CONCORD, N.C. – Ryan Newman has been a busy man during the Easter off week, and rightfully so.
Newman’s back-to-back top-10 finishes have created quite a buzz, a nice change the No. 6 team has enjoyed thus far this season.
Early on, the discussion was primarily about how Newman, in his 18th season in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, would adapt to a new situation. But despite all the changes – including personnel, organization, rules packages and personalities – the results have begun to prove themselves.
Newman sits inside the playoff picture, currently 15th in the drivers’ standings and projected 16th in the playoffs. He’s finished ninth in two straight races at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway and Richmond (Va.) Raceway, improving his average finish to 15.2 overall through the first quarter.
That number is nearly nine spots better than this time last year, and the team has already matched its top 10 total from 2018.
“It’s been a challenge for a lot of people, but me in particular,” Newman told NASCAR America on Wednesday night. “This is the most change and most rookie I feel like I’ve been in my entire career, outside my actual rookie season. It is interesting to see all the changes. Scott Graves and the team, and especially my pit crew, have done a great job making me feel comfortable and feel at home.”
As of late, Newman has found a home consistently battling inside the top-10. Much of that is in large part thanks to the over-the-wall crew, who Newman has praised recently.
At Richmond alone, the pit crew gained 17 spots on pit road, 11 of which came in the final stage.
“The guys did a really good job, not just in Richmond but Bristol as well,” Newman told FOX Sports on Tuesday. “We see how important track position is and it seemed like there were a lot of cars that were running about equal speed. You need to be sometimes three or four tenths quicker than somebody to not only start the pass, but also complete the pass, and it is hard to be able to have that advantage anymore.
“The pit guys really made our biggest gains the last couple weeks.”
It is a small sample size, but in the past three races alone, Newman has an average finish of 9.7, just missing the top-10 at Texas with an 11th-place result.
Overall this season, Newman has completed all but four laps, but more impressively, ran nearly half (1,476) of the 3,041 laps completed inside the top 15.
Just as is the thought process of any natural competitor, Newman knows there is more on the horizon for his new team, something he’s looking forward to moving into the second quarter of the season.
“I don’t feel like we’re at all where we want to be, but we’re showing progress and I know Jack (Roush) and everyone on the team like to see that, so it’s been humbling, and at the same time it’s been a lot of fun,” Newman noted. “I’m happy to be where we are at, but obviously not entirely happy and we want to keep moving forward.
“We can definitely do better and we see that, and we’ve proven that the last couple weeks.”
Following the off week for Easter, Newman and the No. 6 team look to continue their consistency at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway next weekend.