Thu Jun 16, 2011 4:54 pm
On the bubble, Ryan Newman looking at Michigan for indication of his Chase chances
By Bob Pockrass
Thursday, June 16, 2011
Stewart-Haas Racing's Ryan Newman finds himself on the Chase bubble along with teammate Tony Stewart.
On the bubble, where he’s joined by Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Tony Stewart as they cling to their chances of making the Chase For The Sprint Cup.
With 12 races left before the Chase field is set, Stewart and Newman are tied for ninth with just a six-point cushion on 11th-place Jeff Gordon.
Only the top 10 are guaranteed spots in the 12-member Chase, and the final two spots will go to the two drivers 11th-20th with the most wins.
Newman started the year with three top-fives and four top-10s in the first five races. But in the last nine, he’s had only two top-10s – a fifth last month at Darlington and a ninth last Sunday at Pocono.
He has had five finishes of 20th or worse but appeared to rebound a little bit with a 15th at Kansas prior to the top-10 Pocono run.
“Our 15th at Kansas was partially luck,” Newman said. “We did the fuel-strategy thing. I had a miserable race car and finished 15th, which was good. We salvaged a decent finish out of something that should have been 30th. … Pocono was a good turnaround for us, for our team.
“We had a transmission problem towards the end of the race and still finished ninth. So that was nice to have a good rebound weekend there.”
Newman said performance at Michigan International Speedway’s 2-mile oval this weekend will give him a good indication on whether he makes the Chase. In addition to Michigan, intermediate tracks make up four of the remaining 12 races before the Chase field is set. Throw Indianapolis and another Pocono in there, and half the races are at tracks that require a lot of speed where teams grapple for grip.
“Going into Michigan here, that will be one of our defining factors of whether we make the Chase or not, or at least have the potential as far as how we do here and if we can keep that ball rolling, that we finally got moving again back in Pocono,” Newman said.
“And saying that, not basing everything off of Michigan, but a big part of our summer stretch is working on race tracks that have lower grip and typically fast mile-and-a-half, two-mile race tracks. We'll see what we can do there.”
Following Michigan are two tracks that often are considered wild cards – the road course at Infineon Raceway and the restrictor-plate race at Daytona.
“They all weigh evenly and you can get just as much [get] lucky as you do unlucky sometimes or vice versa -- just like at Charlotte, getting caught up in the 34 [of David Gilliland] and the 5 [of Mark Martin] wreck, we could have been a top-10 car that day,” Newman said.
“We were not going to win the race, at least based on the performance of our race car.”
Michigan couldn’t come at a better time for Newman.
“Michigan is a place that I enjoy, and it's really a wide-open race track.” Newman said. “Once you get your car right, you can pretty much have a good day.”