RICHMOND, Va. – The odds are Ryan Newman again will make the Chase for the Sprint Cup on Saturday night at Richmond International Raceway.
But can he repeat what he did last year and nearly win the championship without winning a race?
Newman, who finished second in the points last year, enters Saturday night’s Federated Auto Parts 400 needing to place 31st or better to clinch a Chase spot.
“There is no guarantee for us to be in the Chase at this point, but it’s the best-case scenario I’ve had in probably the last four or five years,’’ Newman said Friday.
Newman, who is looking to make the Chase for a third consecutive season, says the team will not be as conservative as it has in recent weeks.
“We’ve been in a situation in the past few weeks that we can’t take a little bit of extra risk like short pitting or getting one less lug nut and things like that,’’ Newman said. “That kind of changes a little bit for us, which should hopefully up our performance and make for a better Richmond race for our team.”
Newman comes to Richmond having scored four consecutive finishes of 15th or better. He has not finished worse than 23rd in the last 11 races.
But a challenge he has had – as have his Richard Childress Racing teammates – has been qualifying. Newman, who has 51 career poles, has not had a top-10 starting spot since Texas (18 races ago).
Another challenge has been leading laps. Newman has led 19 of the 6,939 laps run this season.
“We all know that we went through a pretty big hiccup this season and we have been able to rebound through that,’’ Newman said. “In the end, we have been a very consistent team. We haven’t led a lot of laps, which is something we have to work on for the Chase. Have to put ourselves in a better position to be able … to capitalize and turn a top-five effort into a win. We’ve been in the top five more this season but just need to be a little bit more on top of things when it comes to leading laps and poles and track position, things like that.”
After NASCAR’s regular season ends, 16 drivers will advance to the Chase. Drivers will be eliminated after each round until a champion is crowned. Sign up at nbcsports.com/gridchallenge for a chance to win $16 million.