Category archive: Ryan Newman

Since it's my blog, I'm going to imagine that you asked why I thought Brad Keselowski's win on Saturday was so impressive. Let me tell you.

Keselowski has won on a short track, a restrictor-plate track and a superspeedway this season. That's just about all of them.

Let's not forget how down of a season Brad K. had in his first full season with Penske in 2010. He finished 25th in points, with just two top-10 finishes, both 10th. Since then, he's won six races, three last year and now three in 2012.

How can we put Keselowski's performance in perspective and try to find a driver whom he resembles?

Well, let's sort out all the drivers who had a sub-par first season but rebounded nicely who didn't run the full schedule the previous year, or drivers like Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson who won three-plus times each of their first two full seasons.

Five drivers who've pulled that off. Mark Martin, Kevin Harvick and Terry Labonte did it well into their careers -- not early like Keselowski.

That leaves Carl Edwards and Kurt Busch, and the parallels between Keselowski and Busch are uncanny. Busch went winless his first full season, like Keselowski, and then won four races in 2002 and 2003. In 2004, he was the champion.

So, you can call Keselowski "Kurt Busch without the baggage," and I'm sure lots of owners would like a driver with that combo.

Trivia break: Keselowski now has seven career Cup wins. Who is the only driver with exactly eight in his career?

Chase Countdown

This is the time of year when I start thinking Chase. And I'm sure the drivers are, too.

In every year of the Chase, there's been a driver in the field with both nine and 10 races to go to move into the Chase field after being out at that time.

So, who could move in and who could move out? Kasey Kahne moved into the field with his second-place run at Kentucky, taking the second wild-card spot. But that's an obvious one.

Off the radar, watch out for Marcos Ambrose. In the past five races, only five drivers have more points than the Aussie. If he can steal a win at Sonoma, he could be racing for a title.

On the other end is Ryan Newman. Newman's falling out of the second wild-card spot, and since his Martinsville win, he's been terrible without a finish better than 12th in 11 races. That after having a win and three top-10s in the first six races.

Trivia break: Who is the only driver to make the Chase after being outside the top 20 with 10 races to go?

First Time Dominance

Austin Dillon, welcome to the club.

Dillon picked up his first Nationwide Series win Friday night at Kentucky, and it was never really in doubt.

Dillon led all but eight laps in the victory, the fourth-most dominant first win in series history, according to our friends over at Racing Resources.

Ryan Newman led all but six laps in his first win, Morgan Shepherd all but two and Dale Jarrett went wire-to-wire in his first win.

Trivia break: Dillon's victory followed Nelson Piquet Jr.'s first win. Who were the last drivers to get their first Nationwide Series victories back-to-back?

Trivia Break Answers

1. Kyle Petty is the only driver to finish his career with exactly eight Cup wins.

2. Brad Keselowski was 22nd with 10 races to go last year before getting a wild card.

3. Trevor Bayne and Sam Hornish Jr. pulled it off last year.

You know I love me some short-track racing, and this weekend we get the fifth of six short-track races of the season. If that intro wasn't exciting enough, I can give you the hard sell: It's also the Chase cut-off race. Too bad the battle at the bubble isn't too thrilling this season.

So that begs the question: If this bubble battle isn't exciting, do we need to make some changes? Or is this type of season inevitable, regardless of the system?

Is there another tweak in the rules forthcoming? Perhaps an expanded Chase field with eliminations along the way? A system where if you win a race, maybe two, you're in the Chase? Should there be another points reset during the course of the Chase?

One thing is for sure: I'm glad I don't have the weight of making these decisions on my shoulders, because you can never please everybody. Then again, I bet the people who make those decisions make more money than yours truly. And I do have the lovely personality trait of thinking that I'm always right on issues such as the best Chase format.

So, yes, on second thought, I would like that job.

Then again, maybe the stress would get the best of me. Perhaps it's best if I just stick to a little loop data look-ahead to Saturday night's race at the action track, Richmond International Raceway.

Red-hot Smoke

Tony Stewart finally broke through at Atlanta and got his first win of the year, perhaps ending the sophomore slump that has dominated his second season as an owner-driver. This weekend, he could make it two in a row and enter the Chase as a trendy pick to win the title.

Going back to 2005, Stewart has been quite solid at Richmond and has proved tough to pass, with a plus-201 green-flag pass differential in those 11 races. That's 74 spots better than the second-best driver on the list, current points leader Kevin Harvick.

Only one other driver is even within 100 spots of Stewart, and that, rather unpredictably, is 2000 champion Bobby Labonte, with a plus-106 mark.

