By Seth Eggert, NASCAR Correspondent
The underdog story of Ryan Newman continued as the Roush Fenway Racing driver recorded his best run of the season at Richmond Raceway.
In the final stage of the Federated Auto Parts 400, Newman’s No. 6 Ford Performance / Wyndham Rewards Ford Mustang battled with Martin Truex, Jr, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, and Brad Keselowski. The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoff driver showed his muscle battling with the two dominant organizations of 2019.
Newman briefly challenged Truex for second before slipping backward. As the laps for the final green flag run ticked off, the South Bend, IN native battled Keselowski and Kyle Larson for fifth. When the checkered flag waved, Newman was sixth. He moved to fifth following the disqualification of Erik Jones.
“It was just a good team effort, good pit stops,” Newman explained. “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, but we were at our best probably when we were just hold good bias to a long-run car, but who would have known there were gonna be that many green flag runs.”
The top-five run was a remarkable improvement for the No. 6 team that last earned a top-five at a non-superspeedway at Michigan International Speedway in 2017. For Newman, his last non-superspeedway top-five also came in 2017 at Richmond.
For Newman, there was no doubt this was the best performance Roush Fenway has had since he joined the team prior to this season.
“Without a doubt. 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. 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.”
The top-five run moved Newman from 13th to ninth on the playoff grid. He is now 12-points ahead of the cutoff for the Round of 12, held by William Byron.
With just the Roval at Charlotte Motor Speedway left in the Round of 16, and 14-points to spare over the first driver behind the cutoff, Alex Bowman, Newman has little room to spare in a bid to keep his championship hopes alive.