Ryan Newman has been a constant presence in the Roush Fenway Racing shop, putting his long experience to work in strengthening the team’s form.
“Let me put it to you this way: I spent four times as much time at the shop per week than I did in the last five years,” related Newman. “Which is bad and good — as a driver you’re spending time there because you need to make things better, but you’re spending time there to make things better.
“I think we have some really great meetings when we have our sit-downs — not just a meeting but layers of meetings that make us perform better and learn where we’re at. And I think that we have much better potential of showing what we’re made of as we hit some of these racetracks the second time than we did the first time.”
Newman spent the last five seasons at Richard Childress Racing where he made an improbable trip to the title round in Miami (in 2014) but won just once (’17). Last fall he was named the full-time driver of Roush’s No. 6 Ford, replacing Trevor Bayne and Matt Kenseth, who had been splitting the ride and had just two top-10 finishes between them.
With Newman’s experience and engineering background, the hope from the Roush side is that he’d be another piece of helping turn the company around. Seven races in, the 41-year-old Newman admits he expected his Scott Graves-led team to be better than where they are. Newman is 20th in points entering the Bristol short track (Sunday, 2 p.m. ET, FS1) with a best finish of 11th last weekend in Texas and an average finish of 17th.
Friday, Newman advanced to the final round of qualifying to earn the 11th starting spot. It is his second time this year he made the final round.
“I recognize our strengths, and I recognize our weaknesses, and we just have to go out there and fix everything we possibly can and then some,” Newman said.
The No. 6 team stacks up comparably with its teammate in the No. 17, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Stenhouse has a slightly better average finish (15th) with one top-10 finish, although he started the year with three consecutive top-10 starting positions and has made the final round of qualifying four times to Newman’s two.
“This is the first time I’ve ever had everything new — I mean absolutely everything,” said Newman. “Even when I started, when I had no idea what NASCAR Cup racing was about, we still did a bunch of testing. (This year) we did one test for a day-and-a-half in Vegas and came out with a new car, a new engine, a new crew chief, a new manufacturer so to speak — not just body and aero rules but a Mustang body.
“Everything was new, and I think I underestimated that just a little bit; but in saying that I think we’ve done a good job of making ourselves competitive. We’re obviously on the outside now of the top 16, but I feel like we’re more than capable of racing our way up and performing better each and every week.”