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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Valtteri Bottas wins chaotic season-opening F1 Austrian Grand Prix

Mark Thompson/Getty Images
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SPIELBERG, Austria — Valtteri Bottas won a chaotic season-opening F1 Austrian Grand Prix while six-time series champion Lewis Hamilton finished fourth after getting a late time penalty Sunday.

The Formula One race was interrupted three times by a safety car, and nine of 20 drivers abandoned, including both Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Alexander Albon – who tried to overtake Hamilton on the outside with 10 laps left, touched wheels and flew off track.

Hamilton was given a 5-second time penalty for causing the collision, having earlier been hit with a three-place grid penalty after an incident in Saturday’s qualifying was reviewed by stewards.

SHOW OF SUPPORT: Drivers take knee before race

Bottas led all 71 laps in the eighth victory of his career. It was the second consecutive victory in the season opener for the Finn, though he won four months earlier in 2019 after this season’s start was delayed by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Lando Norris of McLaren F1 celebrates after his first podium finish (Mark Thompson/Getty Images).

Bottas started from pole position and Hamilton from fifth, but it looked like a straight fight between the two Mercedes drivers as has been the case so often in recent years.

But late drama in Spielberg ensured otherwise and Hamilton’s time penalty meant Charles Leclerc took second place for Ferrari, and Lando Norris sent McLaren’s garage into raptures – and threw all social distancing rules out of the window amid the euphoria – with third place.

It was the 20-year-old British driver’s first career podium, and his superb final lap was the fastest of a dramatic season opener.

Norris became the youngest British driver to secure a podium finish and the third-youngest ever in Formula One.

Valtteri Bottas leads Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton during the Formula One Grand Prix of Austria (Mark Thompson/Getty Images).