The Frontstretch: 2012 NASCAR Driver Review: Ryan Newman by Jeff Wolfe -- Wednesday January 2, 2013

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2012 NASCAR Driver Review: Ryan Newman

Jeff Wolfe · Wednesday January 2, 2013


Ryan Newman

2012 Ride: No. 39 Stewart-Haas Chevrolet
2012 Primary Sponsors: U.S. Army, Quicken Loans, Wix Filters, Outback Steakhouse, Aspen Dental, Haas Automation, Bass Pro Shops, Tornados, Code 3 Associates
2012 Owners: Tony Stewart & Margaret Haas
2012 Crew Chiefs: Tony Gibson (Feb. – Oct.), Matt Borland (Oct. – Nov.)

Stats: 36 starts, 1 win, 6 top 5s, 14 top 10s, 0 poles, 5 DNFs, 14th in points.
Best Finish: 1 win (Martinsville – April).
Average Finish: 15.0.

2012 Team Ranking: 2nd out of 2. Newman, whose lone season victory occurred after teammate Tony Stewart already had two was never in the same stratosphere with the No. 14 car for most of 2012.

High Point: Martinsville in April. It looked like this race winner was going to be either Jimmie Johnson or Jeff Gordon. Then on a late restart Clint Bowyer drove hard into Turn 1 after a slight tap on his bumper from Newman. The result was a three-car crash that eliminated Bowyer, Johnson and Gordon. That left Newman in line to pick up the victory. It turned out to be his only victory of 2012. Newman was eighth in points after that victory in the sixth race of the season. A 21st place finish the next week left him ninth in points and he was never higher than 10th in points again for the rest of the season.

Low Point: Newman continued to slide in the standings, but stayed in contention for the Chase because of his one victory. But his low point, or points in this case, came in a two-race stretch just as NASCAR’s 26-race regular season was winding down. First, an accident at the August Bristol race left him with a 36th place finish and dropped him to 15th in the points standings. Then, the next week at Atlanta, another accident left him with a 35th place finish and he fell to 17th in the points. That left him needing pretty much a miracle going into the final race of the regular season to make the Chase for the Championship. Not only would he need a win, he would need the help of poor finishes by several others. None of those things happened as he finished eighth, leaving him 16th in points and out of the 12-driver Chase.

Summary: 2012 was not a banner season for Newman. After he won at Martinsville in April, it looked like he and teammate Tony Stewart might be forces to be reckoned with throughout the season. They combined to win three of the first six races and all was well. But not a lot went right for Newman after that. He had four finishes of 34th or worse in the 19 races, essentially eliminating him from any chance to make the Chase for the Championship. After the Martinsville win, he did not have a top 10 finish again until taking fifth in the July race in Daytona, race No. 18 on the schedule. While he was not in contention for the title, Newman did rally a bit in those final 10 races, with seven finishes of 12th or better, including a third-place finish in the season-finale at Homestead. That might have been helped by the crew chief switch as Tony Gibson will take over the No. 10 team of Danica Patrick next year and Newman will have his former Penske Racing crew chief Matt Borland at the helm. Borland was Newman’s crew chief in the final two races this season. Also, Newman saw his streak of winning a pole position in 11 straight seasons end.

Off-Track News: Newman and his wife Krissie continued their involvement in the Ryan Newman Foundation by helping many various causes to assist wildlife and pet rescue. In March, the Newmans visited the Best Friends Animal Society’s sanctuary in Utah, the nation’s largest refuge for abused and abandoned animals. Also, the couple’s second child, Ashlyn Oliva was born in July.

2013 Outlook: A bit of a better finish in those final 10 races helps the outlook for next year. And since Stewart-Haas Racing has access to engine and chassis information from Hendrick Racing, that should help the team get off to a good start with the new car in 2013. Newman will also have a familiar voice in his ear during race day as Matt Borland will be his crew chief for 2013. They were together when Newman drove for Penske Racing before Newman came to the Stewart-Haas team three years ago. Newman turned 35 just last week, so there’s still time for him to have a breakout season. He’ll have to avoid finishes of 30th or worse, which was a problem in 2012 as he did not finish five races.

2011 Sprint Cup Grade: B.
2012 Grade: B-. This season was not a complete disaster for Newman. He did have one win, but it also could have been much better. The fact that he did not win a pole also has to be difficult to handle for the Hoosier native, who has 49 on his career and goes by the nickname “Rocket Man.”

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