Leaning against his car on pit road at Richmond International Raceway last weekend, Ryan Newman spoke a little bit about his strategy for the 10-race shootout for the Nextel Cup title.
"It's what Kurt Busch did last year," Newman said. "Get off to a good start and don't look back."
Newman gave the competition a knock in the teeth Sunday at New Hampshire International Speedway, passing the year's most dominant racer with two laps to go and taking the first checkered flag of the playoffs. Newman jumped seven spots in the standings.
In his effort to mirror Busch's performance from last season, he's right on pace. Busch won at Loudon, and added eight other top-10s en route to the title.
"This was the way we needed to start out," Newman said. "We're going to every track looking to win. Obviously, we're concerned with getting as many points as possible and staying out of trouble. But we want to pick up some wins along the way."
Stewart passed Newman late in the race, having led the most laps of the day, and it looked like he was going to run away with things. But Newman said he saw a sliver open up and was able to sneak under Stewart's No. 20 Chevrolet and snooker Stewart against the wall. Stewart slowed only a tad, but it was just enough.
"When Tony got by me I thought I was done," Newman said. "But he just never walked away and I got back underneath him coming off of [turn] 2 and he had to check up a little bit because the wall was there. We raced clean, we raced hard, we had fun."
"That's the way the race to the Chase should start, just like that," said Stewart, who found no consolation in retaining the points lead after losing the race and finishing second. "It should be between three of the top guys in the series who are racing for the point championship. Ryan did an awesome job. We just couldn't hold him off."
Sitting atop the pit box watching everything transpire, Newman's crew chief, Matt Borland, said it wasn't so much fun as it was stressful. Afterward, though, he had a mile-wide smile and nothing but compliments for his driver.
"I thought we were in a little bit trouble with 25 laps left on that set of tires," Borland said. "Both [Newman and Stewart] did a great job racing each other and putting on a heck of a show and racing each other clean. But, it was really a fun race to watch from the box."
The win has Newman ranked third in the standings, now -- 40 points behind Stewart. What's more, the victory hands Newman the momentum going into next weekend's event at Dover, Del.
"It's big," Newman said, "but we have to deliver. We can sit third now and be 10th after next weekend. So, we have to keep the momentum up and we have to perform."
Rupen Fofaria is a freelance writer living in Chicago and a regular contributor to ESPN.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.