Once again, NASCAR's version of the playoffs has advanced to the second round and once again Ryan Newman of Richard Childress Racing is one of the guys in the thick of the battle to capture the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
Lightly regarded heading into last year's Chase, Newman stunned the pundits and his competitors alike by making it all the way to the final Championship Round of the Chase. There he finished second in the race to post the best points finish of his career.
Here are five reasons Newman could step up and seal the deal this time around.
5. Under the radar, still. When the 2014 Chase began, no one considered Newman a threat to win. Despite finishing second a year ago, Newman is still not one of the guys being talked about as a true title contender. Which is fine with Newman and crew chief Luke Lambert. They like flying under the radar.
4. Finishing power. Earlier this year, Newman posted an average finish of 7.667 at Charlotte, Kansas and Talladega, the three tracks in the upcoming Contender Round of the Chase, which begins this week in Charlotte. Last year in the Contender Round, Newman's average finish was even better -- 6.00. If he can duplicate that, he stands a good chance to move up.
3. All hands on deck. Newman is the only Richard Childress Racing driver left in the chase now that Paul Menard has been eliminated. That means the team can focus all of its energies on getting Newman and the No. 31 Chevrolet to Homestead in contention for the Chase.
2. Rough stuff. Newman isn't afraid to get physical on the track. Last year at Phoenix, in the penultimate race of the season, Newman shoved Kyle Larson into the wall on the last lap, which allowed him to pass Larson. That final-lap pass was the difference between Newman qualifying for the Championship Round of the Chase and being eliminated.
1. Been there, done that. No one milked the Chase system better last year than Newman did. After posting just a pair of top-five finishes in the first 31 races, Newman turned up the wick and had three top fives in the last five races of the year, including the runner-up finish at Homestead. He and his team know how to play the Chase game, and they do it very, very well.
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