Newman’s show of restraint and class in championship race could teach other drivers valuable lessons

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Ryan Newman made the Sprint Cup Championship Round last Sunday by one point.

He had to run Kyle Larson into the wall to do so, but with his season on the line, for Newman it was the right thing to do at the right time.

One week later in Sunday’s season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Newman ultimately lost the championship by one point.

Once again, his season was on the line. He could have made the same move on Kevin Harvick in the final two laps that he did to Larson, but Newman elected not to do so. This time, it wasn’t the right thing to do and wasn’t the right way to do it.

By not resorting to making a move that could potentially have won him the title – but ultimately may have branded him to be a dirty driver at the same time – Newman played it clean, fair and square.

“I thought about hauling it in there wide open but that wouldn’t have been the right thing to do,” Newman said of Harvick. “I wouldn’t want him to do that to me.”

Even though Sunday may be the closest Newman may ever get to winning a Sprint Cup championship – we certainly hope it isn’t his last chance, though – by not wrecking Harvick, Newman showed an amazing amount of restraint and courage.

And most importantly, an incredible amount of class.

I’m sure there are many who would not have faulted Newman if he turned Harvick on the final lap, with such a move falling under the category of “That’s racin’.”

And I’m also sure that for many others, Newman would have been more than justified in doing so for the way Stewart-Haas Racing did him last season.

One week, Newman was told his contract wasn’t being renewed because there weren’t enough sponsorship dollars to run his team in 2014. Tough, kid, but that’s business.

One week later, billionaire team co-owner Gene Haas goes out and signs Kurt Busch to effectively replace Newman, his former Penske Racing teammate – and then Haas announced he’d sponsor Busch out of his own pocket.

If that isn’t a kick to the groin for Newman, I don’t know what is.

But to his credit, Newman has been a pro’s pro since. He not only won the Brickyard 400 and praised SHR for its collective efforts in getting him to Victory Lane, he also wound as SHR’s lone representative in last year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup.

While he didn’t have the kind of success he would have hoped for in the 2013 Chase, even in a lame duck situation, Newman stayed professional and classy the whole way through.

Just like he did Sunday.

While he deserves all the credit for what he achieved Sunday, Harvick needs to add one person’s name to all those he thanked while celebrating his race win and championship on stage:

Ryan Newman.

Don’t get him wrong, Newman would have loved to be in Harvick’s shoes. But he also has a conscience and a sense of what’s right and wrong that many fellow drivers don’t.

“I really was hoping he would slip a tire, blow a motor, something like that, that was our only hope,” Newman said. “All those things go through your mind.”

But Harvick held it all together and drove on to the race win and championship.

“It was fun from my standpoint to come from where we came from this year,” Newman said. “We started the season in Daytona getting spun out in the last five laps to being the runner-up for the championship. It was a good rebound for us.”

If it had been Brad Keselowski or Kyle Busch or Joey Logano or Denny Hamlin in the same situation in the final laps Sunday, I’m not 100 percent sure they would have been as gentlemanly and gentile in dealing with Harvick on that final lap as Newman ultimately was.

“We came back for the entire season to make our best finish our last finish,” Newman said in the post-race media conference. “It is disappointing, don’t get me wrong, but there’s no point in being a sore loser.”

Other drivers may have moped or maybe even refused to speak to the media for coming so close, but not Newman. He accepted that he was the first loser and moved on.

Even in talking after what was perhaps the toughest loss he’s ever suffered, Newman even joked around about the outcome.

“For me personally, it’s the first real championship I’ve been in position to lose in the last race,” Newman said. “I was thinking after I got out of the car, our tables really turned if you think about it when Gordon didn’t win Phoenix.

“Because if (Gordon would) have won Phoenix, Harvick would have been out (of the championship battle) and we’d have been the top guy at the end of the race. I blame all this on Jeff Gordon.”

In a season that saw Newman with an unlikely Cinderella-like finish, there were a lot of lessons learned, more positive than negative, and that’s ultimately fine with Newman.

Sunday wasn’t his day, but a year from now in the 2015 season finale, it very well may finally be Newman’s day, just like it was Sunday for Harvick.

“It’s been an amazing year,” Newman said. “They say you have to lose one before you can win one. I’m ready to win one now.”

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

Donny Schatz edges Kyle Larson for Outlaws victory at Lake Ozark

Trent Gower/World of Outlaws
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Donny Schatz made a last-lap pass on Kyle Larson, snatching a World of Outlaws victory Saturday night at Lake Ozark Speedway.

Larson started on the pole, led 30 of 35 laps and was in control until a caution set up a two-lap shootout to the finish before a limited crowd in Eldon, Missouri.

Schatz and Larson traded the lead twice over the final two laps, but the 10-time champion emerged with his first victory since the NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series returned in mid-May from a two-month layoff because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

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“Man, I don’t know what to say, but Kyle’s a damn good racer,” Schatz, who led five laps, told DirtVision after his 296th Outlaws win. “I kind of had to go where he didn’t. We got that green-white-checkered, and I decided I was going to send it. He decided the same thing.

Donny Schatz celebrates at Lake Ozark Speedway after his second Outlaws Sprint Car victory of the season (Trent Gower).

“I’m glad to get the win. It feels like it’s been forever. I’ve been out here 24 years, and every night is a learning experience still.”

Larson finished second in his fifth start since he began racing with the Outlaws after being suspended from NASCAR.

“Obviously, it would have been nice to get the win,” Larson said on DirtVision. “I figured Donny would rip the middle. The restarts before, he’d almost clear me in (turns) 3 and 4. I should have known to protect and block his momentum. I felt I exited 2 OK. We don’t have spotters or rearview mirrors so you can’t see how close he is or really hear it when the pace is so slow.

“I just didn’t do a good enough job to run a smarter final couple of laps.”

Brad Sweet, Larson’s brother in law, finished third, with Shane Stewart and David Gravel rounding out the top five.

Larson rebounded from a 10th in Friday’s feature at Lake Ozark Speedway, continuing his streak of top-10 finishes in all five of his starts since the Outlaws’ return.

“We got our car a lot better from last night, so that was a plus,” said Larson, who finished second and first in back-to-back nights last week at Federated Auto Parts Raceway at Pevely, Missouri. “These guys are really tough. To be on the podium with Donny and Brad, they’ve won lots of big races and championships, it’s nice. I just didn’t do what I needed to do that last restart.”

Larson nearly had a flawless night Saturday, turning a 11.426-second lap to capture his second pole position this season and won the pole dash to start first in the feature.

Larson, who was fired by Chip Ganassi Racing from his NASCAR Cup Series ride last month for using a racial slur in an iRacing event, said last week that he plans to run several more NOS Energy Sprint Car Series races this year.

Larson remains indefinitely suspended by NASCAR but was approved to race by the Outlaws after completing sensitivity training.