Last September, when Ryan Newman announced he would be moving to Roush Fenway Racing’s No. 6 car for the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season, many considered it the final nail in the coffin for the 41-year old driver.
One year later, Newman has shocked the world in securing a date with the opening round of the Cup Series Playoffs.
The feat, which probably doesn’t seem like much to fans of the true dominant players in the sport, should not be overlooked. Newman has taken the once-iconic No. 6 Roush car back to the NASCAR Post-Season for the first time since 2006 — 13 years ago.
Newman wasn’t flashy on his path to the post-season, as he accumulated just one top-five finish through Indianapolis on Sunday. However it was methodical consistency that was key for Newman pulling off the upset.
In the Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard, Newman’s competitors for the final Playoff spot faltered throughout the day — Jimmie Johnson crashed and Daniel Suarez slapped the wall en route to finishing 11th — while he stayed rock steady and finished eighth.
“That was a struggle at a lot of times,” Newman explained of his top-10 run. “At the end of the first stage I had a lot of confidence and at the end of the second stage I didn’t have a whole lot of confidence. We just stuck our nose to the grindstone and the 41 got himself in a pickle there and we were able to hold him off. That was part of the race. The other part of the race was we didn’t have a fast enough race car to be able to go up there and lead and we need to be able to do that in the next three races.”
Now, Newman shifts from scraping his way into the Playoffs, to finding a way to take this Playoff opportunity further.
“I guess if you look at our roster there are more new people on our team together for the first time than all the other teams put together and I am proud that we were able to take that and use our collective experience of our own knowledge from places and things we have done and turn that into a playoff position,” Newman said. “Now we just have to do something with it.”
Sure, he’ll be the last seed in the Playoffs, and likely won’t have a shot ultimately at the championship, but then again, not many counted him as a real contender for the Playoffs until he was in the mix mid-way through the regular season, either. If Newman stays consistent, as he has been of late, he could very well turn this into something more. He seems to always find a way.
“We were eighth today,” Newman said of his run at Indianapolis. “If we can do that three times we will be in good shape.”
Regardless if Newman is knocked out in the opening round of the Playoffs, or if he goes on a long sustained Playoff run, the fact that Newman has now taken four different race teams (Team Penske, Stewart-Haas Racing, Richard Childress Racing and Roush Fenway Racing) to the NASCAR Post-Season is impressive enough.
Especially when you consider that the car he is driving floundered a season ago. The No. 6 only scored two top-10 finishes with a combination of Trevor Bayne and Matt Kenseth behind the wheel in 2018. Now, in 2019, they are championship contenders.
What everyone should have learned in the first 26 races of 2019 is that you should never count Ryan Newman out.
Toby is the Founder, Editor and go-to man for TobyChristie.com. He is the co-host of The Final Lap Weekly Podcast. Additionally, Toby is a NMPA (National Motorsports Press Association) award winning writer, and has followed the sport as a fan since 1993.