Any time a championship is decided in an elimination format, it’s gut-wrenching to see competitors come so close to advancing yet just missing out.
For Ryan Newman and Aric Almirola, they were about as close as it gets. However, both drivers didn’t score enough points over the three-race Round of 16 to move on to the Round of 12.
For Newman, he was in position to advance late in the race, despite being an afterthought for most of Sunday’s Bank of America 400 at the Roval. However, in the end it was uncharacteristic mistakes that ended his bid at racing for his first NASCAR Cup Series championship.
“I felt like I made a lot of mistakes trying too hard,” Newman admitted. “We did not have the race car and that’s what I had to do. I felt like we were in a position at one point and then just kept trying too hard trying to keep the 10 car behind us and missed the curbs. That was unfortunate. We came in at a big deficiency and finished one point out or whatever it was, but, no matter what, we’re still gonna fight for fifth. I’m proud of everybody at Roush Fenway for the fight and the opportunity that they’ve given me. We’re not done, we’re just out at this point.”
Many feel that Newman carried his team to the promise land, but Newman wants folks to acknowledge that his Roush Fenway Racing team is getting stronger.
“I didn’t carry the team on my back,” said Newman. “We worked together. They carried me. I carried them at times and it’s a team effort. It was a team effort today that failed, but it’s still a team effort and I’m just really proud of everybody’s hard work. We’re not done. We’re gonna keep digging. We’ve got some stuff up our sleeve for later in this Playoff and we’ll do what we can to try to get to fifth.”
For Almirola it was a heartbreaking first-round exit from the Playoffs. A year ago, Almirola was able to work his way into the Round of 8, before ultimately ending up fifth in the year-end standings.
The 35-year old Stewart-Haas Racing driver saw a slam-dunk Round of 12 berth go by the wayside as cautions continued to develop toward the end of Sunday’s race.
“I think they said we missed by five points, so the strategy we were on if the race would have continued to go green to the end we were gonna be in a good situation,” Almirola explained. “I think we were seven or eight points to the good. That caution came out and kind of put us in a spot to where we had to choose, and I knew and Johnny knew that all the guys we were racing in points were gonna do the opposite of whatever we did. We were the first car ahead of all those guys on the cutline, so we stayed out and made our bed and all those guys came and got tires. That’s just part of it.”
Of course it’s heart-wrenching to exit the Playoffs in the first round, but Almirola is still proud to be driving his No. 10 car.
“I’m disappointed,” Almirola said. “It didn’t work out the way that I wanted it to, but I’m still really blessed and fortunate to have this opportunity. So many people put a lot behind me. Everybody at Stewart-Haas Racing, Smithfield, Ford Motor Company and so it stings, but the sun is gonna come up tomorrow, I’m still gonna be Aric Almirola, I’m still gonna be a husband and a father. They’re not gonna take my birthday away, so as disappointing as it is, it’s not the end of the world.”
Before the Playoffs began, I don’t think many had Kurt Busch pegged as a first round knockout in the Playoffs. The 41-year old, had proved doubters wrong by winning Kentucky in his Chip Ganassi Racing No. 1 car and it appeared that he and his crew chief Matt McCall were poised for a sustained Playoff run.
A blown tire in Las Vegas put Busch in a hole early in the opening round of the Playoffs, and he just couldn’t rebound.
His Playoff hopes ended after a 20th-place finish on a rough day at the Charlotte Roval.
Despite the early exit, reports have said for months that Busch looks to return to CGR again in 2020.
Erik Jones had one way of making it into the Playoffs Round of 12 — he had to win. Unfortunately, his bid to win was over before the end of the opening Stage of the race as he was swept up in a crash with Jimmie Johnson, Kurt Busch and Alex Bowman.
Jones was just upset that something out of his control knocked out his championship aspirations.
“It’s frustrating,” Jones seethed. “It’s frustrating not just to even have a chance throughout the whole race, you know? We didn’t make it to the first stage and it wasn’t our fault. That’s probably the most frustrating part is getting taken out and nothing you can do about it. We’ll have to keep going all year, win some more races and come back and start over again in next year’s Playoffs.”
Toby is the Founder, Editor and go-to man for TobyChristie.com. He is also the co-host of The Final Lap Weekly Podcast. Additionally, Toby is a NMPA (National Motorsports Press Association) award winning writer, and has followed NASCAR as a fan since 1993.