Ryan Newman's Chase chances improving

August, 9, 2013
08/09/13
3:56
PM ET

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- My, how Ryan Newman's season has turned around since last month when Stewart-Haas Racing announced he would not return in 2014.

First he wins the Brickyard 400 in his home state of Indiana.

Then his boss, Tony Stewart, breaks his leg to move Newman into prime position for the second wild-card spot.

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Ryan Newman
Warshaw/Getty ImagesTony Stewart's misfortune opens the door for Chase wild-card contender Ryan Newman and crew.

The only thing he hasn't gotten is a job offer.

But first things first, and that is making the Chase. Newman's playoff hopes, much to his chagrin, improved dramatically when Stewart broke his leg in a sprint car race in Iowa on Monday night.

With Stewart out at least several weeks, Newman is in prime position to move into the second wild-card position -- maybe even the first depending on what happens this weekend at Watkins Glen.

He'll also have even more focus from SHR in making sure he gets there.

"Obviously, now that the 39 is our only chance, we will do whatever we can to help," SHR competition director Greg Zipadelli said. "I don't know that it's any more than what we have been doing, but we'll certainly do our best to work together as a team, and if there's anything they need, we will certainly do our best to give them what they need to have that opportunity."

Newman is 15th in points with a victory. He's 19 points behind Stewart, who at 11th with a victory holds the first wild-card spot. If Newman finishes 23rd or better at Watkins Glen, he'll pass his boss.

But that doesn't guarantee Newman will move into a wild-card spot. He still has to pass Martin Truex Jr., who holds the second wild-card spot at 14th in points with a victory.

Greg Biffle (10th in points with a win) and Kasey Kahne (eighth with two victories) easily could fall outside the top 10 with a poor finish. That would move them into prime spots for a wild card.

Defending Cup champion Brad Keselowski and 2004 champion Kurt Busch, 12th and 13th in points, could move into one of the wild-card spots or into the top 10 with a victory.

Both will be among the favorites this weekend at the 2.45-mile road course, particularly Keselowski, who has finished second there the past two years.

Jamie McMurray and Joey Logano, 16th and 17th in points, also could get into the mix with a win.

It's not completely out of the question that Marcos Ambrose gets into wild-card position. He is only seven points outside the top 20 needed for consideration, and he's won the past two races at The Glen.

So Stewart's injury doesn't guarantee Newman anything as far as the Chase. As far as his future there are no guarantees either.

There have been rumors in recent weeks that he could return to Penske Racing if the organization expands to three or four teams. I'm told that won't happen, that Penske plans to remain a two-car organization.

There have been rumors he could go to Richard Childress Racing if enough sponsorship can be found. I've also heard RCR could consider bringing the No. 47 team of JTG Daugherty Racing in house with AJ Allmendinger as the driver.

Both seem like long shots.

Newman's name has come up with the No. 55 at Michael Waltrip Racing, which has yet to officially announce Brian Vickers with current sponsor Aaron's. But all signs still point to Vickers being in that ride with an announcement possible by the Chase.

Roush Fenway Racing also has been rumored as a landing spot for Newman in a fourth car, but RFR appears focused on developing younger stars such as Trevor Bayne.

So as much as Newman's Chase fortune has turned around since it was announced he would not be a part of SHR with Stewart, Kevin Harvick and Danica Patrick in 2014, his future remains cloudy.

David Newton | email

ESPN Carolina Panthers reporter

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