2014 Sprint Cup championship preview: Ryan Newman


Driver: Ryan Newman
Age: 36 (will be 37 Dec. 8)
Full-time seasons in Sprint Cup: 13
Career starts: 475
Career wins: 17
Career top-5 finishes: 97
Career top-10 finishes: 199
Pole positions: 51

* 2014 record to date: 35 starts, zero wins, four top-five and 15 top-10 finishes. Zero poles. Laps led: 41. Average start per race: 13.1. Average finish per race: 13.0. Lead lap finishes: 30.

* Highest single-season finish to date: Sixth, 2002, 2003, 2005

* Season finishes to date: 2000 (70th), 2001 (49th), 2002 (sixth), 2003 (sixth), 2004 (seventh), 2005 (sixth), 2006 (18th), 2007 (13th), 2008 (17th), 2009 (ninth), 2010 (15th), 2011 (10th), 2012 (14th), 2013 (11th).

* Homestead Record: 12 career starts, 0 wins, 1 top-5s, 4 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: Third in 2012. Average start: 12.4. Average finish: 17.0.

* Year-by-year finishes at Homestead: 2002 (sixth), 2003 (37th), 2004 (30th), 2005 (seventh), 2006 (23rd), 2007 (18th), 2008 (21st), 2009 (23rd), 2010 (seventh), 2011 (12th), 2012 (third), 2013 (17th).

Will “Rocketman” blast off to his first career Sprint Cup title Sunday at Homestead?

With the way he shoved … err, raced … his way into the championship round with his last lap boot of Kyle Larson, Ryan Newman made it very clear he’s not going to be pushed around in the season finale at Homestead.

Rather, Newman may very well be the pusher, not the pushed (or would that be pushee?) with the championship on the line.

In other words, Newman proved at Phoenix that he’s willing to do whatever he needs to do, be it trade paint or spin a fellow contender to win that elusive first Sprint Cup championship.

Without question, Newman is the Cinderella story of the Chase. Not only is he the only driver in the final round without any wins, he has a grand total of just four top-five finishes in the first 35 races.

But it has been his performance in the Chase, with uncanny consistency including two top-five, three other top-10 and three other top-15 finishes that finds Newman where he’s at heading into Homestead.

Newman could make history Sunday. If he wins, it not only would be the first-ever Sprint Cup championship for him, he’d also become the first driver in NASCAR history to win a championship without having won a single race in the same season.

In a way, Newman being in the Chase is the ultimate irony. He replaced Kevin Harvick at Richard Childress Racing. Harvick left RCR because he felt he could have a better chance at a championship at Stewart-Haas Racing.

Newman, in turn, was booted from SHR last season, supposedly under the premise that there was no sponsorship for his car. And then a week or so later, SHR announced it had signed Kurt Busch — with sponsorship from team co-owner Gene Haas’ Haas Automation — to effectively take Newman’s place.

So here we are heading into Homestead and Newman finds himself in a position of winning the championship not only for himself, but also to avenge his release from SHR.

(Newman wouldn’t be the only person potentially looking for revenge against SHR. Darian Grubb, crew chief for Denny Hamlin, was released from the organization right after leading Tony Stewart to the 2011 Sprint Cup championship.)

Plus, there’s added incentive: Newman has the opportunity to become the first driver to win a championship for RCR in 20 years!

That’s right, lost in all the pre-championship hype is the fact that the late Dale Earnhardt’s last crown came in 1994.

Wouldn’t that be an interesting irony for Newman to win it all not only for team owner Richard Childress, but also to prove to Harvick that RCR indeed has what it takes inside the organization to win a Cup championship.

Newman also has the second-most amount of experience next to Harvick. That should count for a lot, especially if Newman needs to make another savvy move late in this Sunday’s race like he did with Larson at Phoenix.

“I am so proud of my guys and all the effort they have put into this. I want to thank Luke Lambert (crew chief), everyone at RCR, ECR Engines, Caterpillar, Chevrolet, Quicken Loans, WIX Filters and Kwikset for giving me the opportunity to race for the championship.

“We’ve been fighting very hard all year long. We did what we had to do to get to this position. We flew under the radar and turned in the solid performances to earn one of the four positions.

