Ryan Newman set to capture Chase berth tomorrow in Richmond

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The more things change, the more they stay the same it seems for Ryan Newman.

Newman and the rest of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers have had 25 races to get used to the new Chase format, which rewards regular season winners with post-season berths.

But just as he was one year ago, Newman is on the Chase bubble again going into the final regular season race.

“The irony to me is it seems like no matter what the format is, I still end up being that guy that’s either in or out of the bubble,” he noted today at Richmond International Raceway. “Right now, I’m ninth in points. There have been years I’ve been 12th in points, 11th in points. If you moved the championship points system around in different years, I’d have been really good a couple of years.

“But in the end, it is what it is. It’s the same for everybody. We know it going into [the Daytona 500] what we have to do coming into Richmond. It still involves winning races, whether it’s “win and you’re in” or “win and you have a better chance of being in.” Those points all add up.”

The good news for Newman is that even though he doesn’t have a win in 2014, the points have indeed added up in his favor ahead of Saturday’s Federated Auto Parts 400.

Six Top-15 finishes in the last seven races have solidified his standing to where he just needs to finish 18th or better Saturday to earn one of the two remaining Chase spots. He currently holds the 15th position on the Chase Grid at 42 points up on 16th-place Greg Biffle.

But with Biffle, Clint Bowyer (-23 behind Biffle), Kyle Larson (-24 behind Biffle), and every other winless driver in the Top 30 of the standings ready to go for broke tomorrow, Newman admitted that it would be naive of him to not have concerns about the aggressive of his competitors.

However, he also seemed to indicate that the race manipulation incident one year ago at RIR (which helped put him outside of the Chase until NASCAR stepped in) will lead to more scrutiny of any notable incidents.

“I think after what happened last year, the magnifying glass is zoomed in a little tighter than it used to be, and that we’ll have a good race,” Newman said. “It would be good for our sport not to have what happened last year, in any form or fashion, this year.”

Mario Andretti says Colton Herta could be next American star in F1

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Mario Andretti’s last Formula One victory is also the last by an American driver in more than 42 years on the international open-wheel road racing series.

If you had told Andretti that while he was celebrating on the Grand Prix of the Netherlands podium on Aug. 27, 1978 at the Vandzoort circuit, he wouldn’t have believed it.

“Absolutely not,” Andretti told Kyle Petty during the most recent “Coffee With Kyle” episode (video above). “It’s a shame. Somehow we have so much talent here, and either there’s no invitation or something there. But I think it’s time to give some of this young talent that, in my opinion, is absolutely capable.”

The Dutch GP was the last of Andretti’s 12 victories in F1 and came during his championship season. No one since has come close to matching his success in F1.

Mario Andretti drives his Lotus-Ford to victory in the 1978 Grand Prix of the Netherlands (Bernard Cahier/Getty Images).

Andretti’s son, Michael, took a full-time ride with McLaren in 1993 but left with three races remaining in a season marred by crashes and mechanical problems.

Scott Speed was the last American to run a full F1 season in 2006, and Alexander Rossi made the most recent F1 start by a U.S. driver in 2015. Rossi has said he has no desire to return to racing in Europe after winning the 2016 Indianapolis 500 and becoming an IndyCar championship contender.

But Mario Andretti believes Andretti Autosport has another rising star with F1-caliber ability.

“Colton Herta is one that comes to mind,” Mario Andretti said. “As a young lad, his dad sent him to Europe, he was doing Formula 3, and he knows most of the circuits there. He’s trained. He’s showed in his rookie season and won some premium races at COTA (and Laguna Seca), beat two of the very best Indy has to offer (in) Will Power and Scott Dixon.

“This is one kid I’d love to see him get a break over there to fly the U.S. colors again.”

Herta, 20, seems interested in exploring an F1 leap over the next few years. After winning Sept. 13 at Mid-Ohio from the pole position (his third career victory in the NTT IndyCar Series), the No. 88 Dallara-Honda driver is ranked fourth in the standings in his sophomore year and regarded as one of the series’ top prospects.

Herta recently told RACER.com “I’d love to give Formula 1 a crack” but said he also would be happy driving in IndyCar and IMSA.

A naturalized U.S. citizen who told Petty about spending several years with his family in an Italian refugee camp before coming to America, Mario Andretti said F1 brought an enormous sense of patriotic pride.

“Formula One is like the Olympics in a sense,” he said. “You’re in a different country, a different continent. When you earn that highest step of the podium, they play your national anthem. That’s when you take nothing for granted. You feel like I’m representing my country, and the proudest moments are those.

“I’d just like to see some other American drivers experience that. It’s time.”

Mario Andretti with four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon and six-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton before the Nov. 22, 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).

During the “Coffee With Kyle” conversation, Andretti also discussed:

–His versatility as a winner in IndyCar, sports cars, NASCAR and Formula One;

–His 1967 Daytona 500 victory and how he enjoyed racing with crew chief Jake Elder at the famed Holman-Moody team;

Mario Andretti Colton Herta
Mario Andretti and Kyle Petty saluted “The King” by wearing their Richard Petty-style hats during the latest “Coffee With Kyle” (NBCSN).

–Why he delayed his entry to F1 for a few years because of his earnings power in IndyCar. “I always say I’d race for free, but at the same time, you’re thinking of family and the future,” he said. “It was in the back of your mind that you can’t give up the earning power of IndyCar. That kept me from going full time in Formula One, but I always said that sometime in my career, I’d have to devote a period to Formula One.”

–On what it was like racing in an era when driver deaths were more prevalent. “If you’re going to do this, you’re not going to dwell on those negatives,” Andretti said. “There’s no way. You knew it was present. Especially in the ‘60s at the beginning of the season at the drivers meetings, you couldn’t help but look around and say, ‘I wonder who is not going to be here at the end of the season.’ We’d lose four to five guys. In ’64, we lost six guys.

“It’s something if you dwell on that, you’re going to take on a different profession. It’s a desire and love to want to drive that overcame all that and then the confidence it’s not going to happen to me. And then you pray.”

Watch the full “Coffee With Kyle” episode in the video above or by clicking here.

Mario Andretti looks on before the 103rd Indianapolis 500 on May 26, 2019 (Chris Graythen/Getty Images).