Newman carries the flag for SHR's Chase hopes, saying there's work to be done
With four races remaining before the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, Ryan Newman's odds at securing a berth in the 12-driver field improved last week.
But not by design. And certainly not the way he'd prefer.
Newman's Stewart-Haas Racing team owner and teammate, Tony Stewart, severely broke his leg in a sprint car race last Monday and will be out of action indefinitely while recovering.
Newman and Kasey Kahne are the drivers currently in the two Wild Card spots as Stewart is out of the car and dropped dramatically in the standings after Sunday's Cheez-It 355 at Watkins Glen, N.Y.
Newman drove the No. 39 Haas Automation Chevy to a 14th-place showing at The Glen to hold steady in his 14th-place ranking. Kahne, who is ranked 12th, has two wins and would hold the top Wild Card spot.
Newman could also race his way into a guaranteed Chase berth by cracking the top-10 in the standings; Newman trails 10th-place Martin Truex Jr. by only 20 points.
Sipping a soft drink, and shaking his head at it all, Newman spoke candidly about his whirlwind last four weeks -- from getting the news he won't be returning to SHR in 2014, to winning the Brickyard 400 at his home track Indianapolis Motor Speedway, to now being the team's only hope for a Chase run.
Beyond being worried about Stewart's health, what does his injury mean for your Race to the Chase?
Newman: "It doesn't change anything with respect to me; it just changes the potential that I have to make the Chase. We did have the opportunity to get two cars in and we now have the opportunity to get one car in.
"The one car has a better chance because of his misfortunes, unfortunately. But this (situation) doesn't make any kind of guarantees. We still have a lot of work. We're still outside of that (guaranteed top-10) number.
"It does give us a better opportunity of making the Chase either via a Wild Card or a points position."
Obviously this has turned out to be a curve ball no one was expecting:
Newman: "Yes. It's unfortunate for him (Stewart) and fortunate for me, and he'd sit here and tell you the same thing if the positions were reversed. It's not like we want to see it happen.
What does this do to the pressure you have as Stewart-Haas Racing's only shot at the Chase?
Newman: "I don't see it that way (any more pressure or expectation). I know from the outside it may look that way, but I don't see it that way. I have a job to do regardless, whether Tony Stewart is injured or not, whether I have 42 sponsors or zero. I have the responsibility to do the very best job I can do for myself."
This is the time of season where testing becomes crucial and SHR has shown direct results from the places you've tested, opting not to hold your tests off until the Chase. What are the immediate plans and your mindset about testing?
Newman: "We were in a position where we needed to use those tests and you can use them to your advantage if you have good tests before the Chase. You have to be careful because if you wait you can overload yourself in the Chase. I think some teams, like Hendrick have waited to use theirs and if you're prepared for that, it's fine. But we were in a position for a couple double-hitters like Loudon (N.H.) and Pocono (Pa.) that pay off by helping you in the Chase and again in the Chase."
What is the outlook for your No. 39 Quicken Loans Chevy in Sunday's race at Michigan International Speedway. You won back-to-back races there in 2003-04 and a pole position in 2005. You've had three top-10 finishes in your last five starts there and were 18th earlier this season after recovering from a flat tire?
Newman: "I look forward to it. We've been pretty competitive at the bigger race tracks this year. We were competitive at Michigan earlier this year and I look forward to going there because Quicken Loans is headquartered there and Chevrolet. I used to consider it my home track before the Brickyard was even there (on the schedule).”
And finally, is there any news to report in terms of the 2014 season?
Newman: "There are always developments, but there are no answers right now. There is development."