Ryan Newman enters this weekend’s doubleheader at the Michigan International Speedway 26th in the NASCAR Cup Series playoff standings. He’s 143 points out of the final spot to the postseason. With only six races remaining in the regular season, that’s an insurmountable margin to make up.
That’s why the Roush Fenway Racing driver feels a win is needing to get himself locked into the postseason. See, he missed three races at the beginning of the year due to injuries suffered in a last lap crash of the season opening Daytona 500. Luckily, NASCAR granted him a medical waiver which so long as he remains in the top 30 of the standings and can win a race, he’s playoff eligible.
He’s done the hardwork of getting into the top 30, now he just needs to win.
Maybe a place like Michigan can be the spot. He’s a two-time winner there and has three top 12 finishes in his last five tries there. Give him two chances in as many days this weekend and maybe he can steal a win in the process.
“No doubt it’s a big motor track and that’s not something we talk about so much anymore because everything seems so communized underneath the hood,” Newman said of Michigan. “But the impact of our aero packages and the body selection that we take to racetracks now is probably way more powerful than the engines were back in the day, so taking the right car with the right balance and the right drag and the right downforce is such a more pivotal answer, and just little things about getting your air-pressure right, and, at the same time, too, don’t forget that Michigan has always been one of the kings of gas mileage racetracks.
“We’ve been on the good side of that. We’ve been on the bad side of that just as the numbers would always suggest you’re going to be when it comes to 50/50 on some of that stuff.
“If you lose one one way, you’re gonna win one one way and vice versa, but we’re into that stretch and it’s kind of been mixed up this year – but that Pocono, Indy, Michigan stretch where fuel mileage is super-important and it will be again I can promise you at some point on that weekend.”
If he can win, it’s going to go a long way for the South Bend, Indiana native. Newman, considers Michigan his home track and a win especially for how 2020 has gone for him, would mean a lot.
“It’s definitely real close to home for me, and I mean that in several different ways with lots of friends and family around there,” Newman said of Michigan. “It is the first stock car track that I ever went to as a fan, so it holds a special place in my heart and my mind.”
Newman says that back-to-back 400-mile races isn’t such a big deal at a place like that physically, but there’s a lot of time to relax at a place like Michigan and there’s also a chance to hit really hard on Saturday and have to race on Sunday. You just kind of take it for what it’s worth and go as you have to and just do one step at a time.”
The key he says this weekend is not being out to lunch early.
“Racetrack-wise it’s two things I guess I would say,” Newman said of the lack of practice and qualifying now. “No practice and no seat time, no experience to feel something out, which I have no problem feeling it out, and that’s not an issue for me.
“The issue is you don’t have the ability to adjust on it but so much, and sometimes if you don’t start off close enough, that’s a pivotal part to your day. You can’t just stop the game and put air in the ball, so that’s probably the biggest thing and then obviously the lack of fans – not that we don’t have fan support whether we’re at the racetrack or not – but the fact that the fans aren’t there and that energy level that goes along with them being there pre-race and post-race has been just so different that after doing it for 20 years now to see that part of the sport deleted is just interesting.
“I mean, it’s not good and the reality is we want fans there. I know why they’re not, but it’s just you can’t change that energy unless those fans are there or not. That’s completely black or white. There’s no gray in between. There’s either energy with the fans or there’s no energy with the fans.
“When I’m in the race car I don’t see or feel the difference. When the green flag drops until the checkered flag drops it’s all the same, but pre-race and post-race energy is just so stagnant. It’s just interesting.”