With speculation that Ryan Newman might be out of a ride at Richard Childress Racing following the 2016 season, he is ecstatic to be with the team.
In the third and final year of his current contract with RCR, Newman has experienced the ups and downs of a race team. This is something that he has welcomed in the past, making him an established veteran of the sport.
“Tying it all together, that’s the toughest part of our whole sport,” Newman told Speedway Digest. “One bad pit stop, one bad moment, one bad strategy call, one bad move as a driver, one bad restart can take you out of the race. There was a time in our sport that I think you had to be the best at everything, but now you need to damn near be the best at everything.”
In his 15th year in the Sprint Cup Series, Newman currently sits 17th in the standings, two points shy of the Chase cutoff after 11 races. As the halfway point of the race to the Chase approaches, the 38-year-old feels the pressure to perform.
”We’ve performed better than we’ve finished,” Newman elaborated. “We’ve had three tire failures in 11 races. Some of it has been self-inflicted, some of it hasn’t. But in the end, it’s part of racing and hopefully we got it out of the way.”
The Indiana native has raced for his livelihood several different times. In 2013, a week after being informed that he would not be back with Stewart-Haas Racing, he won the Brickyard 400.
But this year is different.
Over the span of his first two seasons with RCR, Newman was known for consistency, accumulating 31 top 10 finishes and making the Chase both years. He made it to the championship race with a shot at the title in 2014, his first year with the organization. Finishing second at Homestead that evening has been his best result in the No. 31 machine.
Heading into the summer months, the circuit is heading to some of Newman’s better tracks. He has nine career poles at Charlotte, with a best result of second. In a couple of months, the Cup Series heads to New Hampshire, which is arguably the best track for him with three career wins, 17 top 10 finishes and an average finish of 13.5.
“I think our cars are better than they were at this time last year hands down,” Newman said. “You’ve got to put everything together in this series. The competition level is so tough. You can’t afford to have one mistake.”
Through 11 races in 2016, the No. 31 car has qualified three top five starts. That is the same number that he had in all of 2015.
The chemistry within the organization is something that Newman is proud to be a part of and would seemingly be tough for him to leave. Crew chief Luke Lambert and he have adapted to each other’s preferences, but the NASCAR veteran knows that the performance needs to improve.
“I’ve never been a part of an organization that worked more closely together like this,” Newman said. “To me, it’s as good as it can get. Once we can get the success it will get better yet.”
RCR is in a current slump of 84 races without going to Victory Lane. Ever since Kevin Harvick left the team at the end of 2013 season, the organization has struggled to find its groove back.
However, this season there is more to be proud of.
Newman’s teammate Austin Dillon currently sits eighth in points. Though he admits he can’t learn much from the third-year driver, the two work closely together and just recently began putting all eight cylinders together.
“I think it’s been in a rebuilding process,” he said. “I think our cars have been competitive. I think that at one point in 2014 our engines were our weak point. I think last year we started missing it a little on the car side and I think we are in the process of putting it all back together.”
As 2016 progresses, Newman is essentially driving for his life. With Richard Childress’ grandson, Ty Dillon waiting in the helm for a ride in the Cup Series, it’s more than likely that one of the current drivers at RCR has to go. Paul Menard has sponsorship from his father and the older Dillon is having the best year of his tenure with the team.
Newman is one of the older statesmen in the garage and has no plans of retiring as long as he has a competitive car.
“As long as they will have me drive the racecar and it’s a good racecar and it’s fun to do it then I’ll do it as long as it makes sense,” he said.
With his future in question, Newman admits that he wants to figure out where he stands quickly. The further that it progresses into the season, the harder it will be to find a competitive ride for the following campaign.
“We are so focused on this year and winning races to get ourselves a Chase birth,” Newman said. “There’s a time to talk about it and you always want to get it done sooner rather than later. I just hope it’s not later.”
After having an eventful morning in northern Tennessee, Denny Hamlin conquered final practice in preparation for the Food City 500 on Sunday.
Early in the session, the No. 11 Toyota posted a lap at 126.129 mph which is equivalent to just over 15 seconds on the stop watch. Hamlin was fastest in practice on Friday and will roll off the grid from the fourth position.
In the first session on Saturday morning Hamlin and Danica Patrick were involved in an incident heading into Turn One. The No. 11 car darted underneath the No. 10 machine and mistimed it, causing for both drivers to be confused.
“Man, I love Denny, but he makes a lot of mistakes behind me,” Patrick said. “I don’t know if he misjudged it or I was going slower than he thought, but I put my finger out the window and pointed him by. I had no intention to race him. I was not fast enough. I don’t know, but the guys are going to try and fix it.”
