Ryan Newman — and his brass knuckles — are ready to fight for Sprint Cup crown in 2015

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Having come one position short of the championship last season, Ryan Newman is ready to fight his way to the Sprint Cup title in 2015.

His wife is even willing to help him in his quest.

“My wife got me some brass knuckles for Christmas, so I’m kind of looking forward to this year,” Newman quipped Thursday during the final day of the NASCAR media tour in Charlotte.

Newman was loose and carefree  during Thursday’s session. Known for his dry wit, Newman had a few other zingers in his half-hour discussion with the media.

One of the best involved Jeff Gordon.

“I told Jeff after Homestead that it was his fault I didn’t win the championship,” Newman said. “He looked at me kind of funny and I told him, ‘If you’d have taken Harvick out (at Phoenix) like I did Larson, you’d have been in the Chase for the championship and so would I.’

“And then I would have won the championship because we beat him at Homestead. I see everything that happened at Homestead being his fault.”

But then Newman turned serious and conciliatory. He may like to kid Gordon, but he’s also going to miss him when Gordon completes his final full-time season this year.

“I just look forward to the opportunity to race him again,” Newman said of Gordon.

Newman was one of three drivers to qualify for the 10-race Chase on points – Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle were the other. Newman advanced through the first three elimination rounds of the Chase based solely upon consistency.

By doing so, it showed the caliber, strength and determination of his team.

“Everybody stepped up, everybody from myself to (crew chief Luke Lambert), the team, the pit crew, the engine guys did an awesome job of stepping up,” Newman said. “There was a point back around May when we got looking in the wrong direction and were behind. They did an awesome job of continually stepping up and bringing better and more competitive pieces to the racetrack.

“In the end, to see the end result, it was an awesome thing to be part of.”

If he makes the Chase and goes through without winning again, Newman feels he has as good of a chance of finishing first this season as he did last year.

“Even though there was no W’s in the win column,” Newman said, “we achieved some amazing things for a first-year team, me with the organization, us as a team, us as a driver-crew chief combination. There’s no reason why we can’t keep that incline going.”

At first, Newman was a bit skeptical of the new Chase format when it was introduced last January. He had concerns about how it would unfold and be accepted by fans, let alone his fellow drivers.

“I saw potential for it, but I didn’t think it was going to explode the way it did,” Newman said. “I think we saw gunpowder laying on the floor, but we didn’t know who was going to light it, when it was going to light and how much of it was going to go off.

“I think every bit of it went off, and then some. Every part of the Chase was interesting from a dramatic standpoint from Matt Kenseth wanting to throw a punch to us racing our way in to other guys getting beat out as we raced our way in. Every aspect showed the growth and potential we have for our sport.”

 

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Indy Lights: Askew clinches 2019 title while VeeKay wins Laguna Seca race 1

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MONTEREY, Calif – Rinus VeeKay may have won the first race of the weekend’s Indy Lights doubleheader at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca Saturday afternoon, but all all eyes post-race were all on the driver who finished the race in the fourth position.

That driver was Oliver Askew, who by simply starting the 30-lap event at the famed road course won the 2019 series title, along with the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series scholarship that guarantees a minimum of three races next season.

“It’s all sinking in,” Askew told NBC Sports following the race. “I’m really happy to be part of this team. They’re back to back champions now in Indy Lights, and I feel very fortunate to be driving in this car this year.

“This is what we worked for all year. I’m very happy to be in this position and I can’t wait to celebrate with my team.”

With the championship in Askew’s possession from the get-go, the best VeeKay could do for in race 1 was to win in dominant fashion. He went on to do just so.

After starting the race from the pole position, VeeKay led every lap from start to finish en route to his fifth victory of the season.

“We managed the car well and kept the car consistent throughout the whole race,” VeeKay said. “I got a great car from the team so I want to give a big shout out to them for giving me a winning car.”

Behind VeeKay, Portland race 2 winner Toby Sowery finished the race in the second position, while Robert Megennis finished third.

Live streaming coverage of race two of the Indy Lights doubleheader at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca begins tomorrow afternoon at 12:10 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Gold.

Click here for full race results

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