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.”
As well as his second victory of the year it was his second $100,000 bonus after finishing highest the highest of the four Dash 4 Cash drivers. Each race that he has won this season has come when he won the bonus.
"I think it's a good spot for us," Jones said about his performance, reminiscing that there is a Chase race at Dover in the fall. "Today we had a car and hopefully that will be a race where we can grab ourselves a win and advance into the next round. We're racing for wins at this point of the year and trying to get as many points as we can before the Chase."
Staying out under caution, Darrell Wallace, Jr. restarted in fourth with five laps to go. Pushing Jones to the lead, the driver of the No. 6 found himself in second with a shot at his first career victory in the XFINITY Series.
"For all that we went through Friday, 'its like okay man this is your favorite track," Wallace said of his second-place finish. "We really had to work for it. When we fired off in the heat races we made some passes and if we could carry that we would have been fine. I was right for once."
The second-place finish was the highest for an African American in the XFINITY Series history, breaking his own record of third last season in Chicago.
Making his first start of 2016 in any NASCAR division, Alex Bowman came home with a third-place result. During the long 70-lap run that opened up the event, the No. 88 car went from fifth to the lead and in the process led 33 laps.
This was the first of nine races on the schedule for Bowman, a guy that thought he had a full-time ride in the Cup Series until NASCAR Media Week in January. Since then he competed in a few open wheel events, but later realized that it was discouraging knowing he wasn't in NASCAR.
"I hope my phone starts ringing and I get some more races," Bowman said of his effort Saturday which tied a career-high finish. "I've got nine races this year and at this point in my career those nine races are really going to define where it goes. I think with my experience in the Cup Series the last two years I have to go win some races. I have to prove that I should be here."
Justin Allgaier grabbed fourth-place after starting from pole. The No. 7 car was out front for the opening lap, but quickly faded to fifth where he ran near for the majority of the 120 laps. This is his eighth top-10 finish in 10 races this year.
Taking the lead on Lap 2, Ty Dillon went on to lead the next 11 circuits. During that long green flag run he quickly fell outside of the top 10, barely remaining on the lead lap before the first caution flew. With the late caution the No. 3 car got a good restart and drove up to round out the top five.
Elliott Sadler rebounded to a sixth-place result after starting from 32nd. In time trials, the No. 1 machine posted the third fastest lap, but jumped the initial restart and was black-flagged. In the first 20 laps of the race he had made his way inside the top 15. From there he just kept going.
Joey Logano, the first Cup Series regular finished seventh on Saturday. At a track where he has four career wins, the No. 22 car struggled throughout the day hovering around the back half of the top 10.
The two other Joe Gibbs Racing cars finished eighth and ninth. Matt Tift hung on to eight-place as Daniel Suarez was penalized late in the event, resulting in a ninth-place effort.
Two of the Richard Childress Racing cars had problems that didn't cause cautions, resulting in multiple laps down. Brandon Jones had a tire rub 20 laps in and made an unscheduled pit stop to repair the damage. He finished 25th. Paul Menard was running sixth when he had a tire go down losing three laps and finishing 29th.
The XFINITY Series has a week off before going to Charlotte on Memorial Day weekend. Sadler holds a four point lead on Suarez through 10 events.
In the two practice sessions on Saturday in preparation for the Auto Club 400 on Sunday, Joe Gibbs Racing looked to be the team to beat. In each of the two one-hour sessions, it was a JGR Toyota who set down a fast lap in the opening minutes that would not be beat.
Over the span of the two hours there were three separate incidents that would send two teams to backup cars.
Carl Edwards paced the opening hour of practice at 187.906 mph. After qualifying fifth on Friday, the driver of the No. 19 car is looking to return to Victory Lane in Southern California for the first time since 2008.
He was just ahead of another Toyota, Martin Truex, Jr. with Furniture Row Racing. The No. 78 team welcomed back crew chief, Cole Pearn, following his one-race suspension last week in Phoenix. He put down a lap at 187.632 mph.
Third quick was Ryan Newman at 186.640 mph, more than two-tenths of a second off the fast time. Kyle Busch was fourth and pole-sitter Austin Dillon rounded out the top five at 186.587 mph.
Just outside of the top five was Paul Menard in sixth, making all three Richard Childress Racing cars inside of the top six. The top rookie was Brian Scott in seventh. Two winners so far this season were mired down below 20th, Denny Hamlin 23rd and defending winner Brad Keselowski was just 24th fastest in the morning session.
The first incident of the day came when Aric Almirola slid into the wall off Turn 2, causing significant cosmetic damage. The team would repair the car and return to the track in the second session. The No. 43 car was 19th fastest.
The latter incident came when Kurt Busch pounded the wall right where Almirola did 20 minutes prior. The No. 41 car was not as lucky as the Stewart-Haas Racing team pulled out the backup car, something that Busch appreciated because he was not happy with his primary car on Saturday morning.
In the first two minutes of Happy Hour, Matt Kenseth recorded a lap at 185.419 mph. This practice was in race condition as the Sprint Cup race on Sunday will start at the time that this practice ended.
