With seven races left to decide the 12-driver Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup field, Ryan Newman has a steep, but manageable challenge to earn a berth in NASCAR's 10-race playoff.
And the recent off-week probably couldn't have come at a better time for Newman, who was collected in a chain reaction accident at New Hampshire Motor Speedway that cost him in the standings and set back his chances.
It was an emotional week for the 2008 Daytona 500 winner, who also found out he won't return to the Stewart-Haas Racing team in 2014. But the 16-time Cup race winner said his determination and commitment has never been higher, no matter the circumstance.
He dropped three positions in the standings and sits in a three-way tie with Joey Logano and Paul Menard -- all only 36 points out of a Chase-guaranteed top-10 position.
As the Sprint Cup Series heads to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway this week, Newman will make a detour to Eldora Speedway for the Camping World Truck Series CarCash Mudsummer Classic presented by CNBC Prime's The Profit, where he'll make a guest appearance competing on the dirt for Turner Scott Motorsports in the No. 34 Oral-B Aggressive Design Chevy Silverado.
He has one Keystone Light pole and four top-five finishes -- including a win in his very first start at Atlanta (2008) -- in all four previous truck starts.
Here's what Newman has to about his "Race to the Chase" and his race at Eldora:
On his motivation:
"Absolutely nothing has changed other than 2014. So for me, we're still focused on making the Chase and having a shot at the championship, which I feel we're capable of. Nothing has changed with respect to that.
"I actually (got) the weekend off, and that's it. It's our youngest daughter's first birthday so (had) a birthday party on Saturday, and that's pretty much it.
"Kansas (Goodyear Tire) test Tuesday-Wednesday -- 4 pm-midnight -- which means we'll get back (at) 6 a.m. Thursday morning."
Opportunity to win if we are in the Chase:
"I had that mentality back in October last year. That hasn't changed. I saw (the prospect of not begin a part of Stewart-Haas Racing) coming for quite a while. I just didn't know. At least the potential for it to come, I should say. Nothing has changed in terms of my mentality. I continue working toward 2014. I won't race any different. I won't feel any different. I will have the same amount of work to do to prepare for 2014.
On his New Hampshire race:
"We just got whacked by a bunch of guys -- the No. 18 (Kyle Busch) hit me first, the No. 2 (Brad Keselowski) hit me next and then I guess it was Kurt (Busch) who went underneath three-wide and bypassed the No. 20 (Matt Kenseth), who came and clipped us and knocked us into the fence and took himself out. We kind of were in a bad spot, having a little bit older tires. We didn't have the greatest car, but have to thank WIX Filters for jumping on board and sponsoring us. That is not the press we wanted to give them, but just a lot of disrespect from a bunch of guys on restarts. What comes around goes around.
"We came into New Hampshire knowing that we had to do all that we could to try and win the race, not only to keep us alive in the Wild Card standings toward making the Chase, but also to show everyone that despite the news that was announced ? winning races and putting ourselves in a position to not only race for, but also to win a championship, is still the goal, no different than it always has been."
On the championship outlook:
"We'll regroup and head to Indy with the same mindset. We'll go there and try to win the race, and if we're not able to do that, we'll look to regain some of the ground we lost on 10th in points at New Hampshire. The points standings are still close. We aren't as close as we were, but we're not out of it by any means. Until the Chase field is set after the race at Richmond, we're going to keep working just as hard as we've been working all season to be a part of that field."
On what competing at Indy means to him as an Indiana native:
"I think for Tony (Stewart) to him it's more like home court. For me, it's more like home state and the essence of the history of the speedway and the history of speed at the speedway. Indianapolis is to auto racing what Daytona is to auto racing in a different way.
"The history of speed, the history of land speed, the history of a lot of racing, the great drivers that have crossed that yard of bricks and I say it every year, I want to be on that list of winners at that race track. That's what means a lot to me.''
On competing at Eldora:
"I can't thank everyone at Oral-B, Aggressive Hydraulics, WIX Filters and Turner Scott Motorsports enough for this unique opportunity. This race is going to be something really special in NASCAR's history.
"I've always enjoyed racing in the (Camping World) Truck Series and to be able to get back and race on dirt with a truck, I think everyone will be in for a special treat. We were able to test and I thought everything went as planned and I know (crew chief) Chris [Carrier] and the rest of the Oral-B team will have a great truck prepared for the race at Eldora."
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