Those are the words Ryan Newman wanted so desperately to hear following Saturday night’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway.
Wanting to get in – earning a coveted spot in the 12-driver Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship – was what pushed Newman as he valiantly drove his No. 39 Quicken Loans Chevrolet SS from his 24th starting spot to the race lead with less than 10 laps to go. But, with just six laps to go, a now-well-documented controversial caution led to a turn of events that relegated Newman to a third-place finish and out of the Chase.
The result left Newman tied with Martin Truex Jr., in driver points for the second wild-card position in the Chase. With one race victory each this season, the next tiebreaker to determine which driver was in was second-place finishes. Truex had one, earned in April at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, while Newman had none which meant the 12th and final spot in the 2013 championship battle went to Truex.
Thus, Saturday night, a dejected Newman was left on the outside looking in.
Not making the Chase was a bitter pill for him to swallow, and the circumstances surrounding Saturday night’s race made it even more difficult for the 12-year Sprint Cup veteran. In fact, Newman called it the toughest thing he had ever dealt with in a 30-year racing career.
Then, on Monday night, less than 48 hours later, Newman got the phone call that changed everything. He finally heard the words he had fought so hard on the racetrack to hear.
Starting with Sunday’s Geico 400 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill., Newman and his No. 39 Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) team are among 12 teams vying for the 2013 Sprint Cup championship. They have a clean slate and 10 races to prove they are the best.
In 11 starts at Chicagoland, Newman has one pole (2002), one win (2003), three top-five finishes and seven top-10s. Five of those top-10 finishes came in his last six starts at the 1.5-mile oval. That’s just the kind of performance Newman expects to turn in this weekend at Chicagoland in order to make a bonafide run for his first-ever NASCAR championship.
For Newman and his crew chief Matt Borland-led race team, the key over these final 10 races is the same consistency the team has demonstrated throughout the 2013 season – the same consistency that helped the team earn a berth in the Chase.
In the last 12 races, the No. 39 team has earned 10 finishes of 15th or better, including Newman’s Brickyard 400 win from the pole at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Perhaps most importantly, Newman and his team are on a streak of consecutive top-five finishes – fifth at Atlanta Motor Speedway and third at Richmond.
Consistency, top-five finishes and wins are what Newman and his No. 39 Quicken Loans team will need to contend for this year’s championship.
Newman & Company is looking ahead only as far as the next race. The driver and team know that knocking off the best possible finishes one race at a time will ultimately put the them right where they want to be when the checkered flag flies at the final Chase race at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November.
But for now, Newman is just relishing being “in” this season’s Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship.