Ryan’s Race to the Chase: Wild Card in reach
July 29, 2013, Holly Cain, NASCAR.com
That sentence -- or rather understatement -- was Ryan Newman’s refrain, his mantra and his reality this weekend from his native Indiana.
FULL SERIES COVERAGE
WILD CARD STANDINGS
|Pos||Driver||Wins||Pts Pos||Pts from 10th|
It’s what he said after winning the Coors Light Pole Award for Sunday’s Crown Royal presents the Samuel Deeds 400 at the Brickyard powered by BigMachineRecords.com at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series record qualifying effort. And it’s what he repeated late Sunday afternoon after scoring one of the most popular victories ever in one of NASCAR’s biggest races.
It was a huge two-week turnaround for Newman, who found out by phone on July 10 that he needed to find a new job for 2014. That weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, team owner and good friend Tony Stewart announced Newman wouldn’t be returning to Stewart-Haas Racing and then Newman was crashed out of the Camping World RV Sales 301, inciting a short-lived but public war of words with Kyle Busch.
“The emotions have been an absolute roller coaster,’’ Newman said shortly after joining his family in the traditional kissing of the bricks at the fabled track’s finish line.
“Loudon was a disaster. We got crashed out, everything that was said. We got through all that stuff.
“The weekend off (last week) was good timing to be able to hit control-alt-delete. And (crew chief) Matt (Borland) did an amazing job to come here with a fast race car and give me what I needed.’’
The victory Sunday in his No. 39 Quicken Loans/Smurfs Chevy made Newman the biggest winner of the day in the championship standings, moving him up three positions to 16th with six races remaining in the Race to the Chase that sets the 12-driver Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup field.
Newman is now only 25 points from a guaranteed top-10 position and back in the running for a wildcard, 20 points behind 12th place Martin Truex Jr. Importantly, he now possesses a win that no one ranked between him and Truex owns.
“We’re not out of this Chase, we’re not out of this chance for a championship,’’ Newman said. “We’ve just got to keep our nose to the grindstone. There’s still a ton of racing left.
“Another three wins before the Chase starts would be great,’’ he added with a laugh.
Of course that would be the ultimate audition tape for a 2014 ride.
But Newman has maintained that his mindset and motivation remain unchanged from even before finding out he needed to find a new team for next year.
He has steadfastly maintained that his desire to win was just as intense prior to the news as it’s been since, that there is no sense of urgency.
Joking after winning the pole Saturday -- his 50th but first in two years -- he said he simply had waited for “a special moment.’’
Newman said he’s always had confidence his team was behind him.
“I got fired a couple weeks ago, come back here, win the pole and win the race,’’ Newman said. “It’s all because of hard effort. It’s all because they haven’t given up. They want to win just as bad as I do.’’
Echoed his crew chief Matt Borland, “There’s not one person on that team that doesn’t try to win every week and make that car better every week. No one expects him to quit (on the season), no one expects me to quit, no one expects anyone on the team to quit.
“They all do a fantastic job.’’
And while Newman, who concedes he’s not the most emotional guy in the NASCAR garage, didn’t want to overstate what the victory Sunday meant. His team owner and fellow Hoosier Stewart was more than willing to.
“Even before Ryan came and drove for us, we were friends,’’ a heartfelt Stewart said. “So that made that decision (not to retain him in 2014) and that made that phone call of telling him that much harder.
“It's not just winning with a driver that drives for us, it's my friend out there that won the race today, too. That's what makes this more gratifying at the same time.
“I guess it's extreme to extreme. I mean, it's on the good end of the extreme this week.
“It's a dream. It's a dream to be where he's standing right now at the end of the race. We know the history of this place. Ryan can tell you more stats about here than I can, but we know, we understand, we appreciate the history of this sport, the great drivers and teams that have raced and won here.
“That's a big deal to us being from here.”