Ryan Newman

Ryan Newman keeps his cool to be last man in for Cup playoffs

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INDIANAPOLIS – For Ryan Newman, it was a day of racing on the edge. Tied with Daniel Suarez for the 16th and final position in NASCAR’s Cup Series playoffs, the Roush Fenway Racing driver knew Sunday’s Brickyard 400 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was going to be a day where he couldn’t relax for a second.

Several times, when his Ford was being pushed down the straightaway by another car, Newman told NBC Sports that he was a correction or two from putting his No. 6 Ford into the fence.

“It was close calls all the time,” Newman said.

He started 22nd and had to race his way into contention if he was going to have any hope of making the field of 16 that begins the playoffs next week at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Newman would climb as high as sixth, then drop to as low as 13th. He dodged a major crash that ended Jimmie Johnson’s playoff chances in Turn 2 on Lap 105 and was able to forge ahead.

With Suarez far behind in Newman’s rear-view mirror in 11th place, Newman was able to clinch the playoff position when he crossed the famed “Yard of Bricks” in sixth place.

“I was pretty tickled,” Greg Newman, Ryan’s father, told NBC Sports. “I spotted for him in Turn 3 and at the end of the race my remark was, ‘We finally put the cat back in the hat.’

“I’m pretty proud of that.”

Now that the “cat is back in the hat,” Newman can finally relax, at least for the rest of Sunday night.

“It’s a huge relief,” Ryan Newman told NBC Sports. “It took 26 races to get here. You go back and look at what we did at Daytona to stay on the lead lap and finish that race with a flat left-front tire and the nose knocked off and everything else. Every point to this point made something and it made something out of our season because making the playoffs is a big deal.”

The long, hard struggle of the 26-race regular season where drivers have to fight and gouge for every point available, Newman’s team has improved throughout the season.

Late in the race, however, came a driver that nobody had considered in the championship discussion entering the race. It was Bubba Wallace in the No. 43 Chevrolet.

Wallace briefly raced his way to second place with the laps winding down, before Joey Logano took that position.

“I was pretty confident Kevin Harvick had a really good car and Kevin Harvick had a little left in the bag,” Newman said when asked about Wallace.

Kevin Harvick won his second Brickyard 400 by starting on the pole and leading the most laps (118) in the race. He also won the 2003 Brickyard 400 when he started on the pole.

Harvick was able to keep his cool by dominating the race. Further back, however, drivers like Newman were experiencing the heat of the moment.

“I don’t know if I kept my cool all day, but I kept it out of the fence when I very easily could have plowed the fence down,” Newman said. “In dirty air, I was as tight as anybody out there.

“It was a struggle a lot of times. At the end of the first stage, I had a lot of confidence. At the end of the second stage, I didn’t have a whole lot of confidence. We just stuck our nose to the grindstone.”

Newman was able to keep his nose clean; Suarez did not.

He brushed the wall on Lap 11 to bring out the first yellow flag of the race and his Ford sustained right-side damage.

His crew made repairs and Suarez gave it an effort, but 11th place was probably the most he could have gotten out of his damaged car.

“The 41 (Suarez) kind of got himself in a pickle there, and we were able to hold him off,” Newman said. “That was part of the race. The other part of the race was that we didn’t have a fast-enough race car to go up there and lead, and we got to be able to do that for these next three races.

“Guys were running out of talent. Guys have to control their race car. Just like usual here, you see stuff happen on pit road that you don’t see elsewhere because it’s pretty unique.

“What happens, happens,” Newman said. “When you put yourself in a bad position, sometimes bad things happen.”

“Oh, it’s huge, and my car was probably one of the worst in traffic for getting tight,” Newman said. “I was really struggling with that. I had to almost give up to let the guy in front of me get away so that I could actually run fast and try to keep the guy behind me. It’s a horrible way to try to race and be defensive, but it’s kind of what I had to do.”

Now that Newman and Roush Fenway Racing have made the playoff field, they want to prove they belong there.

Sunday’s race was simply a first step toward a greater goal.

“We’re continuing to go, today was another stepping stone,” Newman said to a group of reporters on pit road after the race. “No matter what everybody else does, we have three races to prove today is no spoof. A lot of guys ran out of talent.

