Could the timing be any better for Ryan Newman?
Newman, in his first season with Richard Childress Racing, has earned top-five finishes in two of his last three races entering Sunday’s Crown Royal 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a race Newman won one year ago.
While at the moment, Newman would qualify for this season’s Chase for the Sprint Cup based on his seventh place in the series standings, a victory would essentially lock him into the Chase field.
“This is probably the best worst season I’ve had as far as just not having the ultimate numbers. Our average is good, which is still a part of getting yourself into the Chase if there are not 16 winners,” Newman said.
“So, we have to win. We want to win. If you’re going to win the championship, you’re probably going to have to win something.”
Other than rookie Austin Dillon’s pole for the season-opening Daytona 500, RCR as a whole got off to a slow start this season.
Much progress has been made of late, however.
In addition to Newman’s recent strong runs, Paul Menard’s team has shown much more consistency, and the organization as a whole seems to have found some speed.
“The guys at RCR as well as Earnhardt-Childress Racing (Engines) have been working really hard at it and I think that we have some things in the works that are going to make us better,” Newman said.
“I know that everybody else does, too.”
Newman, a native of South Bend, Ind., called last year’s win at the Brickyard “a dream come true.”
Just like this season, Newman’s win at Indy at a year ago couldn’t have come at a better time as he was looking for a new home for the 2014 season.
Newman ended up being the only Stewart-Haas Racing driver to qualify for the Chase last season, which also likely helped him secure a new ride at RCR in its No. 31 Chevrolet.
There have been plenty of ups and downs this season, and a lot of work remains to get to the level of competing regularly with the likes of Hendrick Motorsports and Team Penske.
“It takes a little bit of everything. From underneath the hood to pit stops to myself; the race car, strategy-wise, some racing luck,” Newman said. We’ve probably had about as bad of racing luck as you could have at times.
“We’ve made mountains out of molehills, and we’ve made molehills out of mountains.”
Racing luck – or being at the right place at the right time – has been hard to come by for Newman and his team this season. They hope to change that.
“You can create your own luck. And some of it is there to haunt you,” he said. “In the end, you’re going to catch a piece of debris and run over it and get a flat tire. It’s going to happen throughout the year.
“Where the good luck or the back luck comes in is if you have a chance to rebound. When it’s happened to us, we haven’t had a chance to rebound.”
The good news? That could change at any time.