Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Really Bad Timing; On outside of Chase looking in, Newman in career-long slump

Ryan Newman finds himself in the thick of the struggle to be one of the 12 drivers who will compete for the championship via the Chase for the Nextel Cup.

It won't be easy. Entering the rain-postponed Michigan race, Newman stood 13th, trailing Kurt Busch and barely ahead of Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Inexplicably, Newman has found himself in the midst of a career slump. He has won 12 races and 41 poles, but his most recent trip to victory lane was in New Hampshire on Sept. 18, 2005. He failed to make the Chase for the first time in 2006.

In some ways, Newman's frustrations go hand in hand with those of Dodge, which had won only twice this year entering Michigan.The season's first Dodge victory went to Juan Pablo Montoya at Infineon Raceway in June. Then Newman's Penske Racing teammate, Kurt Busch, won at Pocono Raceway on Aug. 5.

Newman's best season was 2003, when he won eight races. He was Raybestos Rookie of the Year in 2002, when he edged out Jimmie Johnson, who, of course, went on to win the Cup championship in 2006.

Earlier this year, Newman put together consecutive runner-up finishes at Dover and Pocono.

"Our team's performance, I think, has been good. It's been way better than last year," said Newman. "Just our finishes, our consistency, hasn't been the greatest. We've proven we can be competitive every given week. It's just a matter of getting those finishes for us, it seems.

"The importance of winning is at an all-time high, just because it's been so long since we've won. ... We've got to stay focused as a team and do our best."

Making the Chase is important for everyone. In Newman's case, though, it become more important since he failed to make it last year.

"I think we have a really good opportunity to get in the Chase," he said. "Last year I thought we had a mathematical chance to make it, but I didn't think we were going to with our performances.

"I think we're in a good position. Obviously, we could be in a better position. Right now it's just a matter of doing the best you can do."

Want to read more from Monte Dutton? Check out

No comments: