Editor's note: FOXSports.com has exclusive access to driver Ryan Newman, crew chief Luke Lambert and the No. 31 Richard Childress Racing team this weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. This post will be updated throughout the weekend with exclusive content.
Friday, July 24 -- 6:15 p.m. ET
Practice has wrapped up for the day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, with Newman's No. 31 Grainger Ford ending the final session 11th on the speed charts. After being 26th in the day's first practice and 25th in the second, Newman jumped up the speed charts in qualifying trim.
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"It's kind of a mixed bag, everybody's been switching between race and qualifying trim," Newman told FOXSports.com after final practice. "We definitely got the Grainger Chevrolet better. It's drivable now. We've got to work on our speed just a little bit. We ended up in qualifying trim a little on the tight side, so we know there's more speed in the race car, we've just to get it out of it."
With final practice in the books, the work for the Luke Lambert-led team was far from over. NASCAR allowed the teams to use data acquisition during Friday's three practice sessions, due to the new rules package, something typically reserved for testing. The team will have to remove all of the data acquisition items from the car, go through the information and make a game plan for Saturday's qualifying session and Sunday's race.
"It's really a mess to come here to a big race like this and have something like this where the guys have to spend so much time -- they've been doing so much testing, wind tunnel testing and everything else -- it's just not really fair for all the guys," Newman said.
While Newman is not confident he can win the pole during Saturday's qualifying session, he expects to find more speed in the car and secure a starting spot near the front of the field.
"I think we have a competitive car. It drives really good," he said. "We're seven-tenths off on the quick time, which doesn't take a whole lot to get here because of the straightaways. We can definitely make it better, I know we're still too tight."
Friday, July 24 - 12:10 p.m. ET
Before hitting the track for the day's second practice session at IMS, Newman stood in his hauler relaxed and ready for action.
The 2013 Brickyard 400 winner sits 13th in the driver standings, coming off an 11th-place finish at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Posting the 26th fastest lap in the first practice session, Newman was not concerned as the team was working primarily on the race setup on the No. 31 Grainger Chevrolet.
On the track for the first time with the new high-drag rules package, Newman does not believe the race will look much different than in years past.
"You don't see any difference when you're driving by yourself," Newman said. "The drag will just be compensated by horsepower."
One of the key factors to the team's success this weekend is crew chief Luke Lambert. Suspended six races by NASCAR for manipulating tires at Auto Club Speedway, Lambert returned to the track three weeks ago at Daytona International Speedway. Since returning to the pit box, things have not been easy for Lambert.
"We've just had to rebalance ourselves," Newman said of his crew chief's return. "Our situation changed when he was away. Long story short, he's coming back to a lot of different situations and scenarios. Daytona was his first race back, which is Daytona. You can't really do a lot as a crew chief. We go to Kentucky with a different rules package, so it's not like he's jumping on the same horse. Then, two races later we come here and it's a whole different horse again."
Not a huge fan of the high-drag package being run this weekend at Indianapolis and again at Michigan, Newman believes there are a lot of unknowns headed into Sunday's race.
"I don't know that (the package) will work at all," he said. "Do we know? We didn't know if the Kentucky package would work until we doubled up on lead changes and everything else."
Newman prefers the low downforce package run at Kentucky Speedway and is one of the many drivers in the garage that would like to see more of that in the future. However, the focus for now remains on this weekend's race and contending for the win on Sunday.
Newman believes his overall results have not reflected how the team has run, but is confident the team will be a part of the Chase once again this season.
"Pocono and Michigan were two tough hits for us," he said. "At Pocono we got crashed out going for the top five. Then at Michigan we got caught a lap down and then the 42 (Kyle Larson) stayed out and tried to rob a win and locked us a lap down instead of taking the wave around. We lost a lot of spots in that deal. We were a top-10 car there as well. That's 40 points right there, not to mention the 50 that NASCAR took from us (as a result of the tire manipulation penalty).
Last season, Newman raced his way into the championship round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup at Homestead-Miami Speedway despite not having a victory on the season. Still searching for his first win of the season, Newman does not believe the team needs to win to be a part of the 16-driver Chase field.
"We don't need to win, that's an obvious to me," he said. "I think with the guys that are competitive and the number of open spots right now, you've basically got 11 winners -- Kyle Busch, you can count him in -- you're going to have five spots that are open."