For Ryan Newman and the No. 39 Quicken Loans Racing team, this is it.
Saturday night’s Federated Auto Parts 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway is the race the team has been working toward since the green flag dropped on the 2012 season 25 races ago at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway.
This is the last race before the 12-driver Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup field is set. And this is the No. 39 Quicken Loans Racing team’s last chance to lock itself into one of the two wild-card spots for the 10-race Chase.
For Newman & Company, the task is this: Win and you’re in.
Race-ending accidents at the last two races at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway and Atlanta Motor Speedway led to finishes of 36th and 35th, respectively, for Newman. Consequently, his chances of earning his third Chase berth in the last four years took a big hit.
Only the top-10 in points are locked into the 12-driver Chase. Positions 11 and 12 in the Chase are wild cards, awarded to the two drivers between 11th and 20th in points with the most wins. In the event multiple drivers have the same number of wins, a driver’s point standing serves as the tiebreaker.
Kasey Kahne holds the 11th-place wild-card spot thanks to his two victories, the most of any driver outside the top-10. Kyle Busch remains in the 12th-place wild-card spot this week by virtue of his victory April 28 at Richmond, combined with his 12th-place position in the point standings, which is higher than fellow single-race winners in the top-20 in points – Jeff Gordon, Marcos Ambrose, Newman and Joey Logano.
While Richmond has been a good racetrack for Newman, the 11-year Sprint Cup veteran knows it’s going to take more than just a good performance to earn a coveted spot in the Chase. Only a victory matters.
Newman has one win (September 2003) and one pole, five top-five finishes and 12 top-10s in 21 career Sprint Cup starts at Richmond. And since joining Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) in 2009, Richmond has been one of the better tracks on the circuit for the No. 39 team. In seven starts for SHR at the .75-mile oval, Newman has four top-10s and he has never finished worse than 20th.
With the stakes higher than they’ve been all season, it makes sense for Newman and the No. 39 team to take a tip from Detroit-based sponsor Quicken Loans by ignoring the noise that surrounds them. “Ignore the noise” is a saying Quicken Loans, the nation’s largest online retail mortgage lender, uses to keep its team members focused on providing the best and most efficient service to its clients.
As Quicken Loans explains it, “distractions may be all around you, but your determination to press on in spite of it (ignore it!) will make all the difference.” Ignoring the noise could be the best advice the No. 39 team gets all weekend.
Should Newman be able to vault himself from outside the top-12 into the Chase this weekend, it wouldn’t be the first time the Quicken Loans driver has made the Chase in the final regular-season race. He was one point outside playoff contention in September 2005 heading to Richmond, but grabbed one of the coveted Chase spots with a solid 12th-place finish.
Knowing it’s going to take nothing short of a win to make the Chase this time around, Newman and the No. 39 team know it will be imperative to put all their energy, focus and determination on the race itself and do whatever it takes to drive the No. 39 Quicken Loans Chevrolet straight to victory lane and into NASCAR’s version of the playoffs.