Ryan Newman came a long way, finishing fourth in Sunday’s Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway.
Newman used to be known as “Rocket Man” for his prowess of earning poles – 51, to be exact.
But Newman hasn’t won a pole since 2013.
For Sunday’s race, Newman qualified 25th, the eighth time he’s qualified 19th or worse in the last nine races.
This time, however, Newman managed to work his way through the field and was not going to be denied his fifth top-five finish of the season.
“It was just a good run,” Newman said. “(Crew chief Luke Lambert) did a great job making the call for us to stay out and caught the break there with the No. 22’s (Joey Logano) tire (went down late in the race).”
Newman is locked into the playoffs by virtue of his win earlier this year at Phoenix, and has now earned three top-fives in the last seven races.
“We got a couple good restarts and made a little bit out of nothing,” Newman said. “We were challenged all day, struggled a little bit, but it seems like whenever we have this Velveeta name on the car, we wind up with a top-five (like finishing third at Indianapolis), so we’ll keep doing it.”
Only two drivers are safely in the third round of the NASCAR Cup playoffs. Martin Truex Jr. and Brad Keselowski secured spots through their wins at Charlotte and Talladega.
That leaves six spots to be decided Sunday at Kansas Speedway.
NASCAR America analysts Parker Kligerman and Kyle Petty broke down the drivers competing for spots. Both of them agreed that Chase Elliott, who has finished in second in three of the five playoff races, has a great chance to make it all the way to the championship race in Miami.
“If Talladega had played out, he was either going to be in victory lane or in the top two or three,” Petty said. “When you look at that, he has had the most solid playoffs of any driver out there. We keep talking about the big three: Larson, Busch and Truex. This guy is a sleeper. But he’s my No. 4.”
Said Kligerman: “He’s been the biggest surprise. That 24 team has been incredible through the playoffs. One thing I’ve noticed about that team, just speaking to (crew chief) Alan Gustafson, speaking to Chase, it’s almost as if they want that first win more than they care about the playoffs.”
Watch the above video for more on the playoff drivers.
Things get started today for the pivotal weekend at Kansas Speedway.
The NASCAR Cup Series will have its elimination race in Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400, where four of the 12 remaining playoff drivers will not advance to the Round of 8.
The NASCAR Xfinity Series begins its Round of 8 with Saturday’s Kansas 300.
But it all begins today, as Cup has its first practice (the other two are Saturday) and qualifying, while the Xfinity Series will have its two practice sessions.
Here’s how today’s schedule shapes up:
(All times are Eastern)
10:30 a.m. – 8 p.m. — Cup garage open
12 – 8:30 p.m. — Xfinity garage open
1 – 2:25 p.m. — First Cup practice (NBCSN, Motor Racing Network)
2:30 – 3:25 p.m. First Xfinity practice (NBC Sports App)
5 – 5:55 p.m. – Final Xfinity practice (NBCSN)
6:15 p.m. – Cup qualifying (multi-vehicle, 3 rounds) (NBCSN, MRN)
The last two drivers to win NASCAR Cup titles are in precarious positions ahead of the Round of 12 elimination race at Kansas Speedway.
Kyle Busch, the 2015 champion, is outside the top eight in ninth. He sits seven points behind defending champion Jimmie Johnson.
NASCAR America analysts Kyle Petty and Parker Kligerman debated who they think had the best chance to advance to the Third round after Sunday.
Petty put his money behind Busch, who has finished in the top five in each of his last five starts at the 1.5-mile track.
“He’s one of the big three: Truex, Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson,” Petty said. “I don’t see where these (last) two races (Charlotte, Talladega) have changed anything. The one thing Kyle Busch brings into Kansas City … he brings speed. These guys have had speed all year-long.”
Johnson on the other hand has produced only four top fives all season and just one since he won at Dover in June.
But Kligerman explained why he thinks the seven-time champion will prevail on Sunday.
“Jimmie Johnson knows how to pass and that is what has become evident throughout this season,” Kligerman said. “No, they have not had the fastest cars at Hendrick Motorsports. No, they have not qualified well. They’ve actually been sort of abysmal at qualifying of late.
“… He has three wins this year. Two of those he started at the back.”
Watch the video for more.
Today’s episode of NASCAR America begins at 5 p.m. ET on NBCSN and continues to preview the Round of 12 elimination race at Kansas Speedway.
Carolyn Manno hosts with Kyle Petty and Parker Kligerman from Stamford, Connecticut.
On the show:
- We’ll debate which past Cup Series champion will advance to the Round of 8. Defending champion Jimmie Johnson currently leads 2015 champ Kyle Busch by only seven points for the final transfer spot. Who has the edge going into Kansas this Sunday? This elimination race will be a heated competition just to finish above the cut line. Log on to NBCSports.com/NASCARVote and weigh in!
- Xfinity Series playoff driver Daniel Hemric calls into the show to talk about his chances of advancing to the championship four in Miami. He’ll also describe his experience being one of the four drivers to participate in the recent tire test at the Charlotte Motor Speedway “Roval.”
- We take a look at the Daniel Suarez’s Racing Roots and discuss his transition from Xfinity Series champion to Monster Energy Cup Series rookie.
- Parker Kligerman hops into the iRacing simulator to preview Sunday’s elimination race at Kansas, as well as the Formula 1 race in Austin, Texas.
If you can’t catch today’s show on TV, you can also watch it via the online stream at http:/nascarstream.nbcsports.com. If you plan to stream the show on your laptop or portable device, be sure to have your username and password from your cable/satellite/telco provider handy so your subscription can be verified.
Once you enter that information, you’ll have access to the stream.
Click here at 5 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.