After being quickest in the first practice, Edwards was second fast, .015 seconds behind his JGR teammate. The No. 19 car was also one of the best on the long runs as were all of the Toyota teams. Toyota is looking for its third win in the last four races at the Auto Club Speedway, which is the backyard of TRD's headquarters.
A trio of Fords filled the next three speeds, led by rookie Ryan Blaney at 185.161 mph. Joey Logano was fourth quickest and Almirola rounded out the top five after getting his car back on track following the incident in the opening session.
Dillon finished the session the lowest he's been all week in sixth, just under a tenth of a second behind Kenseth. Keselowski made improvements to his car and finish Happy Hour 12th.
While the one-lap speed didn't show it, Kevin Harvick had the fastest car on the long run. He was only 27th on the speed chart, but had very little fall off in his tires compared to other teams. The California native is a two-time winner at his home track, the last win coming in 2011 with RCR.
The biggest incident of the day came 32 minutes into final practice when Kyle Larson got loose getting into Turn 4, by the time he could correct it Greg Biffle drilled him in the rear and the tandem spun to the infield. The No. 16 car was on fresh tires, going approximately 20 mph faster than the No. 42 car at the time.
Larson would go to a backup car with a ton of cosmetic damage to the right rear of the car, while it looks like Biffle will remain in his primary car on Sunday. Before the incident the No. 42 team had the 26th fastest time, while the No. 16 team had the 15th fastest lap.
The green flag will drop at 3:30 p.m. Sunday to start the Auto Club 400 where another driver will look to clinch their birth into the Chase.
After having an unusual Friday, Joe Gibbs Racing picked up the speed in race trim and swept both rounds of practice in Las Vegas led by Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards.
In the morning practice that began at 8:30 a.m. Carl Edwards paced the field in a backup car at 191.564 mph. The No. 19 Toyota had to go to a backup car after following a crash in round two of qualifying on Friday. In the first round he was fourth fastest, but the team worked until the late hours on Friday evening to prepare the new car.
After qualifying fifth, Austin Dillon was second fast on one lap speed. The No. 3 car also was among the fastest on 10-lap speeds.
Casey Mears finished the session in third, .128 seconds behind Edwards. Kasey Kahne finished with the fourth best lap and Brad Keselowski rounded out the top five.
Polesitter Kurt Busch was the lowest on the speed chart that he had been all weekend at 10th, while his teammate and defending winner of this race Kevin Harvick was mired down in 22nd.
Struggling all weekend long has been Kyle Busch, who posted the 27th time. Joey Logano was a disappointing 30th on the board following the first session, though qualifying outside of the front row for Sunday’s 400-mile event.
Kenseth laid down a lap early on in the session that would remain atop the board for the entirety of the session. At 189.460 mph, the No. 20 Toyota laid down a lap that would be more similar to race conditions.
Edwards was able to finish out “Happy Hour” second quick. He self-admittedly was happy that the team is using the backup car because of the speed that it has shown throughout the first two practices.
Busch was just over a tenth of a second behind Kenseth in third. The Las Vegas native is looking for his first career win at his hometown track on Sunday.
Richard Childress Racing teammates Paul Menard and Ryan Newman finished out the top five. The No. 27 car ran 54 laps, the most of all teams as he is looking to take advantage of running at one of his best tracks this weekend.
Dillon had the 11th overall speed, but was the fastest on the 10 consecutive lap average. He was so happy with his car that they covered the car up with 20 minutes remaining in practice.
Busch and Logano were able to get their cars to a respectable speed of 14th and 17th. Just like the morning practice Harvick finished 22nd on the chart.
The third race of the Sprint Cup season will begin at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday where one team will look to solidify itself in the Chase.
Coming off of a disappointing weekend at Atlanta, Team Penske rebounded to pace the first practice session of the Sprint Cup weekend at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Brad Keselowski led the way at 195.327 mph, .009 seconds faster than teammate Joey Logano.
Kurt Busch posted the third fastest time as the No. 41 car was among the fastest all morning long. The car would get faster in every run it made.
The first three drivers were all faster than last year’s pole winning run by Jeff Gordon.
Paul Menard recorded his hot lap after having a close moment with the outside wall. He finished the practice fourth fastest and was the first driver over a tenth of a second behind the lap posted by the No. 2 car.
Brian Vickers, filling in for Tony Stewart rounded out the top five after posting 117 laps in Thursday’s test session at the 1.5-mile racetrack.
Defending winner of the Kobalt Tools 400 Kevin Harvick was seventh fastest at 194.126 mph. The driver of the No. 4 Chevrolet has been battling the flu throughout the week as he looks to go back-to-back in Sin City.
The first Toyota was Matt Kenseth in 11th as the Joe Gibbs Racing and Furniture Row teams struggled on one lap speed. Kyle Busch was the slowest among the five teams in 25th. Denny Hamlin finished the session 13th in his backup car after crashing his primary on Thursday.
All 39 teams took part in Friday’s opening practice in preparation for qualifying. The drivers will look to battle slick track conditions during qualifying. If practice is a fair representation of qualifying, then there will be a new track record set tonight in Las Vegas.