For everyone except Jeff Gordon, that is.
Because Gordon crossed the finish line in second place Sunday, Newman needed to finish 11th or better to secure his place in the final four at Homestead-Miami Speedway -- and bump Gordon from championship contention. Which meant Newman had to pass Larson on that last lap at Phoenix. Newman did just that -- with authority, pushing the Cup rookie into the wall on the final turn. Larson finished 13th.
"I think if Kyle Larson was in my shoes, he'd have done the exact same thing," Newman said afterward. "I didn't take him out. He still finished the race ... but I think in a day or two he'll understand, if he doesn't now. It's hard to rationalize that, but like I said, I did what I had to do and tried to keep it as clean as I possibly could. I don't like racing that way, but there's a lot on the line here, and we'll keep digging."
Of course, Twitter was all over it ...
The biggest winner today is Ryan Newman.
- The Catch Fence ™ ️ (@TheCatchFence) November 9, 2014
Ryan Newman be like... pic.twitter.com/sJOhM4K3O7
- The NASCAR Country™ (@NASCARCountryUS) November 10, 2014
- nascarcasm (@nascarcasm) November 10, 2014
- Jeff Gluck (@jeff_gluck) November 10, 2014
- Rick Webb (@Rick_Fan_of_3) November 10, 2014
- Alan Cavanna (@CopaCavanna) November 9, 2014
- Krissie Newman (@NewmanKrissie) November 9, 2014
Think it's worth noting how cleanly @RyanJNewman raced others as he was being passed after last restart. Larson pass was last ditch effort.
- mike fuori (@weathersfuori) November 10, 2014
Gutted for Jeff Gordon. Pretty disappointed in Ryan Newman. Wasn't good enough to make it on merit so he drop kicked Larson. What a joke.
- James Hinchcliffe (@Hinchtown) November 9, 2014
"I hope we taught somebody that you can race clean and do your best," says Jeff Gordon, undoubtedly passing along a message to Keselowski.
- NASCAR on ESPN (@ESPNNASCAR) November 9, 2014
Made the mistake of clicking on a 24 fans page after reading a hate tweet towards me. Glad @RyanJNewman kids aren't on here ��
- Brad Keselowski (@keselowski) November 10, 2014
It will be quite the #NASCARIrony should Ryan Newman win Sprint Cup title in the new "win or go home" Chase format. Newman = 0 wins in 2014.
- JS (@spencer_josh) November 10, 2014
Ryan Newman competing for the championship is like the Jets making it to the playoffs with a 4-12 record. #Nascar
- Joey (@NYCLiveForever) November 10, 2014