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Ryan's Race to the Chase: One final push

September 06, 2013, Holly Cain, NASCAR.com

Ryan's Race to the Chase: One final push
Newman knows anything can happen in regular-season finale at Richmond

RICHMOND, Va. -- With one race remaining in NASCAR’s Race to the Chase, Ryan Newman finds himself in prime position to make his third Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup since 2006. After a summer of drama Newman is intent on finishing out his tenure with Stewart-Haas Racing as the only representative of the organization in the postseason.

He showed up at Richmond International Raceway this week confident and in good spirits. A win in the No. 39 Quicken Loans Chevrolet would clinch at least a Wild Card position. He’s also still in contention for a guaranteed top-10 points slot considering he’s 20 points behind 10th-place Kurt Busch and 30 points behind eighth-place Joey Logano.

“To me, everything is like an ordinary race weekend,’’ Newman said. “Once the checkered flag drops, it all changes. We have to do the same thing that we wanted to do back in Daytona for the 500, at Phoenix and Vegas, everything else. That is the same task at hand: to win the race.

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“Again, for so many of us, winning answers so many things. A few of us, some people can win and still not make it in. In my position, if I win, I'm in. I can run second and still not make it. It's just a matter of going out there and seeing how everything falls.”

He continued, “I finished 21st in Bristol, went out of the Wild Card spot to into the Wild Card spot.  Anything can happen in a short-track race.”

Ultimately five of the 12 Chase positions will be decided by 10 drivers in Saturday night’s Federated Auto Parts 400, and like a lot of others, Newman believes that creates a dramatic dynamic. Some people will be more desperate than others.

“I think it all depends on how things go,’’ Newman said grinning. “All it would take would be an hour rain delay and it drives people nuts. I think that totally changes the tempo, the emotion that goes into the start of the race. I've seen that happen in the last few years at different race tracks. What happened to these people? Did everybody have too much sugar in the rain delay or what? That can change everything.

“I think there's a little bit of potential for everything. I think there's a chance it could be calm, a chance it could be caution after caution after caution, a chance that could be the exact same scenario in the entire same race twice. It could be a couple long runs, then four cautions in a row, or vice versa.’’

Emotional highs and lows are certainly something Newman is familiar with considering he found out on July 14 that he wouldn’t be back with SHR, then won one of the most prestigious races on the circuit, the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis two weeks later.

He has been safely in the Chase field one week and fallen out the next week, but Newman is at least comfortable and optimistic when it comes to racing at Richmond.

Newman won here in 2003 with crew chief Matt Borland, who he reunited with this season. His 11.6 average finish the past eight years at the three-quarter mile track is easily best among the other drivers he must out-run to get in the Chase, and is among the top-six best in the field.

“I've been stuck in this spot so many times in my career over the last five or six years, I'm kind of used to it,’’ Newman said. “I've made it. I've missed it. I know the highs and lows of both of them.

“Yeah, it's a little bit of a reward (to be in this position) knowing how we started with two DNFs in the first three races. To finish fifth in Daytona, two DNFs, then struggle with some tires at Martinsville, rebounded after losing my job, so to speak, with a win and a track record and pole at Indy. … There's been highs and lows throughout the season. That can happen four different times Saturday night.’’

Although Newman was coy this week about confirming his plans for 2014, he said an announcement was imminent.

“I spent some time this week working on next year, which I can't really talk anything about,’’ Newman allowed. “I also spent a lot of time around my farm. It was the first week we've had no rain. I was actually able to do some of the things I wanted to get done.

“To me that helps balance out some of the mental sanity of dealing with next year, dealing with this year. I think everybody has to have that in some shape or form.’’

A win Saturday wouldn’t hurt either.

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