“I saw a lot of guys losing control of their car all by themselves. We just have to take these next three races to the best of our abilities and move on.”

Newman believes his team has to improve its speed. More importantly, it has to get some checkered flags over the final 10 races.

“We have to win,” he said. “We really have to win. We don’t have any points. Some of these guys have 20 or 30 points on us and we have none. Winning, that’s the whole goal.

“We have to do everything we can, do everything possible, to keep progressing our team. We might get knocked out. We might prove come Homestead that we could have won it if we were in it.

“I just want to stay focused and do our thing.”

At the front of the field, greatness was on display in the No. 4 Ford driven by Harvick. He set a standard Newman wants to achieve.

“Making the playoffs for Roush Fenway Racing is good, but good is not good enough, we have to be great,” Newman said. “Harvick proved today what great is. He won the pole, led the most laps and won the race.

“I’ve been there. I want to get back to there.”

Ryan Newman snaps a long winless drought in the desert for Richard Childress Racing

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Ryan Newman took the lead by staying out under caution and won at Phoenix Raceway, ending a three-year winless drought for Richard Childress Racing.

It was the first victory in Cup for RCR since Kevin Harvick at Phoenix in November 2013, a stretch of 112 races. Newman, who joined RCR in 2014, snapped a 127-race winless skid dating to July 2013 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway with Stewart-Haas Racing.

Newman credited the victory to crew chief Luke Lambert, who elected to keep the No. 31 Chevrolet on track instead of pitting for two tires as the driver had requested.

“What a gutsy call by Luke,” Newman told Fox Sports after his 18th victory in NASCAR’s premier series. “I called for two tires, and he called for none. I’ve won more races no tires than I have with four. I’m just proud of these guys. We had a good car all day. We kept it out of trouble and collected in the end.”

A brutally hot day in the Valley of the Sun affected Newman, who slumped over while being administered bags of ice in victory lane.

“I’m spent, man,” he said. “I had the chills on Lap 150. I’m done.”

Kyle Busch took the lead on a pit stop under yellow with 118 laps to go and seemed in command in search of his first victory of the season after being in the spotlight this past week because of a postrace altercation with Joey Logano. Busch wasn’t punished despite taking a swing after a last-lap crash with Logano at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Logano played a role in having a late-race impact again on Busch when his No. 22 Ford blew a right-front tire with six laps remaining, causing a caution that sent the race into overtime. Busch entered the pits with the lead but left in fifth behind three cars that stayed on the track: Newman, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Martin Truex Jr.

Kyle Larson beat Busch out of the pits to start fourth on the restart. Larson finished second, his third consecutive runner-up finish and fourth in the past five races dating to last season’s finale.

Busch, who leap-frogged Chase Elliott into the lead during a caution for a wicked hit by Matt Kenseth (who emerged unscathed), staved off the field on two restarts before losing the lead. He was trying to end a 19-race winless streak dating to last July at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Busch finished third, followed by Stenhouse and Brad Keselowski.

First-time stage winners claimed the first two 75-lap segments of the race.

Logano started from the pole and led 82 of the first 84 laps to capture the first stage. But his No. 22 Ford dropped to 32nd on Lap 122 after a speeding penalty under yellow.

Elliott won the second stage after taking the lead on a three-wide move.

Ryan and Krissie Newman’s Rescue Ranch critters make Super Bowl picks

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Even though they’re deep in the heart of Carolina Panthers country, the critters of Ryan and Krissie Newman’s Rescue Ranch are giving an ever so slight edge to the Denver Broncos to win Super Bowl 50 on Sunday.

In a video from RR, the voting went 5-4 in favor of the Broncos.

That makes Ryan happy — he’s pulling for the Broncos and one of his favorite players, Peyton Manning.

Wife Krissie is going with the Panthers, though.

