Ryan “Rocketman” Newman
2006 Ride: No. 12 Alltel/Mobil 1 Dodge
2006 Owner: Roger Penske
2006 Crew Chief: Matt Borland
Stats: 36 races, zero wins, two top fives, seven top 10s, 18th in points.
High Point: You have to look hard to find a real high point in Newman’s disappointing 2006 season – it was his first winless year in five full-time Cup seasons and his only one finishing outside the top 10 in points. He managed to snag just two top-five finishes and grab his fewest poles (two) as a full-time Cup competitor. If you need to get specific, Newman’s high point was a third-place finish in the Daytona 500 – his highest-ever placement in the Great American Race. His only other top five this season was a second at Sonoma in June.
Low Point: During a 10-race stretch from mid-March through the end of May, the No. 12 team experienced three DNFs and finished five races in 33rd or worse, all but eliminating any chances the organization had for the playoffs.
Summary: Neither Newman nor Penske teammate Kurt Busch lived up to expectations in 2006. Both drivers were two-time Chasers who missed the Chase, and statistically, Newman had his worst full-time Cup season ever. Even qualifying – normally the Rocketman’s strong suit – was way off. Many suggest the problem was the Dodge Charger, but Kasey Kahne had six wins and made the Chase in a Charger this year. Newman, we have a problem.
2007 Outlook: Newman will be starting 2007 with a new crew chief in Mike Nelson, but the team and the organization at Penske have their work cut out for them if they are looking to regain any of their past glory.