Once the Chase begins, you don't hear much about the guys who didn't make the top 12. Around these parts, we think that's the way it ought to be; your guy had 26 chances to get to the top, and if he didn't make it, whose fault is that? But we won't completely ignore the lower 31 here. Like this past week at Phoenix, for instance, when Ryan Newman rode a near-empty gas tank to a second-place finish.
Newman owns the best one-two punch of any driver at the two-time tracks this year, having notched a victory in Phoenix in the spring and a runner-up to Carl Edwards on Sunday. Like Jimmie Johnson, Juan Pablo Montoya and others, Newman decided to conserve fuel, but unlike Montoya, Newman had enough to make it to the finish. (The fact that only JPM and Clint Bowyer ran out of gas further highlights the dubious non-call from Denny Hamlin's crew chief Mike Ford not to save fuel.)
Anyway, from his press conference afterward, Newman sounded almost bored with Phoenix, calling it an "uneventful strategy race." But hey, whatever works:
"It was a good run. No complaints. Just came up one spot short. I don't mind every once in a while coming down to a fuel mileage race if you make it. If you don't make it, they suck."
It didn't suck. Newman now sits at 15th in the standings, and that's probably as far as he'll rise this year. Still, a year when you score a victory and await the birth of a new young'un has to rank pretty high, regardless of where you end the season.