Ryan Newman quietly finished fourth at Chicagoland Speedway.
Earlier in the week, Ryan Newman said he thought his No. 31 Richard Childress Racing was better this season beginning the championship Chase then it was one year ago.
And last year, despite not earning a win during the season, Newman ended up as the championship runner-up.
Consider Newman’s statement validated.
While Newman’s teammates Austin Dillon and Paul Menard didn’t fare nearly as well in the race, the RCR cars showed speed all weekend. Newman ended up finishing fourth – 11 spots better than a year ago in this race during a season where he used consistency to march into the championship finale.
We’re starting to click again at the same time and at the right time
Crew chief Luke Lambert
A late-race caution and decision by crew chief Luke Lambert to take on four new tires allowed Newman to charge from outside the top-10 into the top-five in the final five laps.
“We had a really good car. We were good most of the race and then that one caution came out after we pitted we went a lap down,” Newman said. “The next restart we had a bad restart and it looked like we were done and that was it.”
Getting back on track
With last season’s runner-up finish for the championship, Newman’s team clearly had the most experience and perhaps the highest expectations at RCR for another title run.
The team’s season got sidetracked when Lambert, tire technician James Bender and engineer Philip Surgen were all suspended six races after NASCAR found illegal modifications to the tires used by the team March 22 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif.
“We’ve had a lot things we’ve had to endure this season and kind of rebuild from and I feel like the experience we’ve had over the last year-and-a-half has got us to where we are now – which is a better team than we’ve ever been,” Lambert said after the race.
“I’m proud of everybody on this team today for proving what we’re made of. We’re in the middle of making a lot of progress and I feel it’s going to continue in this Chase and get us back to having a shot at winning the title at Homestead.
“We’re starting to click again at the same time and at the right time.”