The only non-Toyota in the top five in final practice was Chase Elliott in second at 125.823 mph. The No. 24 Chevrolet posted his fastest time of the session as time expired, giving him confidence heading into his first event at the world’s fastest half-mile.
Just seconds before Elliott clocked off a hot lap, Martin Truex, Jr. had posted the second fastest time. He ended the session in third at 125.749 mph.
A duo of Joe Gibbs Racing teammates rounded out the top five. Pole-sitter, Carl Edwards was fourth quickest at 125.691 mph. Kyle Busch was fifth at 125.395 mph, after pacing the opening practice earlier on in the morning.
The fourth JGR Toyota and defending winner of this race, Matt Kenseth was 10th in the session, yet he was just over a tenth of a second off the fast lap.
The highest Richard Childress Racing car was Austin Dillon in 20th. His RCR teammate, Ryan Newman ran just over 100 laps, but only fast enough for 27th.
Sprint Cup Rookie Chris Buescher ran 104 laps, the most of the 40-car field. His hot lap was quick enough for 21st on the speed chart.
The Food City 500 is slated to begin shortly after 1:00 p.m. on Sunday, a race that has been rain delayed in each of the past two years.
Richard Childress was a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Driver. Currently, Childress is a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and NASCAR Xfinity Series Team Owner. His career in NASCAR started in 1969 and continues to succeed in NASCAR’s premier divisions.
Childress started his racing career with limited means. At the age of 17, he purchased his first car for only $20. Childress was well-respected as a racer, and was a consummate self-made racer. Childress has six top-five finishes, 76 top 10’s, all within 285 starts. Childress finished fifth in the points standings in 1975. Ultimately, he retired in 1982.
In 1972, Childress formed Richard Childress Racing. And the rest is history from there. Much of his team’s success came with NASCAR Hall of Famer, Dale Earnhardt. Under Earnhardt’s career at RCR, Childress won six championships and 67 races from 1984 to 2000. Drivers who have driven for Childress have received five additional championships. Childress became the first team owner to win championships in all three of NASCAR’s premier divisions. Childress is ranked second on the championship list with 11.
“Once you've raced, you never forget it...and you never get over it,” said Richard Childress.
Childress is still active in the community of Welcome and Lexington, North Carolina. Childress started his own vineyard located in Lexington, North Carolina. He and his wife started the Childress Institute for Pediatric Research in 2008.
Austin Dillon wins the TreatMyClot.com 300 at Auto Club Speedway after spoiling the Joe Gibbs Racing party in an exciting fuel mileage race. Dillon edges out Kyle Busch, who ran out of fuel and had a tire go down, to win in a wild finish that only Hollywood could have scripted. Darrell Wallace Jr. finished third, followed by Daniel Suarez, and Elliott Sadler. This is Dillon’s seventh career win in the NASCAR Xfinity Series.
The final lap had a lot of twists and turns for some drivers. Kyle Busch blew a tire as Daniel Suarez took over the lead on the backstretch. Busch would later retake the lead once again after Suarez ran out of fuel. However, Austin Dillon caught Busch coming off of turn four to win the race.
Kyle Busch declined talking to the media after the race. However, Kyle expressed his displeasure for NASCAR on the last lap on his radio.
Dillon was excited for this win. “Sometimes things just go your way, today it definitely did. Fun race. I hope the fans liked that last lap. That was exciting.”
Richard Childress was happy to be back in Victory Lane. “This is a perfect example of what you would call luck. Luck is when preparation meets opportunity. These guys were prepared today, and the opportunity was there. They capitalized, and that is what it takes to win.”
Daniel Suarez maintained his ten-point lead over Elliott Sadler in the Driver’s Standings.
The car of Darrell Wallace Jr. failed post-race inspection with post-race heights. The cars of Austin Dillon, Daniel Suarez, and Ryan Blaney will be taken back to the NASCAR R&D Center for further evaluation.
The TreatMyClot.com 300 was plagued with four cautions for a total of 16 laps. The race had 12 lead changes among eight different drivers. Kyle Busch led the most laps with a total of 133 laps led. The average speed was 143.008 mph. The time of the race was 2 hours, 5 minutes, and 52 seconds. The margin of victory was .741 seconds.
The NASCAR Xfinity Series will take a two-week hiatus before returning to the Texas Motor Speedway on April 8 for the O’Reilly Auto Parts 300.
Circling the track in the car made famous by his grandfather and NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt, pressure has been on the shoulders of one young man for several years. Since the return of the No. 3 Chevrolet hit the high banks of Daytona International Speedway in 2014, Austin Dillon has emerged as a driver that has experienced the ups and downs of Sprint Cup Series racing.
