35th-place finish at Kansas bumped Newman to 12th in the standings
Not that Newman, one of 13 drivers in this year's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, had any grand designs on making a trip to victory lane Sunday at Kansas Speedway, given the performance of his No. 39 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet up to that point.
But one never knows. Drivers have come from further behind with fewer laps remaining to suddenly find themselves spraying a celebratory beverage or two in the winner's circle.
"I don't think that our car was great," Newman said Tuesday during an appearance at the NASCAR Hall of Fame, "but I know we were capable of a top 10 run because I know we were better than some of those guys that finished in the top 10."
The difference being of course that those in the top 10 weren't slammed unexpectedly and unintentionally from the side.
The incident, which unfolded just after the halfway point of the 267-lap race, didn't end Newman's day. After extensive repairs to his car, the 35-year-old returned to the track (he would end up running 188 of the 267 laps) and finished 35th.
It wasn't Newman's worst finish of the year, but it was likely the most damaging. His deficit to point leader Matt Kenseth increased from 48 to 73 points with only six races remaining. He fell from seventh in to 12th in the standings.
"We're mathematically a long ways out, but we're mathematically not out of it," he said. "Realistically, yeah, it's going to be a challenge, but we can move up."
The focus for this year's winner at Indianapolis is on a strong finish. There is no next year for Newman and SHR – at season's end they go their separate ways. Kevin Harvick, Sunday's race winner, is one of two new Sprint Cup Series drivers in the 2014 SHR program; Newman will begin his career anew at Richard Childress Racing.
Until then, however, the driver who once won a race with a stuck throttle ("I ran the last nine laps with the kill switch," he recalled.) said he is "entirely 100 percent focused on 2013 and having an opportunity (to succeed)."
"We still have a lot of great opportunities, a lot of great race tracks to go to," he said. "As I said before … Indianapolis was a great weekend for us, and we need to show we can duplicate that again."
Newman said he hasn't been shut off from the weekly gatherings at SHR, but hasn't pushed to speed up the process of getting settled at RCR either.
He doesn't make himself "privy" to information regarding possible technical changes with his current employer, he said, "because that's not my job. My job is to drive the race car."
And any trips to RCR, he said, "was strictly to work on paperwork; we did a photo shoot and that was it. I haven't looked at their cars or anything else."
Newman will be searching for career win No. 18 this weekend when the Sprint Cup Series turns to Charlotte Motor Speedway for Saturday night's Bank of America 500. Nine of his 51 career poles have come at the 1.5-mile track, but he has yet to score a victory there.
"I hope we can just build off of where we were in the Coca‑Cola 600," he said of a sixth-place finish in the spring event. "… I've been in position several times at the Coke 600 and actually I think about five years ago led everything – led coming to the white and then crashed in Turn 1. I've been close at Charlotte.
"Just a good rebound weekend from what we had in Kansas would be good, not just for me but for everybody."