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AVONDALE -- Saturday night’s Subway Fresh Fit 600 at Phoenix International Raceway will be remembered for two things primarily: Ryan Newman winning his first NASCAR Sprint Cup race since moving to Stewart-Haas Racing prior to the start of the 2009 season, and Kyle Busch and the Joe Gibbs Racing squad snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
Busch passed Jimmie Johnson on lap 262 of the scheduled 375-lap race, and held the lead until Scott Riggs popped a right-front tire to bring out a caution on lap 373. The leaders all decided to pit, with six drivers taking two tires and emerging in the lead, while Johnson and Busch took four fresh Goodyears each, coming out seventh and eighth, respectively.
On the restart, new leader Jeff Gordon spun his tires badly, along Newman to move from second into the lead, with Johnson finishing third ahead of Mark Martin and Juan Pablo Montoya. Busch, who had the dominant car for the final one-third of the race, struggled home angry and frustrated with an eighth-place finish.
It was exactly the opposite for surprise winner Newman. “It's the most emotional victory of my entire career, just because it's been so long,” said Newman, who had not won a NASCAR Sprint Cup race since the 2008 Daytona 500.
Among the Blue Oval Boys, Matt Kenseth continued his season of consistent excellence, finishing sixth in his newly liveried No. 17 Crown Royal Black Ford Fusion. It was Kenseth’s sixth top-10 finish in seven races this season, tying him with teammate Greg Biffle for most in the series so far this year. Kenseth also overtook Biffle in the point standings, moving up to second, 36 markers back of Johnson and 20 up on Biffle, who fought handling issues en route to a 22nd-place finish at Phoenix in his 3M Fusion.
Carl Edwards had a strong night, too, as he finished seventh in his No. 99 Subway Fusion, the third consecutive finish of eighth or better for the Missouri native. On the basis of his PIR finish, Edwards jumped up in the standings from 14th to eighth.
Polesitter AJ Allmendinger also had handling issues, but managed a respectable 15th-place run in the No. 43 Valvoline Fusion out of the Richard Petty Motorsports stable.