Looking for work: A talented NASCAR driver with a resume that includes a Daytona 500 victory and after Sunday, a win in the Brickyard 400.
Yes, Ryan Newman remains – at least for now – without a full-time job in the Sprint Cup Series next season, but he certainly is not resting on his laurels.
To earn one of the biggest wins of his career and his first of the season, Newman had to remain out front of five-time series champion Jimmie Johnson, and Newman’s crew chief, Matt Borland, had to outfox counterpart Chad Knaus.
That’s no small order.
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Newman, who started from the pole, used a late two-tire pit strategy and a slow stop by Johnson’s No. 48 team to earn his first victory at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
“I watched Jimmie, kept quiet. I wanted to see who I was racing,” Newman said of the final laps. “I knew I had a good car. I didn’t want to have a good car and not win the race.
“Matt’s call gave me the track position I needed, taking the two tires. I was just counting down the laps from that point on.”
Getting a lead on Johnson after the final green-flag pit stops was the most important key to the race, but Newman still had to wait patiently for several cars ahead of him to make their stops while knowing a caution could come at any time.
“I’m happy it stayed green. We needed that, but that’s racing,” Newman said. “Jimmie did a good job; he had a good car.”
The win was special in many ways for Newman.
He started the season with a one-year contract with Stewart-Haas Racing and two weeks ago officially was informed he would not be with the organization for 2014.
“The emotions have been an absolute roller coaster. The Loudon (N.H.) race was a disaster. We got crashed out; everything that was said,” Newman said. “That next weekend off I think was good timing, to be able to hit control-alt-delete.
“Matt did an amazing job to come here with a fast race car, give me what I needed. We all did it together.
“There are a lot of questions to be answered. We’ll get through all that. But today we’re celebrating a victory.”
Within the span of two days, Newman was able to add two other important perks to his resume. With his pole he is entered in the 2014 Sprint Unlimited race at Daytona Beach, Fla., and his win Sunday locks him into next season’s NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
The victory also is special for its location. Newman, an Indiana native, grew up in the shadows of Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s storied history.
“I just am a big fan of cars. I’m a big fan of tires. I’m a big fan of making them go fast,” he said. “That’s happened here since 1909. I appreciate that.
“I was counting down from 10 (laps) to go, so I started at 12. I was trying to trick myself into getting there quicker.”
Johnson, meanwhile, was desperately trying to close the gap but could not make significant progress even with two newer tires than Newman.
“I got within probably three seconds (of Newman), beat myself up pretty bad,” Johnson said. “I think Ryan was being smart, too.
“Once I got to a certain distance, I believe he decided to go 100 percent. He had plenty of speed.”
Kasey Kahne finished third, Newman’s team owner Tony Stewart was fourth and Matt Kenseth was fifth. Johnson continues to lead the series standings and holds a commanding 75-point lead over second-place Clint Bowyer.
Newman’s future at SHR is decided, but his accomplishments this season aren’t necessarily. He still has a chance to compete for the championship.
Newman is 16th in the standings, 25 points outside the top 10 (which would guarantee a Chase berth). A better position in points also could help Newman secure one of two wild-card berths in the Chase based on wins.
In other words, plenty of work remains.
“The guys (on the team) bust their butts every day,” Borland said. “They’re working hard. They want to win every race. They want to win the championship.
“We brought our best car here that we’ve ever built. We’re hoping by next week or two weeks from now to have an even better car.”