In an era where NASCAR is devoted to parity and on a track type that is as unpredictable as it gets, Ryan Newman enters this week’s Daytona 500 with eight top-10s and a 14th in his last 10 superspeedway races. His last five attempts at Daytona have all been 14th or better with four top-10s highlighting the effort.
This has been accomplished by a driver who is considered by many to be one of the most obstinate drivers on the track. When one looks at Newman with his squat physique and thick neck, finesse is certainly not the first thought that comes to mind. And often, subtlety is what is required on this course type in drafting packs of more than 25 cars at speeds in excess of 200 mph.
Still, Newman has developed a penchant for getting ahead on the aero-restricted superspeedways and fantasy players should take notice.
It was not always that way. In his first 21 attempts at Daytona, Newman earned only three top-10s. One of these was a 2008 win in the Great American Race. Unfortunately that was offset by 14 races in which he finished 20th or worse. Newman entered the 2012 Coke Zero 400 with a rash of accidents. He crashed is the six previous races and finished well down the order. He also sustained damage in that race, but the team repaired the car and allowed him to finish fifth.
Newman has been much better since. Not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but much better. In his last 15 attempts on this track, he earned top-10s in more than half his starts with the lion’s share coming in the last three seasons. Newman finished fifth in the 2017 and 2019 Coke Zero 400s.
There is a difference between the two superspeedways, but not enough to keep success on one track from bleeding over onto the other.
Newman swept the top 10 at Talladega in 2019. He finished that well in two of the previous three races and when one adds the two superspeedways together, he has those eight recent top-10s. Last Sunday he scored another top five in the Busch Clash in a car that looked like it belonged in a junk yard.
Newman’s Busch Clash car would not have completed many more laps if the checkered flag had not fallen, but it does serve as an example of the type of racer he has always been. Newman is tough, he’s stubborn, and will not give up the slightest bit of ground. That can be a detriment on plate tracks if a driver is erratic and prone to making contact with other cars.
But Newman is not at all erratic. He holds a steady wheel and simply puts his car in positions that are hard to pass.
Since mid-season 2017 Newman has one bad finish (a 25th in 2018 Talladega 2) and he’s as close to a sure thing as fantasy owners are likely to find.