Ryan Newman One Trophy Missing from the Shelf

Ryan Newman’s 17 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victories have come at various venues across the circuit. From a superspeedway win in the 50th running of the Daytona 500 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway to a short track victory at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, it seems Newman has won at every type of track. However, there’s one trophy missing from his shelf.

With a victory at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International this weekend, Newman would join an elite list of drivers who have won at every type of track on the Sprint Cup circuit: superspeedway, speedway, intermediate, short track and road course.

Newman came close to winning at Watkins Glen during his rookie year in 2002. He started fifth and led 11 laps before relinquishing the lead to his current teammate and car owner Tony Stewart, who went on to beat him across the finish line by 1.636 seconds.

In 11 career Sprint Cup starts at Watkins Glen, Newman has the one top-five finish and three top-10s. And while he hasn’t won there in Sprint Cup, Newman did capture a NASCAR Nationwide Series victory at The Glen in 2005.

The legendary road course’s long straightaways and fast, sweeping turns have proven their difficulty for some of the sport’s greatest drivers. Recent series champions Jimmie Johnson, Kurt Busch and Matt Kenseth are all winless at the 2.45-mile venue. Road racers Boris Said and Ron Fellows have fallen short in their bid to upset the series regulars. Busch, Kasey Kahne, Clint Bowyer and Martin Truex Jr., are among those who have victories at the other road-racing venue on the circuit – Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway – but are winless in their attempts to conquer The Glen.

Which is why a win this weekend at The Glen would not only complete Newman’s trophy case, it would do so in fantastic fashion as it would also move him ahead of his fellow competitors in pursuit of a wild-card berth in the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship.

Just five races remain before the 12-driver field is set for the 10-race Chase, which will crown the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion. And, as the series heads to The Glen for the second and final road-course race of the season, Newman is in the midst of a hotly contested battle for a coveted Chase berth.

He jumped from 19th to 15th in the point standings thanks to his win two weeks ago at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, followed by his fourth-place finish at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway Sunday. Newman finds himself only 24 points outside the all-important top-10 and, as one of only three drivers between 11th and 20th in points with a victory, he finds his chances of making the 12-driver, 10-race Chase either by climbing inside the top-10 or via a possible wild-card berth certainly within reach.

But as good as his chances seem to look, Newman heads to Watkins Glen in a precarious position as only the top-10 are locked into the Chase, which begins Sept. 16 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill. Chase positions 11 and 12 are wild cards and are awarded to those drivers between 11th and 20th in points who have the most wins. In the event of multiple drivers having the same amount of wins, a driver’s point standing serves as the tiebreaker.

Stewart holds the 11th-place wild-card spot thanks to his victory at Dover (Del.) International Speedway and his current point standing of 11th. But he will miss the race this weekend at Watkins Glen due to an injury sustained in a Sprint Car accident Monday night at Southern Iowa Speedway in Oskaloosa. Martin Truex Jr., currently 14th in the point standings, holds the 12th-place wild-card spot thanks to his win at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway and his nine-point advantage over the 15th-place Newman.

Newman will likely inherit Stewart’s wild-card spot this weekend but could solidify his place in the standings by earning another victory in the next five races, or by climbing into the top-10 in points.

So, Newman and his team, led by crew chief Matt Borland, will look to continue their trend of strong finishes with their eye on taking The Glen’s winding road to victory lane. They know what a second win would mean in their bid to make the Chase. And, for Newman, it would fill the lone void in his personal trophy case.