Before you respond with a bunch of incensed comments, just hear me out here.
Yes, you read the headline correctly. I called Ryan Newman the most deserving driver of the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup championship. Should he be the champion ... No. In my opinion, Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick, or Brad Keselowski should be, but that's a different discussion.
How can I say Newman is a worthy champion?
Under this somewhat bizarre eliminator-style format, Newman has proven himself the most worthy. How do I figure that? How can I say that a winless team like Newman and RCR deserve to be the 2014 champions?
It's simple really. Ryan Newman came into this Chase as the 16th seed. As a three-car (occasionally four-car) operation, RCR has failed to win a single race this year. They are nowhere near the caliber of Gibbs, Hendrick, Penske, or Stewart-Haas. Newman is fresh off getting kicked to the curb by SHR and isn't looked at as a 'superstar' driver. Some may even call him a 'has-been.'
He didn't have the fastest car, he just refused to lose
To many, these statistics make him unworthy of being crowned champion. To me though, it makes him the most worthy. He lost his ride and then took a mid-pack car and wheeled it with nothing more than raw desire and the will to win, driving his guts out this entire Chase and squeaking past elimination at the conclusion of each and every round. He beat the entire Hendrick fleet and now has a shot at the big prize because of it.
With the oldest tires in the field, he held off a snarling pack of cars after a late-race restart at Phoenix. That team hasn't won a title in two decades, Newman hasn't won a title in 12 years of racing at the Cup level, and he wasn't about to let Kyle Larson rip those dreams from his grasp. He wasn't about to let the tireless work of hundreds of employees be in vain. He wasn't going to simply end what seemed like a fading NASCAR career in mediocrity and silence. He's making a statement right now and that statement is 'I'm not done yet.'
No mistakes as others cracked under the pressure
Newman didn't make it to the final four because he had the strongest machine under him. He made it because he wanted it bad enough. Crew chief Luke Lambert made great calls and his crew did an impeccable job, rarely making mistakes with the pressure on. Others beat themselves, cracking and eliminating each other while the No. 31 lurked in the shadows, emerging with the upper hand. He did what he had to do, when he had to do it.
There was a pretty good stock car racer by the name of Earnhardt who once said, 'it aint always the one with the fastest car, but the one who refuses to lose.'
That is Ryan Newman and that's why he is the most deserving of the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup championship.