Ryan Newman takes big step towards first win of season and potential Chase berth with third-place finish at Kentucky

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Ever since he moved from Stewart Haas Racing to Richard Childress Racing, it’s been one step after another for Ryan Newman.

He had to get used to a new organization, new team, new crew chief and a new way of doing things.

In Saturday night’s Quaker State 400 Sprint Cup race at Kentucky Speedway, Newman took another step – and one of the biggest of the season thus far.

While he’s been fairly consistent in the first 16 races of 2014, Newman finally earned his first top-five finish with a strong third-place showing at the 1.5-mile tri-oval.

“It’s a big gain for us and all the guys at RCR and ECR to get that first top-five of the season,” Newman told TNT after the race.

Newman started seventh and was in the top 10 for almost the entire race.

“It was a good run,” Newman said. “The 2 (race winner Brad Keselowski) was obviously the fastest car all night. The 18 (runner-up Kyle Busch) got a little bit better there near the end.”

The key for Newman’s finish was somewhat unusual for a track such as Kentucky, which has a number of bumps and hard surface that makes it easy to knock a car’s setup totally out of whack.

But not Newman’s.

“We were pretty solid,” he said. “We never really changed the car. We felt like we were pretty neutral and didn’t want to screw it up, so we ended up where we did.”

Now the key is for Newman to continue taking more steps, perhaps earning his first win of the season and with his new team, which likely would qualify him for this year’s revised and reformatted Chase for the Sprint Cup.

“I hope (Saturday’s finish) translates and I think it will,” Newman said. “I think we’ve got some stuff coming. Pocono and Indy (he’s defending winner of the Brickyard 400) are a couple I’m really looking forward to.”

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