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HOMESTEAD, Fla. – Ryan Newman's best finish of the season was ultimately one spot short of a championship.
Newman restarted Sunday's race at Homestead in second and that's where he finished as he was unable to chase down Kevin Harvick, who won the race and the 2014 Sprint Cup Series championship.
Newman made it to second place after a two-tire pit stop during a caution before the race restarted with 15 laps to go. The move for track position worked, as Newman was the second car off pit road and restarted fourth.
A move by Jeff Gordon to pit during the race's penultimate caution put Newman in second for the final two restarts, but he wasn't able to get the lead.
Newman admitted thinking about attempting a move on Harvick similar to the one he made on Kyle Larson at Phoenix. Last week, Newman flat-footed his car into the final two turns and drove it as low as he could. He drove up into Larson, moving the rookie out of the way and into the wall. The pass gave Newman 11th place and made him eligible at Homestead for the title.
But on Sunday night, he simply wasn't close enough to Harvick on the last lap. When Newman had taken two tires, Harvick took four. The fresher tires helped Harvick get the lead before the final restart and rocket away over the final three laps.
"But in the end, I just got down underneath [Harvick] and he was close enough to me, took some of the air away from me," Newman said about the final restart. "I could have kept it wide open and washed up into him and it wasn't the right move. It wasn't what I would have wanted him to do to me."
"If we were close enough on the last lap, it might have been a different game, but it wasn't. I slipped off of turn four coming to the white and at that point it was pretty much over."
Coming into Homestead, Newman's best finish of the year was third, where he finished at Kentucky and Martinsville. He was basically a walking contradiction to how NASCAR's new format was marketed. While winning was supposedly emphasized more than ever, Newman was the tortoise to the multiple race-winning hares.
While he didn't have the outright speed that other drivers had at times this season, he was able to avoid devastating finishes and the recipe got him to the final race.
However, as the race played out in the late laps, it was evident Newman would have had to win the race to win the championship. Without the last two cautions, he was in a great position to do so. But as the field kept getting bunched up, Harvick's fresher tires were a too big of an advantage.
"But the game-changer for us, I think, really was the one caution that was before Gordon pitted that I think Denny was leading, and we were in a better situation than they were on tires," Newman said. "We had rights and they had stayed out, which I think was the right call for them at the time had the race gone green. But it had a couple late race cautions ..."
"We came back for the entire season to make our best finish our last finish. It is disappointing, don't get me wrong, but there's no point in being a sore loser. It's some motiviation, some momentum for the offseason to get started for Daytona and just look forward to the opportunity for next year.
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