ken Schrader.

Dale Earnhardt Jr., the race favorite, pitted to repair some damage to the front of his Chevrolet but remained on the lead lap.

``It's not very good racing,'' Jeff Green said. ``It might be great for the fans, but when you've got half the field in the garage area, it can't be a very good race for them, either.''

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