Ryan Newman gave his Richard Childress Racing (RCR) team a shot to win the 2014 Sprint Cup Series championship. After the checkered flag dropped at the Homestead-Miami Speedway, Newman came in second to Kevin Harvick and just fell short of winning the title in his first season in the RCR organization.
Newman trailed the top three most of the race, but pitting during a caution with 18 laps to go gave the Indiana driver new life. Once the race restarted, dropped, the bull rush to the front was on.
“The game-changer for us was the one caution,” Newman said. “It was before Gordon pitted that I think Denny was leading. We were in a better situation than they were on tires. We had rights and they had stayed out.”
Jeff Gordon dominated most of the night and came down to pit on the second-to-last caution, which gave Newman the front row with Hamlin.
“When Jeff pitted, that kind of caught me by surprise,” Newman said. “Had a decent start there with Denny and, luckily, just got past him when the caution came back out again.”
The second-place showing was a season best for Newman, only scoring five top-fives on the 2014 season.
Newman started 21st and already began Sunday’s race in a hole, as all three other championship contenders qualified in the top 10. Slowly but surely, the Indiana driver worked his way to the top five. One of the downsides to the driver’s day was losing spots on pit road, forcing Newman to claw his way back towards the front. The pit stops improved during the last two times on pit road. Restarts weren’t his strong suit either during the Ford EcoBoost 400.
"I was trying to keep track of who was beneficial, the top or the bottom lane,” he added. “I was between fifth and eighth for most of those restarts.”
Newman squeaked into the final round by passing Kyle Larson on the last lap the week before at Phoenix, a move that decided his Chase fate. It was just enough, as the RCR driver was one point ahead of Jeff Gordon for the fourth and final spot.
His old team at Stewart-Haas Racing claimed the 2014 championship and Richard Childress’s former driver, Harvick, won the championship. Even though Newman gave Childress his best shot at winning a championship in 20 years, the season was deemed a success.
“I’m just so proud of our team,” Newman said. “We came back for the entire season to make our best finish our last finish. It is disappointing, don’t get me wrong, but there’s no point in being a sore loser.”
Newman worked with crew chief Luke Lambert during the 2014 season. The duo combined to post five top-fives and 16 top-10’s in their first season together. Newman’s runner-up showing at Homestead was also the 200th career top-10 finish of his 14-year Cup career. He didn’t have a pole either for RCR in 2014, only the second season the Rocket-Man didn’t win a pole, the other season being in 2012.
The second-place points finish was the best in Newman’s career and also tied a team best for RCR since the late Dale Earnhardt was runner-up in points in 2000.