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.
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.
The focus of the Detroit Monster Energy Supercross round was on the mid-pack battle while Aaron Plessinger pulled away from the field, but when he crashed after hooking his foot in the dirt, the results once more looked like we’ve come to expect, with Chase Sexton, Cooper Webb and Eli Tomac sharing the podium for the fifth time in 10 rounds.
For Sexton, Plessinger’s late-race crash was a vindication of sorts. Several times already this season, Sexton has crashed while battling for the lead and the points that has cost him keeps him sporting the red plate. He lost points in Detroit for a different reason, however.
Sexton was allowed to keep the win, but was penalized seven points for jumping in a red cross section of the course. As a result, he dropped four points to Webb and two to Tomac. Sexton is now 17 points behind Webb in the championship hunt.
One week after snatching the red plate from Tomac for the first time in 2023, Webb stretched his advantage by two. With his second-place finish, Webb holds a three-point lead over Tomac, which essentially means both riders control their fate in the coming weeks. Webb continues to have a sweep of the top five this season with his sixth consecutive podium.
Coming off his worst finish of the season, Tomac rebounded to finish third. His eighth-place result last week was partially attributed to a stiff neck that hindered him in traffic and he still suffered some of those same effects in Detroit. Before Plessinger’s crash, he was destined to be the only rider in the three-man title scrum to finish off the podium in Detroit.
It is surprising what one position can do for one’s confidence.
Justin Barcia scored his fourth top-five of the season. He was part of the exciting four-man battle that dominated the middle stages of the race before Sexton and Webb gained a little separation. Finishing less than three seconds behind Tomac, he kept that rider honest for the entire race.
Coming off his first win of the season, Ken Roczen finished fifth. It was his seventh top-five of the season and it elevated him to fifth in the standings.
Hunter Lawrence tied his brother Jett Lawrence with 10 wins each after another dominating ride in the Detroit Supercross race and the results in the points continue to widen. With his fifth win in six rounds and a worst finish of third, Lawrence now has a 35-point advantage over Nate Thrasher with four rounds remaining. Finishes of 14th or better in the final four mains will give him his first 250 championship.
Jett will have an opportunity to retake his wins’ lead as Supercross heads west for the next two rounds in Seattle and Glendale, Arizona.
Nate Thrasher earned his third second-place finish of the season with a gap of 7.6 seconds to Lawrence. He won the overall in Arlington earlier this season, but a 15th-place finish in the opening round in Houston and 10th in Daytona hurts his championship chances.
Haiden Deegan scored his second podium and fourth top-five in six rounds of his young career. On his way to that finish, he rode aggressively against his teammate Jordon Smith in the heat race. Fans are getting a glimpse of what his on-track personality might be.
Jeremy Martin continues to be the model of consistency. He has not finished worse than sixth or better than fourth in six rounds now and that has allowed him to close to within two points of third in the 250 East championship standings.
Max Anstie entered the race weekend second in the points, but a hard crash in heavy traffic early in the main forced him to retire after two laps. Earning only one point for the round, he plummeted to fifth in the standings.
The news was worse for Smith, who was dropped out of the top nine in his heat after the altercation with Deegan and failed to advance through the LCQ. In the last chance race, he stalled his engine and had to mount a determined charge. He got only as high as seventh in that race after crashing while attempting to make a pass on fourth-place Jack Chambers.