Ryan Newman and his U.S. Army team was supposed to build upon his boss Tony Stewart’s NASCAR championship from the year before, it didn’t happen. Ryan Newman was once considered the driver who would give Penske Racing their first championship instead another young shoe, Brad Keselowski did.
From 2002 to 2005 it sure looked like it would only be a matter of time before Ryan would win the championship. He had three six place finishes and a seventh place. Ryan went downhill from there, eventually leaving Penske Racing for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) and what was supposed to be better days.
In 2009, Ryan Newman’s first year with SHR he came back to a ninth place finish and it looked like a great move. Since then he has only made the Chase for the Sprint cup one other time when he finished tenth in 2011 when Tony won the championship. This past season it looks like he is back to mediocrity.
Ryan’s season was simply dismal for a top driver in a top ride. He was able to win the spring race at Martinsville but only had six top five finishes. He also only had 14 top ten finishes. What is more disturbing is he led only 39 laps the entire season. Yes, that is only 39 laps. He led 13 laps in 2001 but only raced in seven races. In 2003 arguably his best season he led almost 1200 laps.
In the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series if a driver is not leading laps then the driver isn’t running up front in the races. If they are not running up front they will have little chance of winning or at the very least having a good finish. Running up front and leading races will get a driver in the chase. They don’t have to win. Ryan Newman didn’t do that and consequently didn’t make the Chase.
There is some hope though; his longtime crew chief from the Penske Racing days, his best in racing, Matt Borland came to SHR to crew chief.
Ryan thinks he can recapture past success. Ryan said, “Obviously, that’s our goal. I don’t think it’s going to happen overnight, but I do think it’s something we can do. Matt and I understand each other and I think we speak a similar language. Although Matt hasn’t been a crew chief for a while now, he is still very in touch with every part and every aspect of the racecar. He understands a lot about the racecar. Obviously, he’s not been here each and every week to see the changes in the tracks. He’s missed some things, but he’s still very involved. I think we had a good first outing last weekend at Martinsville, and I’m looking forward to seeing what we can do this weekend in the Quicken Loans Chevy.”
He was able to finish the last two races of the season with top five finishes, the last one with Matt. “I’m just proud of the guys. We had a horrible short-run car but we had an awesome long-run car.” Ryan said, “The U.S. Army Chevrolet, four years strong, and we’re proud to represent them and proud of their support and we wanted to finish on a great note. We’re just happy we can end the season on a good note and go into the off-season and build momentum for 2013.”
It might be a tall order next year as SHR adds a third team with rookie Danica Patrick with Ryan’s previous crew chief Tony Gibson. Ryan and Matt better get it together fast; sponsors in NASCAR haven’t been too keen on their drivers missing the Chase.