When the Chase for the Sprint Cup rule changes were announced before the start of the 2014 season, there were two things that would have been unbelievable. The first would be that a winless driver would be in the final four drivers for the championship, and one of those drivers would be Ryan Newman.
Here we are just days away from the start of the Ford Championship Weekend and Ryan Newman is playing the role of the underdog. He will contend against Joey Logano (five wins this season), Kevin Harvick (four), and Denny Hamlin (one) to fight for the title. Though he does not have a win under his belt this season, that is not going to keep Newman from being confident this weekend.
“It doesn’t matter to me. I mean, in the end it really doesn’t matter…the fastest car may not win, the best car on a restart may not win. You just never know. It could come right down to fuel mileage and three of the four of us could be coasting on the last lap. You just never know,” commented Newman after Sunday’s race at Phoenix.
How this team has performed should not have surprised anyone, it was former driver Jeff Burton who gushed about how close the team was just one year ago. “We’ve got really, really good people on that team, and we’re starting to perform. Truly, I’m walking away from it when I believe we’re about to blossom. I can feel it. I can see it.”
The Homestead-Miami Speedway has not been the best track for Newman in his career. His best run was a third place effort in 2012; beyond that it has been a sixth place in 2002, and a pair of seventh place finishes in 2005 and 2001.
That said, this year is different from his past few years. Consistency has been Newman’s best friend this season. This can be seen by exactly how he has found his way into the Chase. Comparing last season with Stewart-Haas Racing, to this season with Richard Childress Racing, his numbers are much better on intermediate tracks. Last season he had one top-5 and seven top-10 finishes, this year it is two top-5s and seven top-10 finishes.
The difference is the average finish, one year ago it was 16.50 and this season it has been dropped to 10.38. He’s completed 99.98% of the laps run this season versus 95.06, thanks to finishing every race versus two DNFs last season. Another big stat is he has spent 74.63% of the laps run in the top-15 this season versus 52.44% last year.
While the numbers don’t look great compared to the others going for the title, Newman has exposed one crucial side of himself this past weekend: he will do anything to put himself in contention for the title. As Newman said, “that’s part of the intensity of this Chase. It’s racing, man. That’s what we’re kind of supposed to do.”
And that is what they will do this Sunday in the Ford EcoBoost 400. Fans can catch the action at 3 PM EST on ESPN when the 2014 Sprint Cup Series championship will be determined after 36 grueling weeks.