Ryan Newman has a win, but he races as if he doesn't
LONG POND, Pa. - Until he stayed out on older tires and held of the onslaught behind him at Phoenix earlier this season, Ryan Newman hadn't won a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race since he took the checkered flag at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2013.
"Let me put it to you this way: I don't remember the last time I had a win and didn't have to worry about getting in on points," Newman said about his path to NASCAR's 10-race playoff in 2014 and 2015.
Not that there's anything wrong with earning enough points to qualify for the postseason. In 2014, without winning a race, Newman advance to the championship event at Homestead-Miami Speedway, where he finished second to race and title winner Kevin Harvick by a mere half-second.
But victories are the surest way to qualify for the playoff, and Newman already has one this year. As long as there aren't more race winners in the first 26 events than there are spots in the playoff, Newman is in.
"There are still no guarantees, (but) I don't see us having 17 winners in 26 races," Newman said in advance of Sunday's Axalta presents The Pocono 400 at Pocono Raceway (3 p.m. ET on FS1). "It could happen, but I don't see it. And, I think that it's nice to have that off your mind, but I still feel that you have to have the mentality that you don't. You have to have the stubbornness and the racing mentality of you can't just say that we're in.
"I've seen guys the last few years that get that (win), and they don't perform well in the first or second stage of the playoffs, and it costs them. So, I think when you race for points, no matter if you win or you don't, it is good practice for being closer to becoming a champion."
KYLE BUSCH RESIGNED TO FOUR RACES WITHOUT HIS CREW CHIEF
Kyle Busch won the pole for Sunday's Axalta presents the Pocono 400 without his crew chief, Adam Stevens, on the pit box, and that's a good thing - because Busch won't have Steven's services for the next four races.
Last Sunday at Dover International Speedway, Busch's pit crew failed to attach the left rear tire to the No. 18 Toyota before the jack dropped. As a consequence, Busch rolled around the one-mile track on three wheels, eventually limping back to pit road.
When a wheel falls off a car, the team draws a penalty, and part of the punishment is a four-race suspension for the crew chief. Though Busch would argue there was no intent on the part of his team to violate a rule, NASCAR doesn't infer intent when dealing with infractions that deal with safety issues.
Joe Gibbs Racing opted not to appeal the penalty, largely because of the position of the four suspension races on the schedule.
"When you look at the stretch, I think the biggest thing is we looked at the four races - none of them are (playoff) races," Busch said. "I would have appealed it, because I think there was a reason to. I think there was also a reason not to with going to Pocono and Michigan, Sonoma and then Daytona. We'll do what we need to do.
"And at least he (Stevens) can stay home with his kids more often the next couple days and not have to travel all the way out to Sonoma and miss that one. I think his wife and my wife had a wine date in Sonoma, so she's still coming but it's going to be fun. To work as hard as we do and do what we do without him, it's going to be fun because it is a challenge, but it's also sad at the same time, because you have to be without one of your main people."
The Pocono pole, at least, is a good start to what could be a difficult month. Then again, perhaps not. Busch also topped the speed chart in Saturday's final practice, turning a lap at 175.421 mph on the triangular 2.5-mile track.
Early in final Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice at Pocono Raceway, the Chevrolet of Kyle Larson slipped in the Tunnel Turn and slid sideways, lighting up the tires in a dense cloud of smoke. Larson kept the car off the wall, however, and polesitter Kyle Busch, who was trailing Larson through the corner got past the spin without incident...
Larson nevertheless was third fastest behind Busch (175.421 mph) and Brad Keselowski (175.285 mph) in Happy Hour, posting a lap at 175.210 mph before his spin. Chase Elliott was fourth quickest at 175.077 mph. Though Toyotas swept the top three in Friday afternoon's knockout qualifying session, Busch was the only Toyota driver in the top 10 in final practice.