Ryan Newman is a free agent at seasons end. He’s not ready to start negotiating a contract yet either. While that may sound weird, the Indiana native says that the performance out of his No. 6 Ford has to get better before the two sides sit down and start to discuss option for the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season.
“No conversations yet and I don’t really want there to be conversations yet until we get that performance on the race track, otherwise we’re just having conversation,” Newman said of his contract status past this season and if talks have begun yet. “The reality is, I want to perform. They want to perform. The better performance that we have together the more it makes sense to carry on. I would say that no matter what team or organization in reference to continuing on responsibility or your job.”
Newman, is in his third season at Roush Fenway Racing. He’s not yet won a race for them yet, but he’s made the playoffs in his first year in that ride in 2019. Last year, he missed three races due to injuries suffered in that frightening last lap crash of the season opening Daytona 500, which that combined without winning, didn’t allow for a playoff berth in year 2.
Now, he’s hoping to eventually get back to the postseason. Unfortunately, the start of 2021 hasn’t gone the way that he would have liked. He’s had just one top 15 finish, a seventh place run at the Homestead-Miami Speedway a couple of weeks ago. That’s why he says that the performance of the team has to improve.
The main area of emphasis for this team to get better on is the 750 horsepower package. That to him, is where this team is lacking right now.
“I feel like we’ve made some pretty good gains for us on the 550 package. I think the 750 package needs a lot of work based off of what I experienced in Phoenix and off of a little bit of a combination of the road courses,” Newman said on what areas he felt like the team could get better in. “What I was fighting with my car in Phoenix was what I was fighting on the road course in Daytona as well as some races last year.”
Newman notes that based off of the schedule this season on the number of road courses and of 750 low downforce races that they have that we have to put a lot of emphasis on that moving forward in order to make his second playoff appearance in three years at RFR.
Part of the problem is, it’s hard to get things turned around when there’s no practice right now. Another byproduct of this is no qualifying either. Newman, has no chance to get his car better on the racetrack. They’re having to do any improvement in the simulator and guess on what works. With bad results though, come bad starting spots. With bad starting spots, come back pit selections and a tougher time to come up through the field for stage points.
Combine that, it’s hard to turn the luck around and find some good finishes and momentum.
“Yeah there’s no doubt that the starting procedure is a big hinderance if you had a bad last week or mired back after a couple of bad races in the points” said the Roush Fenway Racing driver. “That system it is what it is. Everybody has an opportunity, but I’d much rather prefer where there’s a random draw for a starting position because in the grand scheme of things, I think that’s the way it should be.”
Newman says that even when they did get a good finish, they didn’t do their job of turning the better starting spot a week later into something.
“We haven’t done a good enough job,” Newman continued. “We need to do a better job and move up. When we had a good finish at Homestead, we didn’t make the best of it the following week and that’s on us.
“We’ve got to sharpen up our pencils in respect of making our cars better so we can capitalize on that starting procedure.
“But yes, it is no fun when you have a bad weekend and having to start in the back, especially on some race tracks where it’s a challenge more so to pass and you’re sometimes counting on your pit crew to pass more cars than you’re able to on the race track.”
Newman says that even strategy now is hard to short pit or run stints long to get to the front. Everybody sees what everyone else is doing and if that strategy is working, the other cars will just join. Part of that is due to stage racing as there’s a predetermined lap that a caution will absolutely come out. It’s taken the strategy game virtually out of it.
Plus, with five winners in five races, wildcard spots are drying up by the week. Does that put even more pressure on Newman or does the randomness of the winners give him hope?
“I definitely want to be one of those guys up until a point to where I win and I don’t want to see any more of them,” said Newman. That’s ultimately not my decision.”
Newman says that the winners that we have seen though have deserved to win. No one has had one land in their lap he notes and says that no one also based off of how last year went still saw this coming.
He’ll take to the Atlanta Motor Speedway on Sunday eyeing a solid run to turn this momentum back around.