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.”