News & Media


Behind the Wheel: Newman feeling good as wild-card battle heats up

August 16, 2012, Ryan Newman, Special to NASCAR.COM, NASCAR.com

Ryan Newman has four weeks to keep the second wild-card spot and stay ahead of Jeff Gordon. (Getty Images)

There are four races to go until the Chase and we are currently in control of the second wild-card spot, but you and I both know our position with respect to the wild card can change after just one lap at Michigan International Speedway this weekend.

That's kind of how this wild-card battle is going to be, if you ask me. Unless someone rattles off a couple of wins here in the next four races, I really think it's going to go right down to the wire at Richmond next month.

"We are definitely in a battle, but I feel we have what it takes to get the wild card. We just have to go out there and perform like we know we can."

--

Everyone keeps asking me if I feel the pressure in the situation we are in and, to be quite honest, I don't put pressure on myself. Maybe other people try to put pressure on me, but I don't let them. I know I have a job to do and I know I am fully capable of doing my job and doing it the best I can.

If we are successful as a team, that will happen. We are dealing with other teams that are incredibly successful. I believe we are fully capable of getting wins and making the Chase.

Obviously, we wish we were already in the top 10 and not fighting for a wild card, but that's not the case. So instead of looking back and saying we should have done better here or there, we're just focused on the next four races and having the best performance at each of the upcoming tracks that we possibly can.

We are definitely in a battle, but I feel we have what it takes to get the wild card. We just have to go out there and perform like we know we can.

The next two weeks are two very different race tracks for us. We have Michigan this weekend in the WIX Filters colors, and Bristol next weekend with Outback Steakhouse.

Michigan is a very special track to me because I consider it to be my home track. My very first Cup crew chief was Matt Borland and he was from Haslett, Mich. So his slogan, whenever we came to Michigan, was, "It's God's country," and that's because he's from Michigan.

I spent a lot of time in Michigan at my dad's shop in Niles. So, it is like coming home for me. Before there was Chicagoland Speedway, and before there was the Brickyard, to me, Michigan was the Cup track. It was the place we called home. My grandparents had a cottage in southern Michigan. In Indiana, we lived literally a mile from the Michigan state line. So, we spent a lot of time in Michigan and it is really like coming home. The Irish Hills are absolutely beautiful, and I really enjoy the area -- especially the fishing.

We've improved at Michigan over the past couple of years. Last year, we had a couple of top-10 finishes. In June, I think we had a car that was capable of a top-10 finish, we just didn't put it together. With a new tire and the fresh pavement -- we've only raced on it once -- I think it's going to be interesting.

Then, we're heading to Bristol. And to be honest, with the changes that were made to the race track, I really don't know what to expect there. I think the top groove is gone, so I think we might be back to the Bristol of old -- where we're rooting and gouging and wrecking.

Typically, the No. 39 team has been really good at Bristol. Short tracks have been our forte, for sure. And with Outback Steakhouse on the car there, we're hoping to go for a clean sweep in their colors for the season since we won in our first outing with them at Martinsville.

Every weekend, our goal is to win. But at the very least, we need to get two top-10s these next two weeks so we can help our position in the points and hopefully hold on to that second wild-card spot. And of course, a top-10 at both tracks means all of the fans out there can go enjoy Bloomin' Monday at Outback Steakhouse and get a free Bloomin' Onion on me.

Behind the Wheel with Ryan Newman runs twice a month on NASCAR.COM as he shares his experiences throughout the season, both at and away from the track. Follow him on Twitter at @RyanNewman39 and online at www.ryannewman.org and www.ryannewmanfoundation.org. The opinions expressed are solely those of Newman.