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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Tony Kanaan says his message of IndyCar-NASCAR unity aimed at fans

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Over a 22-year IndyCar career featuring its share of adversity, Tony Kanaan has learned to embrace trying to find the positives in a negative situation.

He believes NASCAR and IndyCar will find a tiny silver lining from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The series will race together at Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s road course in a July 4 doubleheader, which he believes sends a message of unity he’d like to see from the world during this dark period.

“It’s time to send that message (of unity),” Kanaan told “Happy Hours” hosts Kevin Harvick and Matt Yocum in a Wednesday afternoon interview on SiriusXM’s NASCAR Channel. “If we don’t come out of this situation as better people, globally, in every way, shape or form … it’s just being kind to people. Hopefully, we’ll be sending the right messages, doing radio shows together, doing live on Instagram together, doing races together.

ON NBCSN: IndyCar at virtual Barber Motorsports Park, Saturday, 2:30 p.m.

MORE: Jimmie Johnson wants to run IndyCar-NASCAR doubleheader

“I was bugging Jimmie Johnson to say, ‘Can I be a guest in NASCAR on iRacing?’ I think the misperception, and probably a little our fault as well, is that people don’t know how (IndyCar and NASCAR drivers) respect each and how we think each other’s jobs are so cool.”

It was Kanaan’s comment last week that “it’s not us and them. It is the motorsports world’ that prompted Harvick to ask the 2004 IndyCar champion and 2013 Indianapolis 500 winner about his views on past IndyCar and NASCAR divisions.

Harvick noted that “over the years, IndyCar and NASCAR have that separate stigma as far as the fans, but the racers in the middle, we talk with each other. We’re just racers. I think it’s absolutely great” the doubleheader will happen.

Kanaan said he felt it was the right message to send because of the fans. “For drivers, I don’t think we ever thought of it that way,” he said. “We always respected each other and thought each other’s jobs were cool. That tweet was for our fans who say, ‘Those cars are too fast. Those cars are too slow.’ It’s time for us to stop. It’s a racing family.

“For people who don’t understand about racing, any race car is cool. Doesn’t matter if it’s a go kart, a sprint car, a  Cup car, it doesn’t matter. … The situation, we’re in, we’re all equal. It doesn’t matter how much money you have. We’re all in the same boat now. We can’t do what we love. It just clicked. I said it’s time to send that message. Hopefully this will be the end for ‘you guys and us’ for the fans. For drivers, I don’t think we ever thought of it that way.”

The GMR IndyCar Grand Prix is scheduled to be run July 4 on the IMS road course ahead of the Xfinity race, which will mean that the NTT Series’ Firestone rubber will be on the asphalt before the Goodyears of NASCAR hit the track.

Recalling a NASCAR test many years ago at Nazareth Speedway when he turned laps a second faster because there’d been an IndyCar race the previous day, Harvick asked Kanaan whether the varying tire compounds might present a challenge.

“I don’t there is a solution for that,” Kanaan said. “It’s part of the job, and we need to realize that you guys run different tires. We run softer tires. It’s no different than (IndyCar) racing with the trucks at Texas. It’s probably harder on an oval than a road course.

“But I like it. It’s part of the challenge and makes the race weekend more interesting, the people who can manage that as well.”

Even though he is sidelined, Kanaan still will stay busy this weekend, racing in Saturday’s 2:30 p.m. IndyCar iRacing Challenge event at virtual Barber Motorsports Park on NBCSN. He will be tuning in Sunday at 1 p.m. on Fox and FS1 as NASCAR hits Bristol Motor Speedway.

“Last Sunday I had my alarm set for 12:40 p.m., because at 1 o’clock (NASCAR was) on,” Kanaan said with a laugh. “I told (wife) Lauren, ‘Let’s turn the TV on and watch the NASCAR race!’ I was excited, and it wasn’t even real. She’s like, ‘Man, look at you … I said, ‘That’s what we got.’ It’s been a weird year.”

Harvick also will be racing Sunday, having recently joined Kanaan in installing a new racing simulator at home.

“Let’s do this Kevin: Come do an IndyCar race on iRacing,” Kanaan said. “I’ll do NASCAR. Now that you have a sim. What do you think?”

“Well, I’ll have to go to my 7-year-old to figure out how to drive it fast,” Harvick said.

“He’s been practicing. I’m really good at crashing.”