Story By: BRANDON LEE / ROUSH FENWAY RACING – CONCORD, NC – Looking back on 2019 for the No. 6 team at Roush Fenway Racing, the common words used to describe the season – interestingly enough – turned out to be rookie and improved.
For Ryan Newman – a now 42-year-old veteran in the NASCAR Cup Series – it took virtually all of 2019 to remove the rookie stripes so to speak, after he embarked on a year of change that included a new team, new manufacturer, and even a new rules package. For the team it was a drastic season of improvement and a solid 2019 campaign that showed promise entering Newman’s second year at Roush Fenway in 2020.
“We accomplished a lot and progressed a lot,” Newman said during Champion’s Week in Nashville. “If you look at our numbers and stats, we got better and better, but not good enough, which was my biggest disappointment. We got to a point where we could run in the top-10 and we were getting some stage points and we were always at our best at the end.”
Being good at the end, after all, is the key for anyone in the sport, and Newman found a way to make that happen. Despite no wins, he brought home 14 top-10 finishes – more than the No. 6 car combined in the previous three seasons – and the most in a single-season by a driver of the No. 6 since David Ragan in 2008 (14). He qualified for the NASCAR Playoffs off points alone, was 0.007 seconds away from a win at Talladega in October and just missed advancing to the next round of the playoffs after a valiant effort at the Charlotte Roval.
“We weren’t as good as we should’ve been off the truck or at the end of stage one, but I was proud of the team effort and all the things we worked through because of all the newness and all the uniqueness of what happened this year,” Newman added. “Thinking back the last 19 years of my career, we never took downforce off of a car to make it go faster and everybody learned that this year. All the things that went along with the new package, for me a new organization, new manufacturer, new car with that manufacturer, the horsepower part of it, and sort of how you drive the car, I’m just really proud of everything we accomplished, yet still disappointed that we didn’t accomplish more.”
Newman attributes a lot of the team’s success to crew chief Scott Graves, who came over from Joe Gibbs Racing after having previously spent years with Roush Fenway and Chris Buescher. Graves led the team to an average finish of 14.6 – Newman’s best in five years – and the best for the No. 6 since Mark Martin in 2006.
“I don’t think I was the leader, I think it was a great team effort,” Newman said. “It was that core group of people – myself, Scott Graves, Kevin Kidd and Tommy Wheeler – that pushed when somebody gave me an answer that wasn’t good enough, or when I ran a lap that wasn’t good enough. Those types of things to be better and try to accomplish more. We totally missed it at certain racetracks at certain times, but I felt like in general – 80-90 percent of the time when we came back a second time at the same track – we were better and I look forward to starting next season close to the same rules, having the opportunity to being even better yet.”
If going back to tracks a second time was any indication, things are looking up for Newman and the 6 team, who remain fully in fact heading into 2020.