This season for the “rocket man” Ryan Newman is roughly on par with his 2016 campaign.
He opened his season with a 21st in the 59th running of the Daytona 500. The following week in Atlanta was a stronger showing for him, running as high as first and leading three laps in the process. He was running fourth when he sent to the tail-end of the field, however, for a crew member being over the wall too soon. Adding insult to injury, he took his car to the garage with battery issues and finished 35th.
The best he did in Las Vegas was a 17th-place finish.
At Phoenix, Newman chose to stay out for the overtime restart. He powered ahead of Kyle Larson on said restart and ended a winless drought stretching back to the 2013 Brickyard 400.
The rest of the finishes since then include a 15th at Fontana, eighth at Martinsville, 26th at Texas, 14th at Bristol, seventh at Richmond (where he’s led his most laps on the season with 25), 25th at Talladega, 40th at Kansas, ninth at Charlotte, fourth at Dover, 14th at Pocono, 15th at Michigan, 15th at Sonoma, fifth at Daytona and 22nd at Kentucky.
He’s got a win on the season (his first since 2013), as well as three-top fives and six top-10s. The former is one greater than his 2016 total, but he’s four short of matching his total from last season. He’s led 37 laps this season, 13 more than his 2016 total, but his 16.3 finishing average is 3.8 percent worse than his 15.7 finishing average from 2016.
Despite the victory, his season has been mediocre at best. Even Newman agrees that his team isn’t performing at the level it needs to for the playoffs.
“We’re trying to get our train back on its tracks, so to speak, from where we were in Phoenix,” Newman said. “Our 1.5-mile program has really struggled. Our short track program is not what we need it to be, even in Phoenix we didn’t lead the amount of laps we should have. We led the right one, but we haven’t dominated. We see the No. 78 (Martin Truex Jr.) and the No. 42 (Larson); at times the No. 48 (Jimmie Johnson) and the No. 18 (Kyle Busch) have been dominating; maybe not all leading the last lap, but in general, we’re not leading enough laps to be as competitive as we need to be for those last 10 races. So, our focus is like it always is, to make the cars drive better and faster and to put ourselves in better contention for making our way easier, or a chance to be easily progressing through the playoffs.”