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2016 Team Preview: Richard Childress Racing

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RICHARD CHILDRESS RACING

SPRINT CUP DRIVER LINEUP: Ryan Newman (crew chief Luke Lambert), Paul Menard (Justin Alexander), Austin Dillon (Slugger Labbe)

XFINITY DRIVER LINEUP: Ty Dillon (crew chief Nick Harrison), Brandon Jones (Mike Hillman Jr.), Brendan Gaughan (Shane Wilson), shared car of Austin Dillon/Paul Menard (crew chief Danny Stockman),

CHANGES: Jones is promoted from part-time to full-time in the Xfinity Series, with former Truck Series driver Mike Hillman Jr. as his crew chief. Jones will also be contending for Rookie of the Year honors. … Ty Dillon will be driving a select number of Sprint Cup races – including the season-opening Daytona 500 – in the No. 95 Chevrolet as part of a partnership between RCR and Circle Track-Leavine Family Racing for 2016.

DID YOU KNOW: It has been 22 years since RCR won its last Sprint Cup championship (1994, Dale Earnhardt’s seventh and final championship). … RCR has not reached Victory Lane in Sprint Cup competition since Kevin Harvick’s four wins in 2013. … Other than Harvick, the last RCR driver to earn a win in Sprint Cup is Menard in 2011 (Brickyard 400). … This is RCR’s 47th year tied with Chevrolet.

EXPECTATIONS: Even though he didn’t get past the first round, it was a promising sign that Menard made the Chase for the first time in his career in 2015. … Austin Dillon appears ready for a breakout season. … With defending champ Chris Buescher, 2014 champ Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney and former RCR driver Brian Scott moving up to Sprint Cup in 2016, this could be Ty Dillon’s best chance at an Xfinity Series championship. It also could potentially be Ty Dillon’s last season in Xfinity; he’s likely to move up to Sprint Cup in 2017.

WHAT THEY SAID:

“The goals are higher this year. We expect to make the Chase, now we have to get up there and win a championship. I know how hard this group has worked. I spent a lot of time in the offseason around the shop, more than ever, and our focus is there in every department.” – Team owner Richard Childress.

“We’ve gotta win this year in the Cup. We’ve been consistent, and that’s what it takes, but we want to win in the Cup Series this year and we will.” — Team owner Richard Childress.

“Close. Closer two years ago. I think we have all the tools and there are a lot of situations that happen in the Chase that some you are in control of and some you’re not in control of. We came close two years ago, really close, one point close.”  — Ryan Newman on how close he thinks he is to capturing a championship with this team.

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2015 Season in Review: Ryan Newman

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Ryan Newman

CREW CHIEF: Luke Lambert

TEAM: Richard Childress Racing

POINTS: 11th

WINS: 0

TOP 5s: 5

TOP 10s: 15

LAPS LED: 20

POLES: 0

WHAT WENT RIGHT: Ryan Newman had an almost identical year to 2014 performance-wise, but there were key differences. In 2014, he failed to win a race, had five top-five and 16 top-10 finishes, made the Chase and finished a surprising second behind champion Kevin Harvick. In 2015, he again failed to win a race (he hasn’t reached Victory Lane since the 2013 Brickyard 400), had five top-five and 15 top-10 finishes. He qualified for the Chase, but unlike the previous season failed to reach the final round, finishing the season in 11th place. Despite mediocre numbers overall, Newman continued to be a picture of consistency, with 28 lead-lap finishes.

WHAT WENT WRONG: After the outstanding finish in 2014, expectations were high not only for Newman’s team, but the entire RCR organization. Sure, Newman and teammate Paul Menard both made the Chase in 2015 (the first time Menard has ever done so), but all three RCR teams underachieved in the big picture, with its two Chase entrants failing to do much once they reached the playoffs. … RCR has now gone 21 seasons since its last Sprint Cup championship (Dale Earnhardt, 1994). … With the exception of Kevin Harvick’s nine combined wins between 2011 and 2013, no other RCR driver has visited Victory Lane since Paul Menard’s surprising win in the 2011 Brickyard 400. That’s nearly 4 ½ years!

WHAT TO EXPECT IN 2016: What happens in 2016 could have a significant impact upon RCR’s future. Will Childress grandson Ty Dillon be ready to be brought up to the Cup level in 2017? If so, does RCR expand to a fourth team, or are Newman and Menard on the hot seat to significantly up their performance – or potentially lose their seat for 2017? There are already rumors that the younger Dillon may drive for Joe Falk or Harry Scott (replacing Clint Bowyer after his one-year stint in 2016 before moving to Stewart-Haas Racing in 2017) in the Sprint Cup Series in 2017 if there is no room (or money for him) in the RCR inn.

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