I won't go out on that limb saying Labonte is going to be a force to be reckoned with Saturday, but I will stick my neck out a little and say that Stewart will again be running up front.

It's for lovers

Richmond is in Virginia, and Virginia's for lovers. Denny Hamlin's from Virginia, so I guess this note is also for lovers. But seriously, this blog always brings the necessary love, and often a heaping helping more.

Hamlin's coming off a last-place finish last week at Atlanta, and if he's going to go from worst to first anywhere, it might be Richmond. Last year at Richmond, Hamlin put up a perfect driver rating of 150 in winning this race heading to the Chase.

During that race, his average position was an eye-popping 1.3, as he led 299 of the 400 laps and ran the fastest lap on 108 of those circuits. Even more impressive was that Hamlin was passed under green-flag conditions only six times.

Bubble trouble

Richmond is Clint Bowyer's best track in terms of average finish. That, coupled with his sizable lead over Ryan Newman for the 12th and final Chase spot, means he should be in pretty good shape in the regular-season finale.

And while Newman and Jamie McMurray had solid runs this season at Richmond, they were looking up at Bowyer. Newman was ninth in average position and 10th in driver rating. McMurray was one spot behind Newman in each of those categories.

Bowyer, on the other hand, was fifth in average position and sixth in driver rating.

Well, that's all I have for you this week. Enjoy the race!

Everybody get out and stretch your legs, maybe take a little bathroom break. Shake your foot around to get it to wake up.

Have we all recovered from 1,100 miles of racing? I was right here in my office chair for the majority of it. At least I could walk around and take occasional snack breaks.

So, what did we learn?

We learned that Jimmie Johnson, upon further investigation, does not have a golden horseshoe either surgically implanted or naturally placed on his person. Have you seen that commercial where his car falls on a toolbox, only for it to hold up under the weight? Well, lately it seems he would've been better off with it falling on top of his car.

We learned that Ashley Judd still makes for good TV.

We learned that even Jeff Burton can get angry, if you give him a flat tire after 550 or so miles.

I learned that trying to figure out which NASCAR drivers would play which characters in "The A-Team" movie could be a 15-minute endeavor. I would go with Carl Edwards as Face, Juan Pablo Montoya as "Howling Mad" Murdock, Mark Martin as Hannibal and Tony Stewart as B.A. Baracus. Feel free to argue these choices with me, but I'm right.

And, finally, we learned that Kurt Busch is a very real contender for a second career championship. Meanwhile, Jeff Gordon and Mark Martin put up great points days to show why they're also going to be tough to beat.

Now, let me dish out some of the finest research notes from 600 miles at Charlotte:

Busch bash

In Kurt Busch's first nine 600s, he had nary a top-10. In fact, he had led only 174 laps in those nine races, with an average finish of 25.9. On Sunday, Busch led 252 laps on his way to a win. Those 252 laps were the fifth-most in a 600-mile win in NASCAR's modern era, which goes back to 1972. List time!

Most laps led in 600-mile race win at Charlotte (modern era)
• Jimmie Johnson, 2004 -- 334
• Richard Petty, 1977 -- 311
• Rusty Wallace, 1990 -- 306
• Davey Allison, 1991 -- 263
• Kurt Busch, 2010 -- 252

You might've already heard this, but Busch became the seventh driver to win the All-Star Race and the 600 in back-to-back weekends. Kasey Kahne was the last to do it -- he finished 14th in points that season. But the other five all finished third or better in the final standings.

Trivia break! Who are the three drivers to win the All-Star Race, 600 and the championship in the same season?

A near double

First, however, an actual double, as Chip Ganassi became the first owner to win a Daytona 500 and Indianapolis 500 in the same season, with Jamie McMurray and Dario Franchitti. Congratulations, and enjoy your giant piles of cash.

Ganassi and McMurray nearly pulled off their own double, winning the Daytona 500 and finishing second in the 600-miler at Charlotte in the same season. Needless to say, that doesn't happen often. McMurray came that close to joining six other drivers who won Daytona and the 600 in the same season. One more list? Why not?

Drivers who've won the Daytona 500 and the 600-mile race at Charlotte in same season
• 1997 -- Jeff Gordon
• 1996 -- Dale Jarrett
• 1989 -- Darrell Waltrip
• 1976 -- David Pearson
• 1969 -- Cale Yarborough
• 1965 -- Fred Lorenzen

Trivia break! McMurray's first career win was at Charlotte in 2002. Who was he driving for?

Pole woes for Newman

Nate Ryan got me thinking about this via a tweet, and being the good little researcher that I am, I had to follow up.

