KANNAPOLIS, N.C. (Sept. 11, 2013) – “You’re in.”
Those are the words Ryan Newman wanted so desperately to hear following Saturday night’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway.
Wanting to get in – earning a coveted spot in the 12-driver Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship – was what pushed Newman as he valiantly drove his No. 39 Quicken Loans Chevrolet SS from his 24th starting spot to the race lead with less than 10 laps to go. But, with just six laps to go, a now-well-documented controversial caution led to a turn of events that relegated Newman to a third-place finish and out of the Chase.
The result left Newman tied with Martin Truex Jr., in driver points for the second wild-card position in the Chase. With one race victory each this season, the next tiebreaker to determine which driver was in was second-place finishes. Truex had one, earned in April at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, while Newman had none which meant the 12th and final spot in the 2013 championship battle went to Truex.
Not making the Chase was a bitter pill for him to swallow, and the circumstances surrounding Saturday night’s race made it even more difficult for the 12-year Sprint Cup veteran. In fact, Newman called it the toughest thing he had ever dealt with in a 30-year racing career.
Then, on Monday night, less than 48 hours later, Newman got the phone call that changed everything. He finally heard the words he had fought so hard on the racetrack to hear.
Starting with Sunday’s Geico 400 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill., Newman and his No. 39 Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) team are among 12 teams vying for the 2013 Sprint Cup championship. They have a clean slate and 10 races to prove they are the best.
In 11 starts at Chicagoland, Newman has one pole (2002), one win (2003), three top-five finishes and seven top-10s. Five of those top-10 finishes came in his last six starts at the 1.5-mile oval. That’s just the kind of performance Newman expects to turn in this weekend at Chicagoland in order to make a bonafide run for his first-ever NASCAR championship.
For Newman and his crew chief Matt Borland-led race team, the key over these final 10 races is the same consistency the team has demonstrated throughout the 2013 season – the same consistency that helped the team earn a berth in the Chase.
In the last 12 races, the No. 39 team has earned 10 finishes of 15th or better, including Newman’s Brickyard 400 win from the pole at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Perhaps most importantly, Newman and his team are on a streak of consecutive top-five finishes – fifth at Atlanta Motor Speedway and third at Richmond.
Consistency, top-five finishes and wins are what Newman and his No. 39 Quicken Loans team will need to contend for this year’s championship.
Newman & Company is looking ahead only as far as the next race. The driver and team know that knocking off the best possible finishes one race at a time will ultimately put the them right where they want to be when the checkered flag flies at the final Chase race at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November.
But for now, Newman is just relishing being “in” this season’s Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship.
RYAN NEWMAN, Driver of the No. 39 Quicken Loans Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
What were your thoughts on NASCAR’s decision Monday that put you in the Chase?
“I was really shocked. I knew they wanted to take a stand. I could tell that because of their announcement Sunday that they were reviewing the situation. After collecting all their data and information, they made a decision, but I didn’t know what that decision was going to be. I don’t know if there is a right or wrong decision, but there is a stand that needed to be taken. I commend them for that. It’s tough for me. It was literally the toughest thing I’ve ever had to go through in racing – to have that (Chase berth) taken away from me, in my eyes. In the end, it’s relieving, but it’s not. It’s just a tough situation. Obviously, the decision is great for me and those are the cards I was dealt. I look forward to the next 10 races and the opportunity to get our Quicken Loans Chevy in victory lane and have a shot at the championship. In the end, I am proud NASCAR took a stand with respect to what went on Saturday night at Richmond. I know it was a tough decision to make. With that being said, myself, Matt Borland (crew chief) and this entire No. 39 team are looking forward to competing for the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship.”
What do you hope to accomplish in these final 10 races?
“Our goal is to win each and every one of these last 10 races – that doesn’t change. I feel we have the potential to. I want to do it for myself, my team, my sponsors and everybody involved, especially given all of the things we went through and fought through to get back to where we were Saturday night and to be in a position within seven (laps) to go to race our way in. And then, after everything that has transpired the past few days from being out of the Chase to being in the Chase, these guys deserve it. That’s as simple as that.”
Talk about racing at Chicagoland Speedway.
“Even though it’s a ‘cookie cutter’ racetrack, I look forward to it because of the 18-degree banking and the fact that it is kind of unique. Chicago is really a big circle. It’s always a track that has been rewarding if you are good in the corners because even the back straightaway has a kink in it. You have to carry a lot of momentum there. I always say I’m a fan of the banked racetracks and this is another track I have enjoyed racing, and it’s a track that has gotten better each year we’ve gone there.”