Ryan Newman understands the challenges entering the final race before the Chase for the Sprint Cup — and of remaining focused on that bid despite distractions over his 2014 NASCAR plans.
With “one race to make it happen,” Newman, who holds a degree in engineering from Purdue University, has figured out the permutations forwards and back. He’s done so despite enduring his share of distractions this season. It’s a wonder that he’s remained so focused.
Along with the pressure of being one of the 12 Chase hopefuls, the driver of the No. 39 Chevy has also been auditioning for a ride for next year. On Thursday at Richmond International Raceway, Newman, who is expected to drive the No. 31 Caterpillar Chevy in 2014, says that while he’s “ready to say” what his deal is, “it’s just not the right time.”
“No matter what, trying to figure out anybody’s future is somewhat of a distraction,” Newman said. “When it compares to living in the present and trying to figure out and perform like we need to perform for the Chase, I think it takes a pretty good mind to separate all those things.
“I think if you look at somebody like me and Kurt (Busch), I think we’ve done well managing that. I think in the end it is a big challenge, but that’s what we enjoy, is challenges. We’re out there competing against 42 other people to try to win a race. Don’t expect anything to be easy. They say the more challenging it is, the more rewarding it is.”
Newman, though, remains intent on a title bid this year. As Chase hopes go, a win would solve everything for Newman.
“For so many of us, winning answers so many things,” Newman said. “Some people can win and still not make it in. In my position, if I win, I’m in. I can run second and still not make it. It’s just a matter of going out there and seeing how everything falls.”
Newman is currently 14th in the points standings. With his Brickyard 400 win last month, a second victory would automatically lock him into at least a wild-card spot. He’s currently 20 points outside of the top 10.
The past two weeks, Newman has been in the Chase zone despite a 21st-place finish at Bristol and then back out again after finishing fifth last week at Atlanta — after Kasey Kahne crashed in the early stages of the race and fell outside of the top 10.
Although Newman never asked his crew chief Matt Borland where he was in the point standings last Sunday at Atlanta, he equates the sensation to watching a golf match on TV.
“You have a leaderboard, you can see it, some people can’t see it, but you know you have to perform and do your best,” Newman said. “If you just do your best, you’re good enough to beat the other guys, you will.
“When you have that leaderboard, you can watch who is doing good, who is not. Sometimes we see it, sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we see it under green because somebody’s engine blows. It all changes. Again, it’s all situational.”
This is not the first time Newman has been on the bubble. He’s well-versed at describing “the highs and lows” of making or missing the Chase. But despite Newman’s pragmatic nature, he still believes that racing is “a 33 percent deal."
“There’s mental, physical and emotional,” Newman said. “They all weigh evenly. Some at times more than others, but in the end they all weigh evenly.
“I think there will be a part of racing here in Richmond that is mental, physical and emotional. Emotion may be the first lap or the last lap, but in the end there will be a 33-and-a-third balance of all three.”