NASCAR: Newman flying under radar
By Hank Kurz Jr.
Ryan Newman joined Tony Stewart in his new racing venture last season motivated by a desire to have fun again and contend for a championship.
He’s achieved the first goal and is getting closer to the second.
“Everybody has done their part to battle through the things that we didn’t get right the first part of the season,” Newman said. “And now that we’ve got those things going better for us, I wouldn’t say it’s turned around; it’s just gotten better.”
Stewart, a two-time Sprint Cup champion, is getting most of the attention for the success he and his team are having in his first year as an owner-driver in the Sprint Cup Series.
Newman, meanwhile, has flown under the radar despite getting some much-needed results on the track and showing that the owner’s faith in him was warranted.
Stewart is third in the points after 10 events, and Newman is 10th, surging after a slow start to climb 23 spots in seven weeks.
While Stewart said he “backed into one” with his second-place finish Saturday night at Richmond International Raceway, Newman ran up front all night and came home with a season-best fourth.
It was his second consecutive top-five finish ó the first time he’s done that since late in the 2007 season ó and made it seem possible that it could be sooner rather than later that he gets to wheel his Stewart-Haas Chevrolet into Victory Lane.
Perhaps even more telling for Newman is that he was somewhat bummed with the finish. After all, he led four times for 45 laps and felt like he had a shot until a late-race mishap occurred when a he got caught up in a jumble during a restart with 87 laps to go and nudged Mark Martin.
“We didn’t get out front when we needed to,” he said. “… At the same time, it’s been a long time since I got two top-fives in a row, so you’ve got to look at the positive side of the coin too.”
There are challenges still ahead, most notably sponsorship.
Newman’s car is sponsored for 23 races this season by the U.S. Army.
The Army has reported having some success at recruiting booths set up at tracks, but Newman said there’s no chance the Army would be able to sponsor his No. 39 car for the remaining 13 races this year.
He does hope the Army returns as a full sponsor next season. In the interim, there’s one of 12 spots in the Chase for the championship to focus on securing and maybe a few races to win.
“It is just coming together,” Stewart said, “one piece at a time.”