Team: Richard Childress Racing
Crew Chief: Luke Lambert
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Best Finish: 6th (2002, 2003, 2005)
Chase History: 5th Chase Appearance, Best finish of 6th (2005)
Regular Season Recap: It’s been an odd year for the driver known as “Rocket man.” Newman’s shift from Stewart-Haas to RCR hasn’t been bad, and quietly he’s taken the lead of the operation as RCR swapped Jeff Burton and Kevin Harvick for Newman and rookie Austin Dillon. Thing is, he’s barely been noticeable. He only has two top-five finishes – third at Kentucky and fifth Loudon – and has only led 24 laps all year. But with finishes between third and 24th in all but two races, and only two of those outside the top-20, Newman has been quietly consistent all year. In fact the only time he’s really made headlines was after his Watkins Glen accident, and his frustration with that course’s safety standards.
Chris’ Take: It’s one thing to be steady, and another to be steady. Newman can certainly run toward the front of the pack, but you just don’t count on him to always be at the sharp end. And that’s going to be a problem for him in this new Chase. His Top 10s need to be Top 5s; his Top 15s need to be Top 10s. Can he elevate his performance and keep it there? If not, he could be one of the first four gone.
Jerry’s Take: Ryan Newman has come close to winning during the 26-race regular season, but still hasn’t. So why would he all of a sudden start winning in the Chase? First off, he’s going to be the solo representative for Richard Childress Racing in the playoffs. Second, all told, RCR has had a good season collectively – but still not one of its drivers (Newman, Paul Menard or rookie Austin Dillon) has earned a win in 2014 to date. While Newman has definitely seen a resurgence in his career this season, getting past the first round in the Chase will be hard enough. Getting past the second round will be next to impossible.
Tony’s Take: You look through Newman’s career at Chase tracks and most of the 10 tracks are respectable. You look through his finishes this season and think, OK, he should be able to advance given his level of consistency. But in the Chase, with the spotlight on, Newman needs some “show me something” type races where he isn’t randomly finishing sixth or seventh. He needs to show he and the No. 31 have more than just solid top-15 efforts: they need to fulfill the race-winning potential. Otherwise, he’ll be forgotten in the field of 16, fast.
Ryan Newman’s Career Statistics at Chase Tracks
Chicagoland (1.5 mile) – One win, 3 Top-5s, 8 Top-10s in 12 starts
New Hampshire (1 mile) – Three wins, 7 Top-5s, 16 Top-10s in 25 starts
Dover (1 mile) – Three wins, 6 Top-5s, 12 Top-10 in 25 starts
Kansas (1.5 mile) – One wins, 3 Top-5s, 4 Top-10s in 17 starts
Charlotte (1.5 mile) – No wins, 4 Top-5s, 10 Top-10s in 27 starts
Talladega (2.66 mile) – No wins, 4 Top-5s, 9 Top-10s in 25 starts
Martinsville (half-mile) – One win, 7 Top-5, 11 Top-10s in 25 starts
Texas (1.5-mile) – One win, 3 Top-5s, 5 Top-10s in 22 starts
Phoenix (1 mile) – One wins, 8 Top-5s, 10 Top-10s in 24 starts
Homestead-Miami (1.5 mile) – No wins, 1 Top-5, 4 Top-10s in 12 starts