New­man on the bub­ble

Ahead of fi­nale, driver has shot at last Chase berth

Baltimore Sun - - NASCAR - On auto rac­ing

The Bub­ble Boys in the NASCAR Chase are easy to find.

Tag, Ryan New­man, you’re it. You, too, Chris Buescher.

As for every­body else who feels the squeeze, all you need to do is think like a ten­nis player and hold serve.

New­man — a reg­u­lar con­tender be­cause of his con­sis­tency — is seven points behind Jamie McMur­ray for the fi­nal Chase spot head­ing into Rich­mond In­ter­na­tional Race­way on Satur­day night. Points equal spots, so all McMur­ray needs to do is stay close to New­man to se­cure his spot, bar­ring other ex­ten­u­at­ing cir­cum­stances and bonus points.

Buescher is likely in be­cause of his weatheraided vic­tory last month at Po­cono but still needs to fin­ish 30th or bet­ter in points to qual­ify. Buescher leads 31st-place driver David Ra­gan by 11 points.

Austin Dil­lon and Chase El­liott also seem likely to qual­ify based on points, bar­ring any great mis­for­tune.

Buescher is re­ally the only out­lier in the 16driver group at the mo­ment. As for the rest of the gang, it’s the usual sus­pects mi­nus Dale Earn­hardt Jr., who is out for the sea­son with con­cus­sion-re­lated is­sues.

New­man, who drives for Richard Chil­dress Rac­ing, fin­ished eighth at Dar­ling­ton and was lead­ing be­fore he was passed by Martin Truex Jr. on Lap 339 of 367. New­man had made up quite a bit of ground af­ter hav­ing had to drop to the rear of the field at the start of the race be­cause of un­ap­proved ad­just­ments fol­low­ing the pre-race tech check. But that strong push won’t do him any good un­less his team picks up the pace.

“Yeah, a good ef­fort, but I mean guys have got to step it up in the pits,” New­man said af­ter the Dar­ling­ton race. “We try hard, but try­ing hard ain’t good enough when you are los­ing three spots at a time.”

It’s been a typ­i­cal year for New­man — win­less and only one top five, yet usu­ally to­ward the front of the line with an av­er­age fin­ish of 15.5. A strong race at Rich­mond would echo mem­o­ries of 2014 when he qual­i­fied for the Chase dur­ing a win­less sea­son and ended up as a fi­nal four par­tic­i­pant in Home­stead.

“We’re kind of get­ting back into that zone of hav­ing bet­ter fin­ishes, bet­ter runs,” New­man said ear­lier this sea­son. “We feel like we’ve turned the mo­men­tum in our fa­vor, but in the end we still have to de­liver that vic­tory.”

A sig­nif­i­cant as­ter­isk looms: New­man is in a pre­car­i­ous po­si­tion of drift­ing back fur­ther be­cause he faces a po­ten­tial penalty af­ter his car failed post-race in­spec­tion. Penal­ties are typ­i­cally an­nounced Wed­nes­days.

Stay tuned. The Bub­ble Boys may be down one go­ing into Rich­mond.


Rich­mond (Va.) In­ter­na­tional Race­way Satur­day, 7:30 p.m. TV: NBC Sports Net­work Ryan New­man is win­less and has only one top-five fin­ish this sea­son but is only seven points out of the last Chase spot.

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