Ryan Newman held a question-and-answer session with hundreds of middle school students in Delaware who peppered the only Sprint Cup driver with a college degree with questions about education and racing.
They wanted to know what Jeff Gordon was like, what Newman does in his spare time and his favorite track. The Fifer middle school kids also asked for Newman's favorite subject in school.
Newman, a Purdue engineering grad, said math.
Some kids cheered and Newman did, too — with good reason. It's the simple addition of point after point after point he's gained over 26 races that has again put Newman in the hunt for a NASCAR championship — even without a victory.
"The math is there to support a champion who doesn't need to win," said Newman, who has 17 career victories. "That doesn't get embossed on the trophy. That's what's different about our sport. In the end, you could be a winner without ever winning."
Newman hasn't won a race since the 2013 Brickyard 400, a devastating drought for a driver who won at least one race every year from 2010-2013 and won eight times in 2003.
But a winless season in 2014 didn't derail Newman's championship push, and neither did finishing 15th (Chicagoland) and 18th (New Hampshire) to open the Chase. Newman turned the Chase around at Dover, finishing eighth, then sixth, seventh, fifth and third over the next five races to keep advancing through elimination rounds all the way to the winner-take-all race at Homestead.
He was runner-up in the race and in the final standings to champion Kevin Harvick.
Newman made no apologies for working the system as he methodically piled up points in the No. 31 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing.
Newman has been solid, though hardly spectacular for RCR. He has only four top-five finishes and none since April at Bristol Motor Speedway. He's coming off a 13th-place finish at Darlington and was 20th at Richmond in his final two races ahead of this weekend's Chase opener at Chicagoland Speedway.
Newman hit some bumps this season: Crew chief Luke Lambert served a six-race suspension and two other team members were penalized for illegally tampering with tires.
He'll have help in the playoffs with teammate Paul Menard. Newman also has some company among drivers with no wins. Menard, Jamie McMurray, Jeff Gordon and Clint Bowyer are winless in the 16-driver field.
With three career wins at both New Hampshire and Dover, Newman also could steal a checkered flag or two over the 10 Chase races. Any Chase-eligible driver who wins a race in a specific round automatically advances to the next segment of NASCAR's playoffs.
Matt Kenseth, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Carl Edwards all stand in Newman's way. Told that Joe Gibbs Racing has the cars to beat, Newman laughed.
"Yeah, it's funny how you say that, it's Gibbs' cars, not the Gibbs drivers," he said. "My point is, I agree with you. The cars are really good. They've got good drivers but it's the (Toyota) cars that are really good. They are what seem to be the benchmark right now."
WILSON AUCTION: The eBay charity auction to raise money for the family of Justin Wilson is under way.
Wilson died from a head injury suffered when a piece of debris struck him during an IndyCar race at Pocono Raceway. He was 37.
The bidding on helmets and other race memorabilia closes on Oct. 26. Wilson left behind a wife and two young daughters.
As of Wednesday afternoon, a top bid on IndyCar champion Scott Dixon's signed helmet had reached $15,000. Juan Pablo Montoya's helmet from Sonoma reached $10,000. IndyCar drivers Sebastien Bourdais, Ryan Briscoe and Tony Kanaan all had race-worn helmets hit $6,000.
Bids can be made at http://stores.ebay.com/Celebrity-Charity-Auctions/Justin-Wilson-Memorial or fans can donate directly to the Wilson family fund at http://justinwilson.co.uk/donate.
"We are pleased that eBay can leverage our marketplace platform to help make a difference for the family of the late Justin Wilson," said Devin Wenig, President and CEO of eBay. "During this six week eBay Giving Works auction, fans can join the racing community that has rallied behind the Wilson family and show their continued support."
Other items for bid include a Roger Daltrey-signed microphone, used in 2015 when The Who played Glastonbury.
BELL RACES: Christopher Bell has added four more Truck Series races in the No. 54 Tundra for Kyle Busch Motorsports this season.
The 20-year-old Bell made three Truck starts for KBM in 2015, with a win at Eldora Speedway and two top-five finishes.
Bell will race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Talladega, Texas Motor Speedway and the season finale at Homestead.