Ryan Newman earned the nickname “Rocketman” for a good reason: Speed has never been a problem.
Mostly qualifying speed, that is. Early in his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career, Newman was a surefire bet whenever a pole was on the line. In fact, Newman won 51 poles between 2001 and 2013.
Through this season’s first 13 races Newman and the No. 31 team have had both good qualifying speed and race pace. Only the results don’t show it.
“Yeah, it’s definitely a season that keeps me humble I guess you could say,” Newman said with a smile after qualifying eighth at Pocono Raceway, his second consecutive top-10 start.
“It was a good run for our Kalahari Chevrolet. The guys did a good job. Worked entirely in qualifying trim. After Round 2 I thought we had a shot at the pole, we still did, but eighth is a great effort for us based on how we have been qualifying the last eight or 10 weeks.”
If Newman were able to convert his 2018 starts (he has an average starting spot of 15.8) into race results, he’d most likely be sitting better than 21st in the championship standings. Instead, Newman has found trouble at inopportune times.
Like at Charlotte Motor Speedway, when Newman picked up stage points in stages two and three only to have a hub issue send him to the garage while running inside the top 10.
And at Kansas Speedway, where a potential top-10 run was foiled when he got caught up in a late accident. Handling issues sent him to the garage for repairs at Dover. There were crashes at Richmond and Texas. The list goes on.
When looking at Newman’s loop data statistics for this year, his average position during a race has been inside the top 18 in all but two races. Additionally, Newman has made over 500 quality passes — the number of times passing a car running in the top 15 under the green flag — this year, showing his strength in climbing the leaderboard when not having the best qualifying effort or having to come through the field.
Or for a better look at his speed, Newman has run the fastest lap during a in eight of 13 races. In Atlanta, where he qualified second, Newman ran the fastest lap of everyone in the field 45 times.
Newman finished 14th in both Pocono races last season and has one win at the track in 32 starts. He goes into Sunday’s race looking to convert his fourth top-10 starting spot into his fourth top-10 finish of the season.