Ryan Newman got his ninth career pole at Charlotte. Only David Pearson, with 14, has been on the pole more than Newman at Charlotte. Newman, however, has never won a race at Charlotte, which is starting to become a trend with Newman and poles. He is now winless in his past 34 starts from the pole.

That is a series record. In fact, only three other drivers have gone more than 20 consecutive races without a victory after winning the pole. The others were Geoffrey Bodine (26), Ricky Rudd (26) and Ken Schrader (23).

Trivia break! When was Newman's last win from the pole?

Trivia break answers

1. Kurt Busch will try to join Darrell Waltrip (1985), Dale Earnhardt (1993) and Jeff Gordon (1997) as drivers with an All-Star and 600 win, along with a title in the same season.

2. McMurray was driving in his first go-round with Chip Ganassi, subbing for the injured Sterling Marlin.

3. Newman won from the pole at Pocono in 2003.

I don't remember too many races to the Chase that were quite as exciting and uncertain as this one is shaping up to be.

Well, this is just the sixth year of the Chase, so there's not a whole lot of history there, but still, you'll be hard-pressed to find a closer race for the last few spots in the Chase.

And because I'm a researcher, and it's sort of my job, I'd like to clear things up for my loyal readers. Unmurky the Chase waters, if you will.

Ding, ding, ding. Ladies and gentlemen, as far as I know, it's a first in Internet history. I am now the first person to ever use the word "unmurky." But that's beside the point, unimpressive as it is.

Oh, let's just get on with a special off-week edition of the blog, where I give you some scenarios down the stretch, with just two races left. All these scenarios take into account that the drivers will start the Chase cutoff race at Richmond.

The in

Tony Stewart, Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon are already in the field, nine titles between them, and nobody can take that away from them. Unless something unforeseen happens like a rules violation or some sort of drug scandal is revealed.

And we all know that never happens in NASCAR. Um … moving on.

Oh-so-close

Three drivers can clinch a Chase spot in Atlanta regardless of what those further down in the standings do, provided they simply start the race at Richmond.

The first is fourth-place Denny Hamlin. The dark-horse championship contender doesn't even need a top-10 at Atlanta, which is good since he has only two of those in eight career starts at the track. Hamlin needs to just finish 12th, or 13th if he leads a lap, to officially punch his Chase ticket.

One spot below him in the standings is Carl Edwards. Edwards was getting a lot of preseason love for his championship chances, but that's cooled as he's been unable to find Victory Lane in the Cup Series this season. Despite that, Edwards can wrap up another Chase berth by finishing fourth at Atlanta, or fifth if he leads a lap. He's won there three times in 10 starts, including his first career win.

The other driver who controls his own destiny at Atlanta is the driver who won the first Chase, Kurt Busch. Busch needs to do just slightly better than Edwards, finish third or better, or fourth if he leads a lap. That seems doable for Busch, who won the spring race at Atlanta in dominant fashion.

Not so clear

Here's where things get interesting. Oh, who am I kidding? They were always interesting.

Seventh to 12th in the points are separated by just 50 points and none are more than 84 points behind of 13th-place Kyle Busch. Six drivers -- Ryan Newman, Greg Biffle, Juan Pablo Montoya, Mark Martin, Kasey Kahne and Matt Kenseth -- cannot clinch at Atlanta based on what they do themselves, but that doesn't mean they can't give themselves some breathing room.

Of these six, only Martin and Kahne have won at Atlanta. But Martin's wins came in 1991 and 1994, while Kahne won slightly more recently, in 2006.

Outside looking in

Kyle Busch and Brian Vickers have had their differences, but they find themselves in similar positions with two to go before the Chase field is set. Meanwhile, Clint Bowyer and David Reutimann are a little farther back, but they, along with Vickers and Busch, could get back into the top 12 with a good run and some degree of fortune at Atlanta.

Those four are also in a position where if they win, they cannot be eliminated.

Meanwhile, things aren't looking so good for Jeff Burton and Marcos Ambrose. These drivers aren't eliminated quite yet, but they have some ground to make up, and have to do so in a hurry. Any driver 162 points or more behind 12th after Atlanta will be eliminated.

And I'd like to take this space at the bottom of the column to send my regards to drivers such as Joey Logano, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kevin Harvick. They're among the drivers, everyone 19th or lower in points, who are officially eliminated from Chase contention. Maybe next year, fellas.

So, those are the numbers; I'll leave it at that for now. Who do you think is in or out? Leave your comment below, and it's time-stamped, so you can throw it in everybody's face if you were correct. I'll vouch for you.