AVONDALE, Ariz. — It’s hard to explain just how big winning is in NASCAR, especially when it’s been a long time since you’ve won.
Ryan Newman knows.
So does his team owner Richard Childress and his crew chief, Luke Lambert.
Before he won Sunday’s Camping World 500 at Phoenix Raceway, Newman had gone 127 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races without a victory, dating back to the Brickyard 400 in 2013.
For Richard Childress Racing, it was the team’s first victory in 112 races, dating back to this very track in November 2013. This from a team that won six championships with the late Dale Earnhardt.
And for Lambert, it was his first victory ever in 157 races as a crew chief.
Yeah, you just damn bet this was big for all involved.
“There’s one guy who wins and 39 guys who lose” every race, Newman said. “You just have to stay humble.”
Childress said when the team tested out here, it knew it didn’t have enough speed, so they kept digging.
“Our guys, we came back from the test here, we weren’t where we wanted to be,” Childress said. “Kept cutting bodies off, working seven days a week, working all kinds of hours to get our cars back to being competitive.”
The work paid off on Sunday.
“It’s been a long, hard fight, and a battle all the way. Nobody ever gave up,” said Childress, who scored his 106th Cup victory as a team owner. “We never gave up on Ryan. We know that he can do it. Our cars just haven’t been quite where we needed to.”
Lambert, too, knew how frustrating it had been trying to get back to Victory Lane.
“One of the things that is really challenging about this sport is there’s only one winner every week,” said Lambert, who first became a crew chief in 2011 and has been waiting since then to win his first race. “Friends and people I grew up with that have recently started following racing, kind of want to learn more about it.
“I always describe it as a championship every single Sunday,” said Lambert. “You are racing against the entire series, the entire group of competitors. It’s not like any other standard sport where you face one competitor, and you have a 50/50 set of odds of winning or losing. You have a 1 in 40 chance of winning it on any given Sunday against all of the best.”
And Sunday, the team did just that.
“It’s sweet for so many reasons,” said Newman. “I said that when I won the Brickyard. I said that when I won at Daytona. This has been the longest drought I’ve ever been in. … It’s just a hard‑fought race, a hard‑fought battle, a hard‑fought four years.”
And now it’s over, and Newman, RCR and Lambert are winners in the desert.