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Ryan Newman: “Chase Breaker”

Ryan Newman: “Chase Breaker”

by November 14, 2014 0 comments

Photo Credit: Getty Images for NASCAR

For a new Chase system that boasts a tagline of ‘win and you’re in’ or ‘win and advance’, Ryan Newman enters Sunday’s championship race at Homestead-Miami Speedway as the complete antithesis of the mantras held by NASCAR’s new championship-deciding system.

Newman enters this weekend’s race as the only driver eligible for this year’s championship that has not won this entire season. In comparison, his rivals for the title – Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick, and Denny Hamlin – each have won races this season with Logano winning five races, Harvick four, and Hamlin one earlier in the year.

In a way, the driver of the No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing can be viewed as what I’d like to call a ‘Chase breaker.’

In the early stages of this season, one of the main topics that was frequently touched on by the pundits of the sport was the scenario of more than 16 drivers winning a race during a regular season, a scenario that would have completely shut Newman out of the Chase.

Drivers who were perceived as threats to win a race that ultimately didn’t, including Marcos Ambrose, Tony Stewart, Jamie McMurray, Kyle Larson, Matt Kenseth, Greg Biffle, Brian Vickers, and Clint Bowyer would have locked the driver of the No. 31 car out of title contention before the Chase even started; and yet, Newman hung on.

At the close of the regular season, following the Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond, Newman sat eighth in the points standings and second-highest amongst the drivers unable to grab a win during the first 26 races of the season.

Had there been 15 different winners prior to September’s Richmond race, Newman would have found himself sitting on the sidelines of the Chase. With 13 drivers recording victories and transferring into the Chase, Newman earned his Chase berth through his consistency across the first 26 races of the season.

In the Challenger Round, Newman began with two middling runs of 15th and 18th at Chicagoland and New Hampshire, respectively. Entering the final race of the round at Dover a mere eight points away from elimination, Newman turned in an eighth-place result at Dover to transfer into the Contender Round.

Newman showed up to play in the Contender Round, recording top-seven finishes at Kansas, Charlotte, and Talladega to safely transfer into the Eliminator Round by 25 points.

The path to Homestead through the Eliminator Round was a rocky one for the 17-time race winner. After starting with a third-place finish at Martinsville, Newman closed it out with a 15th-place finish at Texas and an 11th-place finish at Phoenix – the latter being earned following the now infamous last-lap bump of Kyle Larson.

It may not have been pretty, but at the end of the day he made it to Homestead – which is all that matters.

Against all odds, Newman finds himself in position to potentially claim his first-ever Sprint Cup Series championship; and in a sense, he’s slipped through the cracks of the system by proving that consistency still can prevail in a points system where winning is stressed.

If Newman does go on win the Sprint Cup championship on Sunday, it may go down as perhaps one of, if not the, greatest upset in motorsports history.

Then again, this new points system sets up for potential upsets rather well. That being said, the question that has popped up since Sunday’s Quicken Loans Race Heroes 500 at Phoenix is is Newman a ‘deserving champion’ or not. The answer to that question greatly depends on whom you ask.

My personal take on the matter is that if Newman is crowned champion at the conclusion of this upcoming Sunday’s Ford Ecoboost 400, I believe that he’d be deserving of the championship.

Of the four remaining Chasers, Newman has been viewed as the greatest underdog of them all, however, when you look at the average finish of the four title contenders throughout the nine Chase races completed thus far this season – Newman’s average finish, 9.7, is second to only Logano’s, a 5.3.

Newman didn’t luck his way into this championship battle, and if you go off of the statistics, he’s fully deserving of being there.

If the No. 31 team is victorious on Sunday, then he’ll be showing that consistency still can win in this new points system that stresses wins. In essence, he very much so would have “broken” this new Chase.

Kyle Pokrefky
Follow Kyle Pokrefky on Twitter at @KPokrefky

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