Dillon, 25, has achieved a careers worth of knowledge in his eight years in the NASCAR industry. He’s been on a roller coaster journey, from seeing the ultimate high’s of winning two championships, to the lows of struggling in the Sprint Cup Series.
But again, he’s only 25.
Heading into 2016, Dillon has competed in two full-time seasons at the helm of the No. 3 car. Being the wheelman of the historic number provides pressure within itself, he puts all of the pressure on his back.
Driving for his grandfather, Richard Childress it could raise the question on whether or not he is qualified for an elite ride, or if it was it a given that he would one day drive for “pop-pop.”
Though he has only recorded nine top-10 finishes in his first two seasons, there is reason for optimism within the camp heading into Daytona.
“You never know, Daytona could be our day,” Dillon told Speedway Digest. “The effort is there. Now it’s putting it all together to consistently run up front. The first win comes from running up front and proving that you can lead laps.”
Leading laps is one thing that Dillon has struggled to do in his first two seasons in the Cup Series. The No. 3 team has been out front for just 49 laps in the 72 races that it has been back on track, 19 of which came at Michigan last summer when he finished a career-high fourth. That was just his second top-five finish of his stint in the Cup Series.
“Michigan was a huge boost,” Dillon said. “It proves that I can lead laps and race with the best of the best. I knew I was doing it on Saturday so why couldn’t it come true on Sunday. That’s a fun part of my job is to put that effort in and when it comes out and you race up there.”
As the 2016 season approaches, Dillon’s confidence level continues to increase. Some of that comes with running in the XFINITY Series on a regular basis, getting more track time for the advanced series on Sunday. The 2013 XFINITY Series champion believes that repetition on a racetrack can help at certain citcuts, especially at ones that he struggles on such as Richmond and Dover.
Last season alone Dillon posted four victories in the XFINITY Series while leading over 500 laps in his 20 starts for RCR.
Midway through last season, Dillon teamed up with Richard “Slugger” Labbe and it elevated the performance on the Cup side. From Sonoma on, the No. 3 car had four top 10s, including his scary crash at Daytona when he flipped into the catch fence where his car came to a halting stop.
Though the end results weren’t exactly what the organization was looking for, it is something to build on for the new year. The speed was there to be competitive and compete with the Chase drivers.
Dillon’s two teammates, Ryan Newman and Paul Menard were more consistent than he was in the two previous seasons, but neither of them have won recently, either.
RCR is currently in its longest winless drought as an organization at 73 races, with the last win coming at Phoenix in the fall of 2013 when Kevin Harvick took the checkered flag.
“I think that leading laps is even more than just finishing in the top 10,” Dillon said. “When you run in the top five that is when I do believe the wins will come. So if you start seeing our top-five finishes go up, that means a win is right around the corner.”
As he gains more experience in the big leagues, Dillon has been able to settle in as a person. He has been able to translate his personal life onto the racetrack and perform at a better pace because of it.
“I’m at the point where I’m happy with me as a person,” he said. “I’m comfortable in my own skin. Now, I just want to go perform and win more, win championships and compete and make that name even more than what it is now.”
As Dillon enters his third season in the Cup Series, he is in the best position to make his first career Chase for the Sprint Cup. RCR as a company is communicating better than it has in the previous two seasons as the chemistry has begun to grow within the three teams.
One thing that might slow down Dillon and RCR in general is the loss of Furniture Row Racing as an affiliate. Martin Truex, Jr. is coming off his strongest season, which featured the No. 78 team making it to the championship four, then jumping to Toyota, aligning itself with Joe Gibbs Racing.
However, RCR still works closely with Germain Racing and JTG Daugherty Racing. Newcomers, Circle Sport-Levine Family Racing and Tommy Baldwin Racing, have been added to the plethora of organizations that are under the RCR wing with technical support.
Dillon has a long NASCAR career ahead of him, but the No. 3 team needs to be better than average. As long as he somewhat performs throughout his career it seems almost guaranteed that he will have a ride with his grandfathers team. In the two seasons that he has competed in he has finishes of 20th and 21st in the points standings. But last year his average finish decreased by over three positions to that of 2014.
Like all teams, Dillon would love to have it no other way that start off the 2016 season with a bang and end up in Victory Lane following 500 miles in Daytona. If a track were to owe a driver anything, it seems like Daytona owes Dillon for the nasty crash that happened last July.
What a storyline that would be, plus the No. 3 car would be back in Victory Lane for the first time just days after the 15-year anniversary of Dale Earnhardt’s tragic crash.