Column By: REID SPENCER / NASCAR – RICHMOND, VA – Ryan Newman parlayed his strong run in Saturday night’s Federated Auto Parts 400 into a significant move up the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoff ladder.
Recovering from a lackluster qualifying effort, Newman finished fifth to climb to ninth in the Playoff standings, 14 points to the good over 13th-place Alex Bowman approaching the Sept. 29 elimination race at the Charlotte Roval.
“It was just a good team effort, good pit stops,” Newman said. “The strategy wasn’t a whole lot to it, just put four tires on, but had a good short-run car. One time we had a good long-run car, but we could never get both.
“I think that, if we would have had both, we could have ran with those guys (race winner Martin Truex Jr. and his Joe Gibbs Racing teammates), but we were at our best probably when we were just holding good bias to a long-run car—but who would have known there were going to be that many green flag runs.”
Newman started 19th and was gratified he was able to drive forward in what he characterized as the best all-around performance of the season by his No. 6 Roush Fenway Ford team.
“Yeah, without a doubt,” Newman said. “The best team performance all-around throughout the entire weekend. We failed at qualifying. We got the car too tight, but, overall, just a great team effort to get the Roush Performance Ford a good run.
“What meant to me the most probably was just being better than we were the first race (in the spring). We ran ninth in the first race and qualified 30th or something like that, and we came back and showed that we were learning, and we’ll keep learning.”
RUN-IN WITH AUSTIN DILLON HURTS CHANCES OF TWO HENDRICK DRIVERS
An altercation with Austin Dillon early in Saturday night’s Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond Raceway put Hendrick Motorsports drivers William Byron and Alex Bowman squarely on the bubble entering the final event in the first round of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs.
On Lap 111, two circuits after the green flag for Stage 2, Bowman dived low beneath Dillon, creating a four-wide situation on the backstretch. Bowman’s No. 88 Chevrolet slipped up the track into Dillon’s No. 3 Chevy, cutting Dillon’s left front tire.
Dillon’s car, in turn, bounced into Byron’s Chevrolet and cut the left rear tire on Byron’s car. Dillon retaliated against Bowman by spinning him, causing the second caution of the race.
“I’m going to shove that silver spoon up his (expletive),” Bowman said on his team radio, a reference to Dillon’s status as grandson of team owner Richard Childress.
“Yeah, we didn’t execute very well on top of it either,” said Bowman who finished 23rd, four laps down and heads to the Charlotte Roval 13th in the Playoff standings. “So it’s definitely a bummer. We were really tight here in the spring, and we came here trying to build a car that would turn really well.
“It did that, but it just didn’t have any drive. When you’re on stickers, and the guys running 75 lap old tires are forward driving you, it’s not much fun. We didn’t have a good day. We didn’t have anything go our way either. We just struggled with the car all day. It’s a bummer, but (crew chief) Greg (Ives) and all of us will regroup and we should be strong next week.”
Byron finished 24th and is 12th in the standings, the last Playoff-eligible position.