SPARTA, Ky. – Ryan Newman, who holds the final playoff spot, will start at the back of the field after his car failed inspection Saturday afternoon at Kentucky Speedway.
Newman was to have started 23rd but an issue with the car’s body caused the failure. That led to his qualifying time being disallowed for tonight’s race (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN). Quin Houff was the only other driver whose car failed inspection. Houff is with Spire Motorsports, which won last weekend’s Daytona race with Justin Haley.
On Friday, Newman noted that passing could be difficult in the race.
“The cars are so fast, and the track is gripped up so much that it’s going to be a challenge,” Newman said Friday about this race. “We’re going to move around, but if you move around like for instance in (Turns) 1 and 2, you can’t outrun the guy that is wide open in front of you running the shortest distance, it’s just not going to happen. You’ve go to be way way faster.
“That’s not the case. The cars are so similar now that you really can’t just drive around somebody when they’re driving a straight line almost. I think that passing, it’s going to be probably the biggest challenge we’ve had this year this weekend.”
Newman enters tonight’s race 16th in points, holding what would be the final playoff spot. He has a three-point lead on Daniel Suarez, who starts on the pole and seeks his first Cup victory. Erik Jones trails Newman by 13 points.
Newman climbed into a playoff spot by scoring three top-10 finishes in the last four races, including a fifth-place finish last weekend at Daytona International Speedway. But Newman said Friday that his team can be better.
“I’m not proud of how we’ve done it,” Newman said of his recent run of top 10s. “We’ve kind of skipped by, whatever you want to call it, not been as good as we need to be and that’s my focus. It’s good to have some decent results, but it’s not good to have decent results when other guys are collecting top fives and wins.”
So what does his team need to get to Victory Lane?
“Just raw speed,” Newman said Friday. “We’ve been off on raw speed. Trying to figure out downforce vs. drag. Obviously, we can’t complain about a Roush Yates Engine when they’ve been to Victory Lane. So knowing that Doug (Yates) does a great job with all that stuff, we’ve got to work on our cars more.”