The numbers don’t lie. Halfway through the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season, Ryan Newman has the No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing Ford Mustang running better than it had been a year ago. Newman has one top-five and six top-10 finishes ahead of the Quaker State 400 at Kentucky (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN) whereas neither Trevor Bayne or Matt Kenseth had scored any at this point last year.
Newman has an average finish of 14.1 after 18 races. In this same period a year ago the average finish for the No. 6 team was 24.6.
And yet Newman doesn’t take any comfort knowing things have been better.
“That’s comfort for the team more so than me,” he said at Kentucky Speedway. “I’m not where I want to be, and that’s what I focus on. I’m a race car driver — I’m born to be selfish. So, I want to go out there and do the best I can possibly be and win every race, win every lap. That’s the goal.
“If I’m not dominating, I’m not satisfied.”
A fifth-place finish in last weekend’s rain-shortened race at Daytona is Newman’s best result. It had previously been seventh at both Talladega and Sonoma.
Newman is not only a veteran of the Cup Series, but he has 18 wins and has worked with some of the best teams in the garage. His career started with Roger Penske, where he was crowned Rookie of the Year over seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson. Then he raced alongside Tony Stewart at Stewart-Haas Racing and Newman even nearly pulled off an improbable championship with Richard Childress in 2014.
But this year has been different in many ways. Not only in that Newman is with his fourth organization, but he’s referred to his team as “rookies.” Everything is new for all involved: He, crew chief Scott Graves and the team have never previously worked together. The Ford Mustang body is new to the Cup Series. Same for the aero package.
Newman and company. being competitive hasn’t been a problem. Finding the missing piece of the puzzle to be a winning team has been a little more complicated.
“Just raw speed,” Newman said. “We’ve been off in raw speed, trying to figure out downforce versus drag and obviously we can’t complain about a Roush Yates engine when they’ve been to victory lane.
“Knowing that Doug [Yates] does a great job with all that stuff, we’ve got to work on our cars more.”