Season Review: Ryan Newman
By: John Singler - @JohnSingler2 on November 27, 2011 | 9:13 A.M. EST
Newman had one victory and three poles during the 2011 Sprint Cup Series campaign, finishing tied for ninth in the final standings. (Photo: Getty Images)
For Ryan Newman, the 2011 season was a “Good news-bad news” story.
On the bright side, the Stewart-Haas Racing driver had his most consistent season in years with 17 top-10 finishes and a victory at New Hampshire – qualifying for his fourth Chase.
But Newman will be the first to admit his post-season performance fell short of expectations, leaving him tied for ninth with Denny Hamlin in the final point standings.
“Overall, we had a good season,” Newman said of his No. 39 U.S. Army-sponsored team. “The downside was that we didn’t perform as well as we anticipated in the Chase. We wanted better results for our Army Strong Soldiers, who inspire this team week in and week out, and we’re going to do everything we can to make (them) even more proud of their car in 2012.”
Newman began the year with a third-place finish in the season-opening Budweiser Shootout special event and followed with top 10s in four of the first five points-paying races. That lifted him to second in the point standings, behind only eventual championship runner-up Carl Edwards.
Inconsistency marked the next three months for Newman, who flourished with top 10s at Darlington Raceway and Michigan International Speedway but floundered with six finishes of 20th or worse.
Newman found a spark as the season hit the halfway point with the inaugural Sprint Cup Series race at Kentucky Speedway. He pushed his Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet to a fourth-place finish and found Victory Lane at New Hampshire Motor Speedway one week later, posting his 15th career win and third on “The Magic Mile.”
Newman then positioned himself for a spot in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup by notching top 10s in four of the next seven races – featuring fifth-place finishes at Pocono and Michigan. That gave Newman the No. 8 seed in the 12-man championship field heading into the post-season opener at Chicagoland Speedway.
“We truly expected to be a contender when the Chase began,” Newman said.
But the post-season was not kind to the No. 39 team. Three finishes outside the top 20 in the first six Chase races sent Newman tumbling to the bottom of the title field.
“We just had too many issues and a streak of bad luck during the Chase,” said Newman, who rallied during the final month of the season to advance three spots in the standings. The late charge began with a 10th-place finish at Martinsville Speedway and included a fifth-place run at Phoenix International Raceway.
“You always want to end the season feeling good,” said Newman, who also tipped his hat to teammate and newly crowned 2011 champion Tony Stewart. “The spirit is high at our Stewart-Haas Racing shop and the No. 14 team did a remarkable job in the Chase.”
And no season recap for Newman would be complete without a look at his qualifying results. NASCAR’s “Rocket Man” had three poles this year – matching Edwards, Greg Biffle, Kurt Busch and Matt Kenseth for the series high.
Newman ends his 10th full season in the Sprint Cup Series with 49 poles and 15 career wins in 368 starts. Milestone start No. 400 is expected to come next fall at Kansas Speedway.
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