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Saturday, November 1, 2014

Ryan Newman's consistency should not be controversial

Ryan Newman Pit-Stop
Ryan Newman Pit-Stop
photo courtesy of Quicken Loans Racing
One of the least controversial characters in the #NASCAR garage area is Ryan Newman. So why is it that controversy follows him like hunks of bread from the hands of Hansel and Gretel?

It isn't Ryan Newman's doing. Just ask any member of the growing #NewmanNation.

The latest fluff in the media is about the fact that Newman is currently second in points in NASCAR's prestigious Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship, which has just three races left. And Newman is win-less for the season.

For anyone that is aghast at the fact that Newman is ranking so high on consistency, but not in the wins column, it really doesn't matter. So what if he hasn't won a race in the 2014 season. I can say that because in so many ways, winning a race is simply a formality; the exclamation point is on all that took place in the previous 500 laps or so, depending on the race track of course. In that regard, Newman and his Richard Childress Racing team has excelled. Despite NASCAR's many tweaks of the format, and hoped for emphasis on winning, the real result comes from consistency and strategy. Newman excels at both!

Since NASCAR has fiddled with the racing rules, the cars, the tracks, and just about everything possible, stock car racing is no longer strictly in the hands of the driver. The sport has strayed far from its roots. Today, racing is probably governed by 50% driver skill, 40% team strategy, and 10% luck. Some say even those percentages should be reversed. Gone are the days when pit stops were just about turning wrenches. On race day, the pit box is littered with expensive equipment, computer programs, and technical advances far beyond what could have ever been envisioned by the Alabama gang or their compadres from the good ole days.

Racing is no longer just all about driving hard and running fast, though those things are certainly factors. NASCAR has made the cars, and teams so equal and administered so many rules, that teams have had to resort to doing the best they can with what they have. In Ryan Newman's case, that means being consistent. 

Newman and his team have mastered the delicate dance of driving skill, strategy, managing tires, fuel, speed, down force, side force, track and air temperature, monitoring the weather, and the all-important balance of the race car in all the varied conditions during a race. And they have done it consistently. That takes smarts. Newman and his team have smarts. 

The one thing that Newman hasn't employed is being overly aggressive. If he drove that way--if he was willing to cut off an opponent or wrecklessly bump people out of his way as others have done, he would have won races. How many times have spectators expected Newman to retaliate against another driver? He doesn't stoop to that level. 

Newman and his team have evaluated the game and is playing by the rules NASCAR devised. He need not make any apologies for his string of top 5's and top 10's, often times by overcoming adversity. He can be very proud of his achievements. His fans certainly are. While he may not have a room full of trophies for 2014, he doesn't need to. Despite NASCAR's desire to make winning the focus of this year's chase, they failed to make that happen. Even Newman was critical of the format that reset the points at each level of the Chase without rewarding for wins. That is what he advocated for, despite that stance potentially harming his own position. That too is laudable.

The bottom line is, Newman can win it all. He can win it all without having to compromise his driving style. He can be victorious by being who he is. I for one, certainly hope he does!