News & Media

Top non-Chasers battling to be 'Best of the Rest'

September 29, 2012, Holly Cain, Special to NASCAR.COM,

DOVER, Del. -- Their cars are parked on the far side of the Sprint Cup Series garage this week at Dover International Speedway. They no longer have weekly scheduled interviews with the NASCAR press corps; no more television cameras constantly in their faces, reporters hanging on their every word.

It probably feels like an alternate universe for Kyle Busch, Ryan Newman and Carl Edwards -- traditional championship contenders who are instead spending the last 10 weeks of this season vying to be "Best of the Rest."

Happy hunting

In his latest blog for NASCAR.COM, Ryan Newman talks about wanting to finish the season strong.


Race for 13th

14. R. Newman 807 -24
15. C. Edwards 797 -34
16. P. Menard 792 -39
17. M. Ambrose 772 -59
18. J. Logano 751 -80
19. J. Burton 696 -135
20. J. McMurray 682 -149

While they all have teammates contending for the Cup title, these three popular drivers are in a points battle for 13th place in the final standings, working toward next season while still scoring some TV time for their sponsors.

"It's a little more challenging getting the TV time, but it's a product of not making the Chase,'' Busch acknowledged last week. "That's what you get.''

Busch currently sits in 13th place, 24 points ahead of 14th-place Newman and 34 points ahead of 15th-place Edwards.

Busch and Newman qualified fifth and eighth, respectively, for Sunday's AAA 400 at Dover -- two of three non-Chase drivers starting among the top 10 (lineup).

And while their disappointment and frustration at missing the Chase is obvious, so is the motivation to make sure it doesn't happen again.

"Actually, we're not going for 13th, we're going to win each and every race,'' Newman said. "The points don't matter at this point. If you're not first, you're last. We have no chance of being first so our goal is to go out there and win for our sponsors, ourselves and work together so we can build on next year and be in the Chase and be successful.

"We want to talk about being one of the 12, not one of the guys outside the top 12.''

Edwards, who lost the 2012 championship in a tiebreaker with Newman's teammate Tony Stewart, is taking a slightly more conservative approach. He half-joked prior to the regular-season finale that it would be his luck to miss the Chase then go on a winning spree to close out the year.

While that hasn't happened, yet, Edwards does have back-to-back fifth-place finishes in the first two Chase races, while Busch was runner-up last week and Newman's had a pair of top-10 runs.

"We want to win,'' Edwards said. "We want to prepare the best we can for next season. We want to make sure we can help with any setup stuff -- any advice we can [offer] -- anything we can do to help the 17 [Matt Kenseth] and 16 [Greg Biffle] win the championship this year.

"So we do have a lot of goals. It's not as much fun as [running for] the championship but we still have goals. We can work on everything, from the driver down to the pit crew -- just anything.

"We led the points the whole year, last year. Greg and Matt led the points the whole year, this year. We've just got to put it together and make it happen, over and over. We need that to be the norm. We're getting it. Everybody's working pretty hard. ''

Or as Newman calls it: business as usual.

"I don't think any of that every changes,'' Newman said. "It's not like we just start trying new stuff. No matter what track you go to, you do that each week trying different concepts and ideas.

"If you're not trying those things, you're going to be behind regardless. You can't just take what Tony Stewart had when he won five races and plug it in the next year and expect it to work. It doesn't work like that.

"Everybody continues to develop. From the outside it looks like we should be taking all kind of risks and doing all kinds of crazy stuff, but that's not the way it works. It's not like we're going to try a 2,000-pound right-rear spring or a 200-pound right-front spring.

"It's way more complex than that.''