On the final lap of last Sunday’s penultimate race at Phoenix, Ryan Newman found himself on the verge of elimination, needing to gain one more position from his 12th-place spot on the track. In a final move of desperation, Newman was able to force Kyle Larson into the Turn 4 wall and pass him for 11th-place – a performance that put him one point ahead of Jeff Gordon for the final berth in the Championship 4.
Newman’s Arizona effort was not the first time he rose to the occasion under pressure in this season’s Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Clinging onto the final position on the Chase Grid entering the Challenger Round cutoff race at Dover, the No. 31 Caterpillar, Inc./Quicken Loans driver produced an eighth-place finish to advance to the Contender Round. He also avoided “The Big One” at Talladega and registered a third-place showing in the process to solidify his spot in the Eliminator Round.
The NASCAR world will see if Newman has one more clutch effort left in the tank for Sunday’s Championship race at Homestead-Miami Speedway (3 p.m. ET on ESPN). A 13-year full-time veteran of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Newman can capture his first title in any NASCAR national series by finishing ahead of Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin.
In 12 Homestead starts, Newman owns one top five and four top 10s. His highest finish at the Miami-area track was a third-place showing in 2012. One potential note of interest: Newman is the only one of the Championship 4 who did not test at Homestead at the end of October.
Competing in his first season with Richard Childress Racing, Newman can earn the organization its first premier series title since 1994 when Dale Earnhardt captured RCR its sixth championship. Newman would be the only driver other than Earnhardt (six titles) to clinch a premier series crown with RCR.
Newman has proven to be the true underdog story in the Chase. Despite not winning a race during the regular season, the consistent 36-year-old racked up 10 top-10 finishes and placed lower than 30th only two times to clinch the 16th and final spot in NASCAR’s playoffs. No matter how Newman fares at Homestead, he will achieve a career-best finish in the final standings. His previous high finish was sixth – a feat he has achieved three times (2002, ’03, ’06).