Newman edges Stewart to win at Loudon, NH

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Newman edges Stewart to win at Loudon, NH

LOUDON, N.H. (AP) -- Ryan Newman held off his boss and teammate Tony Stewart to win his first race of the season at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Sunday.

Newman won from the pole and became the 13th different winner in 19 Sprint Cup races. Newman and Stewart made it the first front-row start for Stewart-Haas Racing in qualifying Friday and they went 1-2 again when it mattered on race day. It was a banner weekend for SHR, and Newman and Stewart hope they've positioned themselves as Chase for the Sprint Cup championship contenders.

"This was a perfect weekend," Stewart said. "Just an awesome day for Stewart-Haas. We just needed one day where didn't have something stupid go wrong."

It was a pair of near-flawless runs for the drivers as they gear up for a championship run. Newman won for the first time since April 2010 in Phoenix and Stewart earned only his second top-five of the season.

Newman became choked up after the race as he dedicated the victory to the military, friends and relatives.

"We knew we were capable of it," he said. "We were so close so many times this year."

Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano and five-time champion Jimmie Johnson rounded out the top five.

Johnson and Jeff Gordon, who finished 11th, both rallied from major setbacks for strong finishes. Kyle Busch, who started the race as the points leader, had tire issues, was forced to the garage and finished 36th.

With some of the top drivers scuffling, Newman and Stewart stayed out in front down the stretch. Newman led 119 of the 301 laps and won his 15th career Cup race.

Only seven races remain until the Chase field is set. The top 10 drivers automatically earn a spot. Two spots in the Chase will go to the winningest drivers ranked between 11 and 20.

Newman is in eighth place.

"It puts us in a lot better position that's for sure," he said.

He's the latest new face in Victory Lane for 2011. The 13 different winners match the total from last season.

Newman was at home in New Hampshire's Victory Lane. He also won the Modified Tour race Saturday.

-- The Associated Press

Backes introduces Bruins fans to his 'Athletes for Animals' charity

Backes introduces Bruins fans to his 'Athletes for Animals' charity

JAMAICA PLAIN -- David Backes probably could have opted to have his introductory press conference inside the Bruins dressing room at TD Garden, or maybe even in some finished part of the team's new practice facility in Brighton, which is set to open a couple of months from now.

Instead, the new Bruins forward met face-to-face with the media for the first time while taking a tour of the MSPCA and, in the process, introducing Bruins fans to his “Athletes for Animals” charity, a foundation that promotes rescuing -- and protecting the welfare of -- homeless pets nationwide.

Backes took pictures with a pit bull named Greta that’s been at the MSPCA Adoption Center for the last seven months looking for a “forever home”.

And as he spoke, it became abundantly clear that this is what the 32-year-old former St. Louis Blues captain is all about.

“[Taking a tour of the facility] gives you a warm feeling inside, and makes you feel like you’re already a part of the city while helping give some attention to the great work that they’re doing,” said Backes, the owner of four dogs (Maverick, Rosey, Marty, Bebe) and two cats (Sunny, Poly), who is house-hunting in Boston this week with his wife and 13-month-old daughter.

“Hopefully this will be just the beginning of our connecting with the community, and helping serve the people that are great fans of the Bruins and that will be watching us every night. [Hopefully] they’re watching us go on deep playoff runs year after year.”

Backes’ efforts with rescue animals gained national notoriety when he took time to help with the stray dog situation in Sochi, Russia during the last Winter Olympics. But the roots of his “Athletes for Animals” charity goes back to his college days at Minnesota State University, Mankato.

“The full story is that in college we wanted an animal or two, but it just wasn’t responsible because we were renting and the landlords didn’t approve," he said "We just didn’t really have the time or resources to support them, so we volunteered at the local shelter for the three years I was in school.

“When my wife [Kelly] and I moved to St. Louis, we wanted to connect with the community, be a part and use our voice to influence social change to do our part making the world a little bit of a better place. So we said ‘Why not connect with the animal welfare rescue community?’

“We absolutely love doing it: Walking dogs, scooping litter boxes and cleaning kennels. Let’s use our voice to kick this off and see what we can do, and it really just snowballed from that to then trying to tie other guys into it. It’s not limited to the animal stuff, but the animals that don’t have a voice, and the kids that don’t have a voice, really tug at our heart strings. We want to help them with this blessing of a great voice we’ve been given as professional athletes, and to really use that to give them some help.”

For these reasons alone, Backes is a great fit in Boston. The Bruins donate heavily to the MSPCA and were one of the first NHL organizations to come up with the Pucks ‘N Pups calendar, which each year features Bruins players and their dogs, or strays from the MSPCA, to raise money for the animal welfare organization.

To learn more about Backes’ organization, “Athletes for Animals,” visit http://athletesforanimals.org .