Ryan Newman not a fluke

Ryan Newman not a fluke

If you haven't been paying attention, you will be soon. Ryan Newman is definitely the one to watch in 2002. Not only is he a contender for the 2002 Raybestos Rookie of the Year, but if he stays on the roll that he's on now, he may also be involved...

If you haven't been paying attention, you will be soon. Ryan Newman is definitely the one to watch in 2002. Not only is he a contender for the 2002 Raybestos Rookie of the Year, but if he stays on the roll that he's on now, he may also be involved in a thrilling title contention.

Rookies aren't supposed to be this good, are they? Obviously, Ryan Newman doesn't know that. Over the past two years, he's drawn attention and criticism for his driving style, but still manages to awe the media, but most importantly his on track rivals, and he has yet to compete in a full season.

Penske teammates Rusty Wallace and Ryan Newman race side by side.
Photo by Autostock.

In 2000, Ryan Newman made his first NASCAR Winston Cup appearance at Phoenix. After qualifying 10th, many were opening their eyes to the new kid in town. In 2001, he followed up his qualifying effort with a Bud Pole award and a career best second place finish in just seven Winston Cup events. And after just three races of this year's 36-race schedule, it's pretty clear he has no plans of letting up.

After winning the pole at Charlotte last year, Newman was eligible to race in this year's Budweiser Shootout. After doing so, he made history by becoming the first Raybestos Rookie contender to compete in the 70-lap event.

As if that wasn't enough for one week, during the season opener Daytona 500, Newman muscled his Alltel Ford up to seventh after starting the race 23rd. Although Daytona was full of hard times, such as the usual "big wreck", he was able to avoid trouble and finish solidly in the top 10. The following race at Rockingham was a little more harsh on the 24 year old, who fell two laps down early on, but regained the deficit and finished 14th. Newman even surprised himself with that run. "That was pretty impressive to me to be able to get two laps back here at Rockingham. We had to earn it, but that was impressive." And at Las Vegas this past weekend, it seemed that Newman was one of the top contenders to beat after running in the top five throughout the day and leading for 50 laps. Newman ended the race in the fourth position, and moved up to second in the points standings behind leader Sterling Marlin.

Ryan Newman.
Photo by Autostock.

With his fourth place finish in Vegas, he's now eligible for the "No Bull Five" bonus at Charlotte in May. Newman says of his chances for the bonus; "That's important for us. We won the ARCA race and sat on the pole for the Cup race last year and hopefully we can have a good racecar come time for that. We'll definitely focus a lot harder now on that race."

With just three races behind us, is it too soon to be picking Newman as a favorite? The obvious answer is no. Aside from his ventures in Winston Cup last year, the Purdue graduate also ran 15 Busch Series races and grabbed eight top-10 finishes. On top of that, he captured six poles and a win at Michigan.

Newman's impressive resume will continue to grow over time and by season's end he may be adding a "2002 Raybestos Rookie of the Year" title to his long list of accomplishments. And wouldn't it be something if this rookie could grab a Winston Cup?

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Rusty Wallace , Sterling Marlin , Ryan Newman