Crucial night for Newman

Crucial night for Newman

Pole sitter Ryan Newman has a lot too loose Saturday night at Richmond International Raceway. For a team that set a goal at the beginning of the season to win 10 races and 10 poles, they find themselves at the 26th event of the year just hanging...

Pole sitter Ryan Newman has a lot too loose Saturday night at Richmond International Raceway. For a team that set a goal at the beginning of the season to win 10 races and 10 poles, they find themselves at the 26th event of the year just hanging on to an opportunity to compete in the "Chase for the Championship".

Ryan Newman.
Photo by Kurt Dahlstrom.
Team 12 has fallen well short of their season-start goal: while Newman has earned a healthy five Budweiser pole awards, he has only managed to steer the No. 12 Penske Dodge into victory lane once this season.

Newman finds himself in a precarious position this weekend. He sits eighth in series points, but just forty-five markers separate Newman from falling out of contention to compete in NASCAR's inaugural playoff season.

"Not knowing how the race is going to start tomorrow night it could be the most pivotal pole we've had," commented Newman. "If there is a big crash in the middle of the field on the first lap or something crazy like that. To me, it's another day at the office. So far it's been good."

Despite Newman's inconsistencies this season, he is still confident that he remains a title contender. Even though Newman has racked up 11 top-tens this season, nine finishes of 24th or worse have kept him from being a threat at the top of the NEXTEL point's heap.

"I thought we had and still have a great potential to win," Newman said. "All we can do is our best and focus on what we have to do to make ourselves better."

Newman has been on of the biggest doubters of the fairness of the new point system, and has remained vocal about his feeling all season long. Although Newman now sits in the top ten, he has not refrained from expressing his concerns on the newly instituted structure.

"No one from NASCAR has contacted me or said anything about it (his criticism of the new system)," explained Newman. "I always figured freedom of speech; you can say what you want. It probably wouldn't be their place to slap my hand seeing as how it is one of the constitutional rights.

"Bottom line is, I say what I believe and everybody knows that. We can leave it at that. You can say the word stinks, but I always said I don't think it's fair for everybody and the points system should be fair for everybody. We'll leave it at that."

One wonders how Newman will feel after tonight's deciding 400-mile event at Richmond. With just 76 points separating Newman in 8th and Kevin Harvick in 15th, it's anyone's guess which four drivers will clinch spots 6-10 tomorrow night.

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Series NASCAR-CUP