The transition to Richard Childress Racing has been smooth for Ryan Newman. The latest driver of the No. 31 Chevrolet is consistently one of the best cars at any given NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race this year.
However, as the Chase for the Sprint Cup is right around the corner, Newman hasn’t scored a win this year. Although he has shown he has cars capable of winning at some of the sport’s largest tracks, ‘rocket Ryan’ has been running around the top 10 on a weekly basis.
“We have been fairly consistent,” Newman said on Friday at Richmond. “Your radar or somebody else’s might be different. The guys have been doing a really good job of providing the good cars that are holding together, and that keeps us in that position. We’ve had issues like every other team, whether it’s a tire problem or a pit stop of something like that. But we’ve kept ourselves in contention to be ninth in points right now and have a shot at being in the Chase.”
Through his first 25 events with RCR, the 36-year-old has earned a pair of top fives with nine top 10s. Moreover, he sits ninth in the championship standings without a win, and has been a key leader for the organization.
With Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate Austin Dillon looking for help at tracks he has never seen before, Newman is the veteran of the team now. He is the one that everyone is going to. Whether it is the organization’s Nationwide Series drivers, Dillon or their teammate Paul Menard – everyone has looked up to Newman as a leader. It is a role that he couldn’t have at Team Penske or at Stewart Haas Racing.
Now, thanks to an opportunity from Caterpillar and RCR, Newman might be set to win his first championship in NASCAR competition.
“After 25 races, I think you’re going to see typical Richmond racing. I don’t necessarily think that their Chase format is going to change the outcome of what happens in the last five laps or what happens in the last five minutes before the checkered flag. I think that’s typical Richmond,” he said. “It’s a little bit different situation this year because you’ve got however many guys that have won a race that are locked in and they might be experimenting or experiencing different things versus the other guys who haven’t won and have a shot at winning the race and racing their way in.”
The Chase kicks off next weekend at Chicagoland Speedway, and Newman is set to do well. However, without that elusive victory, his team has shown signs of weakness. But after Kevin Harvick ended 2013 on a high note with RCR, Newman might just do the same this year.