Ryan Newman's return to the Chase portends great things
Newman arrived at Stewart-Haas a driver on a mission to re-establish himself as a Chase-level driver. He was 17th in the championship last year, 13th in 2007 and 18th in 2006. This is the same driver who beat out
After Newman's eight seasons with Penske Racing, the team that groomed him from an open-wheel USAC Sprint, Midget and Silver Crown driver with its ABC (ARCA, Busch, Cup) stock-car program, it was time for him to try something new.
"People say it looked like a risk to leave Penske Racing, but to me, it looked like an opportunity," Newman said. "Yeah, there was risk associated with it, but it was n opportunity. I'm extremely gratified to be in this position.
"It's a dream come true. To think back to Daytona (in February), going through basically three race cars and make it to Richmond here and be in this position, it says a lot about the hard work that [crew chief] Tony Gibson, Tony Stewart and everybody has put into this effort."
Newman doesn't have a win this year, but neither do
Heading to Richmond, Newman was 81 points in front of 13th-place
"At the start of the race, we struggled a little bit," Newman said. "We finally got the car rolling and where it would turn a little better in the center and tightened up off [the corner]. Tony Gibson and the guys did a great job."
Stewart, who last month secured his place in the Chase for the fifth time in six seasons, had Newman on his mind the entire race at Richmond.
"I worried the whole night about where Ryan was," he said. "We were in our own battles all night and every time the caution would come out, I would count the leader all the way back to where he was. He was right where he needed to be or within a couple of spots of it the whole night.
"He did his job, he did an awesome job. I got ahead of him at one point and I lost the handle and lost about four spots and couldn't get them back. I am proud of Ryan and his guys and what they were able to do. It was a hard night knowing you are under the gun like that and wanting to win the race and at the same time trying to gather points to get in the Chase."
Stewart-Haas has two cars in the Chase. Richard Childress Racing has none. Joe Gibbs Racing, the organization Stewart left, has one in
"Would we have bet on this at Daytona?" Stewart said. "No way. This is a tough series and to get two cars in the Chase is unbelievable."
Newman isn't among the Chase favorites. Stewart, Johnson, Hamlin and
"We have to pick up our performance a little bit," Newman said. "If you look at the last few races, we've gotten better, but if you want to win this championship, statistically it takes a lot better finish than we did (at Richmond). We're not taking a go-for-broke attitude, but we are going to have fun in the next 10 races."
Newman's return to the Chase has accomplished his first and most difficult goal in moving to Stewart-Haas. He's only 31 and, compared to where he was a year ago, has a very promising future with Cup's newest powerhouse organization.