Winless wonders: Ryan Newman, Matt Kenseth break into Eliminator Round


Winning gives you the biggest payoff in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. But consistency still grants a tidy sum.

Ryan Newman and Matt Kenseth are proof of the latter. Despite them not being able to capture a checkered flag, they’re among the last eight drivers standing in the Eliminator Round.

However, they both came very close to a victory this afternoon in the Contender Round finale at Talladega Superspeedway.

On the second green-white-checkered attempt, Newman rode a big run on the outside line to pull up alongside Keselowski for much of the final lap. But help from behind on the inside enabled Keselowski and Kenseth to seize control in the end.

Kenseth wound up second at the finish, while Newman held on for a Top-5 result in fifth. But while a win eluded their grasp, they easily made the Eliminator cut.

Newman advances with the biggest points cushion among Chasers without a win, a gap of 27 points over the cutoff. Two spots down the Chase Grid in sixth was Kenseth, who ended the Contender Round nine points to the good.

“It was a great result in the end, I guess, to make it to the next [round],” Newman told ESPN. “I think to me, the next three races are the most important to win. We’ve been knocking on the door in the last three, so we’ll just keep digging.

“I don’t know how to answer any questions about that last restart. I don’t know if I could’ve done anything better. Obviously, I could’ve done things worse. But it was just the way things line up. Happy to stay in the Top-5 in the last couple of laps.”

As he touched on, Newman’s fifth-place result capped a solid Contender Round for him that also had results of sixth at Kansas and seventh at Charlotte one week ago.

Meanwhile, Kenseth once again came through in an elimination race this post-season. In the Challenger Round finale at Dover, he finished eighth to ensure his advance to the Chase’s second round.

Finishes of 13th at Kansas and 19th at Charlotte put him one point behind the cutoff going into today. But the runner-up result at ‘Dega allowed him to pick up a total 10 points in the positive direction.

Kenseth, like Keselowski, also had to start from the back in today’s race, too; in his case, it was due to an engine change.

“We kind of just hung back there waiting around for the big wreck – there was a bunch of small ones, never a big one,” Kenseth said about his afternoon. “One time in the middle of the race, I tried to get up front. I didn’t feel like I had enough strength to hang in the top five or six, which was safe.

“Once we got shuffled back far enough, we tried to be as close to the pack as we could for that last pit stop. I knew [crew chief] Jason [Ratcliffe] and The Home Depot guys would have a good strategy, great stop. Weren’t there very long. Gained a chunk of the track position back and then the caution fell when we were leaving pit road.

“That put us up in 12th or something. Had a couple good restarts, kind of in the right place at the right time, got a good finish.”

Kenseth will have some backup for the Eliminator Round as Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin also made the cut with a 10-point cushion, good for fifth on the Chase Grid. Hamlin finished 18th in today’s race.

“Hate lagging in the back, but couldn’t afford to have what happened to the 18 [Kyle Busch] happen to us and take our chances out,” Hamlin said. “Still proud of our effort and happy that we made it.”

Roush Fenway Racing also had its sole remaining Chase contender, Carl Edwards, move on as well with a 21st-place finish.

“We knew we couldn’t wreck and it ended up playing out exactly like we planned,” Edwards said. “We stayed out of the wrecks and made it in, but that was nerve-wracking.”

30 Seconds to Know: How does the Chase Eliminator round work?

IndyCar disappointed by delay of video game but aiming to launch at start of 2024

IndyCar video game 2024

An IndyCar executive said there is “absolutely” disappointment that its long-awaited video game recently was delayed beyond its target date, but the series remains optimistic about the new title.

“Well, I don’t know how quick it will be, but the whole situation is important to us,” Penske Entertainment president and CEO Mark Miles said during a news conference Monday morning to announce IndyCar’s NTT title sponsorship. “Motorsport Games has spent a lot of money, a lot of effort to create an IndyCar title. What we’ve seen of that effort, which is not completely obvious, is very reassuring.

“I think it’s going to be outstanding. That’s our shared objective, that when it is released, it’s just widely accepted. A great credit both to IndyCar racing, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, something that our fans love.”

In June 2021, IndyCar announced a new partnership with Motorsport Games to create and distribute an IndyCar video game for the PC and Xbox and PlayStation consoles in 2023.

But during an earnings call last week, Motorsport Games said the IndyCar game had been delayed to 2024 to ensure high quality.

Somewhat compounding the delay is that IndyCar’s license for iRacing expired after the end of the 2022 season because of its exclusive agreement with Motorsport Games.

That’s resulted in significant changes for IndyCar on iRacing, which had provided a high-profile way for the series to stay visible during its 2020 shutdown from the pandemic. (Players still can race an unbranded car but don’t race on current IndyCar tracks, nor can they stream).

That’s helped ratchet up the attention on having a video game outlet for IndyCar.

“I wish we had an IndyCar title 10 years ago,” said Miles, who has been working with the organization since 2013. “We’ve been close, but we’ve had these I think speed bumps.”

IndyCar is hopeful the Motorsports Game edition will be ready at the start of 2024. Miles hinted that beta versions could be unveiled to reporters ahead of the time “to begin to show the progress in a narrow way to make sure we’ve got it right, to test the progress so that we’re ready when they’re ready.”

It’s been nearly 18 years since the release of the most recent IndyCar video game for console or PC.

“(We) better get it right,” Miles said. “It’s something we’re very close to and continue to think about what it is to make sure we get it over the line in due course.”