Currently sitting in the Top 10 in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points, Ryan Newman believes that the performance from himself and his No. 31 Richard Childress Racing team has been solid.
But he also believes that something’s been missing. He calls it the “follow-through.” Some may call it “execution,” but not him.
“We haven’t been the fastest and we’re not leading the most laps or anything like that, but we’re putting ourselves in contention,” he said today at Kansas. “What we haven’t done is seal-up the contention that we were holding; just that follow-through.
“I don’t want to call it ‘execution’; I want to call it the ‘follow-through’ of where we are. And finishing it off hasn’t been 100 percent or as good as I think it should or could be. So, when we’re running seventh, we finish 10th. And when we’re running fifth, we finish seventh.”
Newman’s claimed four Top-10s this year but only has a top finish of seventh, which he’s turned in twice already at Phoenix and Las Vegas back in the early spring. On the other side of the coin, he’s only had one finish outside of the Top 20.
However, with a win effectively meaning “You’re in” as far as making the Chase for the Sprint Cup, consistency won’t be enough.
Hence, Newman’s need to get that “follow-through” starting with tomorrow’s 5-Hour Energy 400.
“We just need to shine-up the performance a little bit with respect to finishing it and not just how we’re running in the middle of the race,” he said.
As for what he’s expecting in Kansas’ first-ever Sprint Cup night race, Newman is hoping for the track’s groove to widen out but isn’t sure that tonight’s 250-mile Camping World Truck Series race will be enough to do the job.
However, he feels that with the early evening start time for tomorrow’s race, there will be an opportunity to help the groove get farther up the track and provide himself and the other drivers with more room to race.
“With a 6:30 p.m. [CT] start time, the sun will still be out and there is a chance to put a little bit of rubber on the track and hopefully that will make a big difference,” he said. “When we’re out there, it’s barely two grooves wide now. I’m saying two car widths, not two grooves.
“So it’s really going to be dictated by that. Once we widen out the race track and have double-file restarts and that part of it – I just don’t see the Trucks really making the track that much wider just because of their speed and the quantity and quality of the trucks that are out there.”
The two-day Chris Griffis Memorial Mazda Road to Indy Test concluded on Sunday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.
Combined times after the two days of running are below, with Nico Jamin (Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires) and Oliver Askew (Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires) remaining on top from Saturday to Sunday, and Darren Keane (Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda) supplanting Andres Gutierrez at the head of that field.
Previous notebooks are linked here (Friday, Saturday), with additional Sunday notes to follow.
Several drivers pulled double duty between series, namely Parker Thompson (Exclusive Autosport in Pro Mazda and USF2000), Carlos Cunha (Juncos Racing in Indy Lights and Pro Mazda) and Aaron Telitz (Team Pelfrey in Pro Mazda, RJB Motorsports in USF2000). Telitz (above) added a run in Pro Mazda in Team Pelfrey’s No. 82 car; the Wisconsinite has done a lot of the series’ testing for the new Pro Mazda Tatuus PM-18, and had hoped to run all three series. We’ll have more meanwhile on Thompson and Exclusive’s double in the days to come; the Michael Duncalfe-led team out of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan was one of three new Pro Mazda teams adding those cars to USF2000 efforts (Pabst Racing, BN Racing) this week.
There were a handful of drivers that changed cars or teams for Sunday’s second day of the test, primarily in USF2000. While Keane ran both days at Newman Wachs, the Brian Halahan-managed team ran David Osborne and Oscar DeLuzuriaga in the Nos. 37 and 38 cars, taking over from Jake Craig and Max Peichel. Osborne switched from Team Pelfrey, where he ran Saturday, and where Jacob Loomis ran Sunday. Justin Gordon ran a second Exclusive Autosport chassis, switching to the No. 90 on Sunday after running the No. 92 Saturday.
The PM-18 best lap set by Askew is more than three seconds faster than the series’ official track record (Pato O’Ward in 2016, at 1:22.8800, 105.941 mph). Askew’s best time of 1:19.8142 averages 110.010 mph around the 2.439-mile circuit. Neither the Indy Lights nor USF2000 cars eclipsed the existing lap records in those categories.
Drivers largely extolled the PM-18’s outright pace and potential with the horsepower upgrade, in what is a significant step forward for the series. “Following prototype testing of the new PM-18, I believed that we had a special race car and this weekend’s testing confirms that,” said Dan Andersen, Owner and CEO of Andersen Promotions. “Based on team and driver comments, this is a fantastic race car and I am very pleased with what Tatuus, Elite Engines and my team have assembled. It fits perfectly in between the USF-17 and the IL-15 in terms of lap times and, more importantly, it takes what a driver learns in the first step and introduces higher HP, higher grip and higher aero. This will be a great training car for years to come, and seeing our program now with three excellent and well-designed cars is very satisfying to me.”
Keane, one of the few veterans (relatively speaking) within USF2000 was plugged in this weekend as the only driver outside Pabst Racing to threaten the top of the timesheets. “It’s a good boost in confidence for me heading into next year. I am really happy with how everything is going with the team. They are a great group of guys and it’s just really good to see us improving and being where we want to be,” he said.
Rinus Veekay hailed the Indy Lights Dallara IL-15 Mazda this weekend in his first test there, although the talented Dutch teenager may well focus on Pro Mazda next season and shoot to win that championship, and continue his battle with Askew established in USF2000. “The car is very nice, quick,” noted VeeKay. “You can really feel the downforce and it was a pleasure to drive.”
The MRTI is done with official running for the year, but the $200,000 MRTI Scholarship Shootout remains in December at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park, the former Firebird Raceway, outside Phoenix. The winner of that will get a ticket into USF2000 for the 2018 season.
Full MRTI spring training will take place at Homestead-Miami Speedway in February 2018, with undoubtedly a bevy of driver and team announcements to come over the following months.