“There’s been so much on the line week in and week out during this new Chase format. We’ve been able to dig in and move on. It’s no different with the Homestead-Miami Speedway race. We are going to keep digging and hope it will be good enough to win a Sprint Cup Series championship.”

Newman certainly has confidence. His win at the Brickyard 400 last season, right around the time that he learned he was not going to have his contract renewed, did a great deal for his confidence.

Newman and his team have admittedly had the most struggles this year of any of the four remaining teams and drivers. It’s not just about not having reached Victory Lane thus far. It’s much more than that.

Zero wins AND just four top-five finishes.

And yet here Newman is, in the final round, having advanced to a place where the sport’s biggest names – Johnson, Gordon, Earnhardt, Stewart, Busch, Edwards and more – are nothing more than interested observers and bystanders in Sunday’s race.

Sure, they’ll be in the same race, but they’re not able to grab the big prize that Newman and the other three drivers are chasing.

Could Newman win it all, and yet not even win a single race in 2014 in the process?

Sure, it’s possible. If there’s anything Newman has learned in his long Cup career, it’s that in NASCAR, anything is possible – even a longshot Cinderella story ending up as king of the Sprint Cup hill.

“I sure hope so,” Newman said. “We are certainly going to try.

“I mean, if we can win Homestead, it would be the icing on top of all the cake.”

And boy, there’s no doubt that would be the most delicious cake and icing Newman has ever tasted.

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Ryan Hunter-Reay hired as replacement for Conor Daly at Ed Carpenter Racing

Ryan Hunter-Reay Carpenter
Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Ryan Hunter-Reay was named to replace Conor Daly in Ed Carpenter Racing’s No. 20 Dallara-Chevrolet, starting in the NTT IndyCar Series event next week at Road America.

Hunter-Reay is the 2012 series champion and 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner. He finished 11th for Dreyer & Reinbold last month in the 107th Indy 500, his first start since the 2021 season finale. He drove full time for Andretti Autosport from 2010-21.

“We need to improve our competitiveness and I wanted to add a fresh perspective from a driver like Ryan who has a massive amount of experience and success as well as a reputation as a team leader. I am excited to welcome Ryan to the team,” team owner Ed Carpenter said in a team release. “We have worked together in the past as teammates and he tested for ECR at Barber Motorsports Park in October 2021, where he made an immediate impact as we were able to qualify one of our cars on the pole following that test. I am confident that his experience and technical abilities will be an asset to ECR as we move forward toward our goals as a team.”

Hunter-Reay has 18 IndyCar victories, most recently in 2018. He also is a winner in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, having been a part of winning entries in the 2020 Twelve Hours of Sebring and 2018 Petit Le Mans. Last year, he was an endurance driver for Cadillac Racing while being on standby for Chip Ganassi Racing.

He replaces Daly, whose departure was announced a day earlier in what the driver and team said was a mutual decision.

“I was surprised when I got the call from Ed,” Hunter-Reay said in a team release. “He described how frustrated he was that his team has not been able to realize its potential despite their efforts, investments, as well as technical and personnel changes over the past few years and asked for my help. Ed and I are very close friends and have been for a long time. I’ve worked with the team in the past and they are a very talented group with high expectations and a committed partner in BITNILE.COM.

“This will certainly be a challenge for me as well. It’s a tough situation jumping in a car in the middle of the season without any testing in what I believe to be the most competitive series in the world. Certainly, part of my motivation in saying ‘yes’ to Ed is the great challenge ahead. The last time I turned right driving an NTT IndyCar Series car was in October of 2021 with this team at Barber. However, I remain very confident in both my driving and technical abilities and believe by working with the talented people at ECR and Team Chevy, while representing BITNILE.COM, we will make progress. I am going to do everything I can do to help the team achieve its long-term objectives.”

Said Milton “Todd” Ault, the chairman of sponsor BitNile.com: “It is great for BitNile.com to be aligned with an Indy 500 Winner and an NTT IndyCar Series champion. I have followed Ryan’s career for years and I am confident he will challenge the entire ECR team to perform at higher levels. I wish everyone luck at Road America.”