Before the Chase began, Ryan Newman seemed to be among those drivers that would be in danger of early elimination.
While he racked up 13 Top-10s in the regular season, he went without a win – the result that was supposed to be the most important to attain in this new post-season format.
Through five Chase races, Newman remains without a win and he hasn’t even had a Top 5 finish.
But he’s been steady enough to put himself and his No. 31 Richard Childress Racing team in position to advance to the Eliminator Round.
With a 21-point cushion over the cutoff, Newman can move on by finishing 19th or better in Sunday’s GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.
It’s not a bullet-proof situation by any means, but it’s doable. And Newman has the chance to pull it off because of his recovery on Saturday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
In the midst of a Top-10 run, a Lap 223 pit stop under caution went south for Newman when the jack broke. He dropped back to 17th as a result, but another caution at Lap 237 gave him a chance to make up some spots with another stop, this time for two tires.
Newman slotted in 11th for a restart at Lap 239, but a short time later, Danica Patrick was sent spinning by Joey Logano up ahead of him. Forced to spin in order to avoid hitting Patrick, Newman avoided damage to his car.
A four-tire stop under the caution left Newman in 19th for the next restart, but he was able to make progress. He eventually cycled up to the lead during the final round of green flag stops and then stayed out on track during the last yellow with seven laps to go for Brian Vickers’ blown engine.
Newman then held his own in the two-lap dash to the checkered flag and finished seventh for his third consecutive Top-10 finish – a sign that the 31 camp is picking up the pace at the right time.
“It was a good rebound with all the problems after missing the wreck and broken jack,” Newman said afterwards. “These Caterpillar guys don’t give up. I don’t give up. I am so proud that we were able to fight back. We had some fun.
“We didn’t have the best car on the short run there at the end when we needed it. To go from 18th to seventh isn’t too darn bad.”
The same can be said about Newman and RCR’s run in this Chase.