Through three races, Newman has two DNFs and is coming off an 18th-place finish at Las Vegas that has him heading to Atlanta 32nd in the points standings. It's a precarious spot to be in so early in the campaign. During the first six seasons of the Chase, only twice has a driver sat lower than where Newman is right now and still climbed to grab one the 12 spots for the 10-race playoff. One of those drivers is
"We've got ourselves in a hole," he admits. "I wouldn't call it a comeback, but we've got some work to do to get ourselves in position. "We've got a long time before that issue becomes pressing."
Newman learned two things last season:
"I think if you look at 2009, when we rebounded, we didn't keep that performance going," he said. "We left ourselves a lot of room to get better, which is a good thing, even though we made the Chase. I think if we can improve upon last year, then talking about [32nd] at this time won't be an issue for the rest of the season."
But unlike '09, where his early woes could be easily pegged on pit issues for the new Stewart-Haas team, Newman this season has wrecked with 15 laps remaining at Daytona and blown an engine at Fontana. And he's still having pit problems, as he was beseiged by handling issues at Vegas. The remedy could lie in Atlanta, where he has won seven poles, tied for the most in Cup history. It's the opportune place for him to plant the seeds of another turnaround -- though future struggles could just leave him that much closer to hitting the panic button.
Logano is far from having a sophomore slump, though in a strange twist, the driver whose departure from JGR led to him getting that orange-and-white No. 20 is struggling in his second year as an owner/driver:
After finishing 26th and 14th in two races at Fontana and 13th at Las Vegas last year, Logan came in fifth and sixth, respectively, on those tracks the last two weeks. His talent was never questioned. it's what led
But another test to Logano's development will come in Atlanta, where he has struggled mightily with an average start of 38th and an average finish of 26th in two races. With phenoms, progress is measured by benchmarks, and for Logano, that means contending for a Chase spot. So far, Bread is in fact rising to the challenge of following
There are varying degrees of unfortunate sponsorships.