With three races left in NASCAR's Race to the Chase to set up the 2013 championship field, Ryan Newman has a couple options to earn a berth, but not much time left to make it happen.
A 13th-place finish in the No. 39 Quicken Loans Chevrolet on Sunday in Michigan was a respectable showing for Newman, but the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings are so tight, the Brickyard 400 winner actually dropped a spot in the rankings to 15th heading into Saturday night's free-for-all on the tight Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway high banks.
Seventh-place Dale Earnhardt Jr., eighth-place Brad Keselowski and ninth-place Kurt Busch are only separated by 14 points and none of those three drivers have a victory, which is necessary for a Wild Card position. Should they fall out of the top 10, things get even more interesting in the Wild Card race.
Kasey Kahne (two wins), Truex (one win) and Sunday's race winner Joey Logano are ranked 11th-13th, and if one of those drivers moves into a guaranteed top-10 position, Newman's Wild Card opportunity improves.
Newman likes his chances at Bristol, where he has won three Coors Light Pole Awards and has four top-10 finishes in the last six races, including a seventh there this spring.
Here's what the 2008 Daytona 500 winner has to say about Sunday in Michigan and his outlook in the Race to the Chase:
On strategy that put him seventh on last restart:
Newman: "We had the right pit strategy, and we would have been in position to grab a top-five at the very least. But I just couldn't do anything with the car.
The Quicken Loans Chevy got too loose, and being back there in dirty air didn't help us at all. It was a great effort by (crew chief) Matt (Borland) and the guys. I'm just disappointed we couldn't get the finish we set ourselves up for."
On his Wild Card chances:
Newman: "As far as the Chase goes, we came into Michigan with a Wild Card, and left without one. The points are so tight, and with three races to go, anything can happen. We need to focus on running as consistently as possible, week in and week out. If we're able to get another win, that will obviously help tremendously in the Wild Card battle. But, there's a couple of guys that are in the top 10 without a win, and if they're to have a bad race or two and fall out, that might get us into the top 10 and out of the Wild Card scenario."
On his mindset heading into the final three races before the Chase begins:
Newman: "I'm trying not to lose sleep over it, but it's hard not to think about it. We've just got to keep doing what we've been doing - and that's focusing on bringing the best cars that we can to the race track each week. While we may be out of it today, the field isn't set until the checkered flag waves at Richmond."
FULL SERIES COVERAGE
WILD CARD STANDINGS
|Pos||Driver||Wins||Pts Pos||Pts from 10th|
|1.||Kasey Kahne ||2||11th|| -4 |
|2.||Martin Truex Jr. ||1||12th||-10|
|3.||Joey Logano ||1||13th||-17|
|4.||Ryan Newman|| 1 ||15th||-27|
|8.||Paul Menard ||0||17th||-64|
|9.||Aric Almirola ||0||19th||-76|