Ryan Newman believes he has the answers when it comes to racing at Dover International Speedway in Dover, Del. Jimmie Johnson is trying to regain the advantage he once had on the Monster Mile.
They will be among the drivers to beat today on the high-banked concrete oval where Newman has won three of the last four races.
"It's just a matter of getting it right through the corners because the straightaways in reference to the corners are relatively short," Newman said. "You have to have a car that corners really good here."
Newman won here in September and had a strong car last June, but wrecked his chances for victory by hitting the soft barrier while trying to enter pit road late in the race. He wound up 24th.
The entrance to pit road here, and at many NASCAR tracks, can be difficult to negotiate, but an occasional gaffe can be overlooked if a driver knows how to negotiate the tight and narrow track generally considered one of the most difficult on the Nextel Cup circuit. Newman has shown that he knows how to get around the place better than most.
"This track is so unique you usually have to come here knowing what you're doing because it's concrete, because of the banking, because of the way the straightaways are," he explained. "If you've got it right in the past it's easy to get it right again -- usually."
Still trying to figure it out is Johnson, given the pole in his Chevrolet for the MBNA 400 when rain prevented qualifying Friday and the field was set by car-owner points. With a 71-point lead over Greg Biffle, Johnson will start from the pole here for the first time.
He and crew chief Chad Knaus are hoping for better performances than Johnson had in his last two starts here. He was involved in a crash last June and finished 32nd. In September, Johnson improved to 10th, but that was nowhere near as impressive as his earlier Dover races.
As a rookie in 2002, he swept here. He is one of only nine drivers to do that since NASCAR began staging two races each summer at Dover in 1971.
"We're trying to figure out what has changed," Johnson said. "We've been in the top five, top 10, but not as dominant as we were in that rookie season."
Johnson is coming off a record-setting third straight victory in the Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe's Motor Speedway, and the usually slow-starting Newman will try for his fourth consecutive top-five finish.
He concedes that new aerodynamic rules and new tires have made racing a little bit more difficult this season. But the Dodge driver doesn't believe those factors should be used as an excuse for poor results.
"By June, if you don't have it figured out, you're in trouble," he said.
* CHAMP CAR: Paul Tracy earned his fourth victory yesterday at the Milwaukee Mile in West Allis, Wis.
The Canadian-born Tracy made a gutsy outside pass of pole-winner Jimmy Vasser on the 19th of 221 laps and went on to win the Road Runner 225 Champ Car World Series event, holding off tenacious second-year driver A.J. Allmendinger in the waning laps.
"It was going at it like 10 years ago," Tracy said. "That was fun."
Tracy, who started fifth in the 17-car field, was second by the end of the first lap. He stayed close to Vasser, who started from the pole for the first time in four years, and finally made his move on a restart following the first of three caution flags in the race.
The Canadian-born Tracy, who lives in Las Vegas, shot to the outside of Vasser on the wide, flat mile oval. Vasser fought hard to hold Tracy off and the two drove side by side for more than half a lap before Tracy finally pulled ahead coming off the fourth turn.