There are so many things to take away from the final race of the 2014 #NASCAR season at Homestead.
Congratulations to Kevin Harvick for capping off a great season and for exonerating NASCAR, freeing them from having to explain how a winless driver could take the title. Then again, Ryan Newman, who finished second wouldn't have been winless if he had just had another .5 seconds.
Ryan Newman didn't win the race or the championship, but he certainly did the next best thing. In fact, he couldn't have done any more or any better. There were likely many who were surprised by Newman's performance. I wasn't one of them. I've watched him race the same way during the entire season. I have been a Ryan Newman fan since 2004 and have rarely, if ever, seen him not give it his all.
As some have pointed out in media reports, Newman had a 10th place car that he drove to a 2nd place finish. That is just what Newman does. Thing is, he has never been on the media radar before. Television viewers have rarely ever hear Newman's name.
It was said yesterday, and I've written it previously in CHonTrack that Ryan Newman is NASCAR's Rodney Dangerfield. Ryan Newman is not a typical NASCAR driver. His remarks are not always predictable, never scripted, and certainly not controlled. Newman is a free spirit and isn't afraid to speak his mind. He is also quick-witted with a dry sense of humor, which isn't always easily understood. Personally, I find those traits endearing, but I can see where NASCAR would have a problem, especially since NASCAR is so fond of controlling every aspect of their sport.
Ryan Newman simply won't be controlled. NASCAR is fortunate however, because Newman loves what he does and causing it harm is likely the furthest thing from his mind. He just won't be manipulated.
Once the viewing public gets to know Newman, they will respect and admire him. They got a little glimpse of who he is in the final race because he had a spotlight shone on him. His situation of earning enough points to be a championship contender while not winning a race all year put him in such a unique position. It almost didn't happen. To earn the final point he needed to advance to the final round of the Chase for the Championship, Newman drifted up the race track on the last lap to move Kyle Larson out of the way. Passing one more car was all he needed to advance.
Jeff Gordon fans were off the wall about how Newman cheated Gordon out of his rightful place in the final round, despite the fact that Newman did nothing out of the ordinary and certainly nothing other drivers hadn't done.
So had that incident with Kyle Larson not opened up the can of drama that it did, Newman likely would have continued to fly just under the radar. No one would have ever gotten to see what his fans have always known--that Newman never gives up, gets the most out of his race car every single race, earns every point he gets, and was certainly entitled to contend for the championship.
His grace under fire is always evident too, as seen in this NASCAR video.
During post-race interviews, the disappointment and fatigue clearly showing on his face, Newman still managed to smile and acknowledged the bright side of the entire season. Make no mistake; Newman wanted to win the race and the title, but he didn't cry about coming in second.
In one interview, Newman even joked about his loss being Jeff Gordon's fault, because had Gordon won at Phoenix, Harvick wouldn't be in the chase and he would have finished first of the four that were. That was Newman's way of poking fun at all the negative comments that were leveled against him by Jeff Gordon fans after the Phoenix race.
NASCAR came out a winner too
It appears NASCAR got it right when they changed the Chase format. There seemed to be more interest in the final races of the season. There was certainly more excitement and certainly more drama. That translates into interest which will hopefully will fill the increasingly empty seats.
As it turned out, winning was the necessary component needed to earn the coveted Spring Cup Championship trophy. There was ultimately no need to backpedal, make excuses, or apologize. Had Harvick not prevailed, Newman would have ended his winless streak, thus making the entire point moot.
So, 97 days til Daytona!