Chase leads Newman to Fifer Middle

 

DOVER — Ryan Newman is currently mired in the longest winless stretch of his NASCAR career at 78 races.

But that hasn’t stopped him from being a championship contender.

Newman finished second in the Chase for the Sprint Cup a year ago and has made the Chase again this season despite not visiting Victory Lane once.

“The math is there to support a champion who doesn’t need to win,” Newman said. “That doesn’t get [put] on the trophy. That’s what different about our sport, in the end you can be a winner without actually winning.”

Newman was in Dover on Tuesday where he visited Dover Downs for lunch before traveling to Fred Fifer Middle School for a pep rally as part of NASCAR’s Chase Across America event.

While at Fifer Middle, he was able to do some winning.

After participating in a question and answer session with students at the pep rally hosted by SiriusXM radio’s Mike Bagley, Newman’s team of himself and four students won a pair of relay races involving wrapping crepe paper against teams led by Fifer Middle School principal Brian Smith, teacher Charles Wilt and teacher Lisa Wilt.

Newman also encouraged students to take education seriously, speaking from his own experience when he chose to go to college instead of becoming a full-time driver. Newman graduated from Purdue University in 2001 with a degree in engineering.

Before he left Fifer Middle School, Newman drew the biggest cheers from the audience when he announced all students in attendance would receive tickets to the NASCAR XFINITY Series race at Dover International Speedway on Saturday, Oct. 3.

Newman and the rest of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stars will return to Dover on Sunday, Oct. 4 for the AAA 400. That will be the third race of the Chase and will eliminate four drivers from the original field of 16. Newman does have three career victories at Dover.

Speaking with the media at Dover Downs earlier in the day, Newman said his No. 31 team, who hasn’t had a top five since the eighth race of the year, needs to improve to capture that elusive victory. Newman hasn’t won since July 28, 2013.

“We have to step it up,” Newman said. “We haven’t led enough laps and we haven’t put ourselves in contention enough times to get that victory. That’s what it’s going to take to guarantee your next round.”

Despite coming so close to his first championship last season, the 37-year-old Newman said he doesn’t dwell on the near-miss. Kevin Harvick ended up winning the title, finishing the highest of the final four contenders at the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

“None of it eats at me,” Newman said. “I know we were close. I know we did the best job we possibly could. I know we were the underdog and it doesn’t matter to me. We showed up and performed to the best of our abilities and we missed it by one spot. … The guy that dominated most of the year won it and we put up a hell of an effort.”

Newman isn’t the only driver in this season’s Chase without a victory. Jamie McMurray, Paul Menard, Clint Bowyer and Jeff Gordon also haven’t won this season.

If there is a winless champion, Newman doesn’t see that being a bad thing.

“I see it as just a difference,” Newman said. “Our sport is always different. We don’t have a 50 percent chance of winning each event. We have bigger teams, we have bigger moments and in my eyes bigger everything. That’s why I enjoy it.”

 

Reach staff writer Tim Mastro at tmastro@newszap.com

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