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Sunday, April 11, 2010

Sweet win for Ryan Newman at Phoenix

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Ryan Newman Photo & Ryan Newman Pictures

Watching the Sprint Cup race at Phoenix was a thrill, comparable only by the pinnacle of Ryan Newman's career – when he won the 50th running of the Daytona 500 in 2008.

As I watched the final laps of Saturday night's race, it was like watching the happy ending to a fine film where the plot moved along perfectly. That is just how Newman methodically moved up through the field at speeds to rival any other race car, showing just the right mix of patience, and determination. His drive to the checkered flag was obviously calculated. His aim was clear.

I admit that even as a diehard fan, I was comfortable with a top ten finish, a satisfactory points day.

I didn't seriously contemplate a victory for Newman, until I saw him re-enter the field after the last pit stop in second place. I had watched him pass Jeff Gordon all night. Suddenly I knew he could do it again.

I sat mesmerized, reliving Daytona in my mind, hoping for a similar result.

I couldn't believe my eyes when the leaders, including Newman, pitted with three laps to go. Taking two tires was a risk, but it was one played out by four other drivers in the top five. I recall Kyle Busch's late-race charge at Martinsville recently after pitting and using his four new tires to sprint to the finish ahead of the rest of the field. I hoped I wouldn't see that again.

But no matter what happened, I knew a nail-biting finish was about to commence for everyone that has ever cheered for the #39 car.

The Ryan Newman I so admire, a driver with ability far beyond the credit he receives, rocketed past Jeff Gordon, on the inside – no less – presenting an added dimension to his skill since the outside lane seemed to be the faster one.

Newman was masterful as he blocked Gordon and pulled away. As the white flag waved, I knew he was unstoppable.

It was a beautiful thing to watch. Newman was so deserving of the victory that has eluded him for two years. And it was fitting that he won at Phoenix – a track so special to him – the first track he drove in what was then the Winston Cup. It was ten years ago. How far he has come.

I chuckle at the thought that Newman's victory demonstrated that the know-it-all, biased commentators don't know everything they think they do. Not one of them considered that Newman would win the race, despite his skill, determination, and most of all ability. Those traits are obvious to those of us who listen to his radio communication and follow him his career. Yet, Newman wasn't even on their radar screen which apparently needs adjustment.

Newman's win Saturday night was not a surprise to me. The only surprise is that rotten luck didn't stand in the way this time. Newman has been driving well, gelling with his team, and gaining confidence.

My only hope is that perhaps a more objective eye from the broadcast booth will see the things in him that I see, the things that make Ryan Newman my favorite driver.

My congratulations to Ryan, the #39 team, and all of Stewart-Haas Racing. The race to the chase is on!