Prior to Saturday night’s 5-Hour Energy 400 at Kansas Speedway, Ryan Newman said his biggest frustration in his first season with Richard Childress Racing was an inability to finish where he ran most of the races.
When his car was a top-five candidate, he seemed to finish only in the top 10. When it was a top-10 car, he’d often end the night in the top 15.
That wasn’t the case in the inaugural night race at Kansas, where Newman finished a respectable 11th in the No. 31 Kwikset Chevrolet. For Newman, most of his night was spent just inside or just outside the top 10, which is where he finished. He didn’t lose spots at the end of the race because of a bad restart or drama on pit road.
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That was the good news.
The bad news, frankly, was none of the RCR cars, nor the ones from teams that have a technical alliance with RCR, were fast enough to win on Saturday night. Jeff Gordon won the Kansas race, followed by Kevin Harvick and Kasey Kahne. All three of the top finishers and six of the top nine were either from Hendrick Motorsports or its partner team, Stewart-Haas Racing.
Newman finished best of all the RCR teams and its affiliates, which shows he, crew chief Luke Lambert and the rest of the team are functioning well. But on this night, they simply did not have a car with the straight line speed to win.
"We were pretty good in the corners, just struggled down the straightaways," Newman said. "We saw that a little bit in qualifying, but it was a lot worse tonight in the race, so I’m not sure if we missed something there, or what."
Still, it was hardly a bad night. Newman held on to ninth place in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points standings and continues to have a successful season.
"It was a good run for the Kwikset Chevrolet," Newman said. "Wish we could have run better. We ran better at times, but as it got faster, our straightaway speed didn’t get any better."
For crew chief Lambert, the sentiments were similar.
"The evening went fairly smoothly," he said. "We didn’t get the result we wanted — we wound up 11th. Felt like we had a pretty decent car, but there’s a couple of things we need to work on as a group and we’re just going to go to work on them."
So all in all, a solid but unspectacular night for Newman, Lambert and the No. 31 Kwikset Chevrolet team.
Now it’s back to Charlotte for two weekends, with first the $1 million-to-win Sprint All-Star Race and then the longest race of the season, the Coca-Cola 600. And between now and then, the team will try to find the necessary speed to win.