Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Newman Has All the Credentials He Needs; Driver Doesn't Have Any Victories - but He Could Win Sprint Cup Series

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Newman Has All the Credentials He Needs; Driver Doesn't Have Any Victories - but He Could Win Sprint Cup Series

Article excerpt

Byline: Don Coble

HOMESTEAD | Even in NASCAR's newest era of winning means everything, Ryan Newman isn't offering any apologies about possibly winning the Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday at the Homestead-Miami Speedway.

If he finishes ahead of Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick and Joey Logano in the Ford EcoBoost 400, he will be the next NASCAR champion.

And he would do it with the least-impressive credentials in the sport's history.

Not only can Newman become the only champion without a victory, he only has four top-five finishes heading into the season-finale. NASCAR wanted winning to become paramount this season, but it left loopholes for drivers who avoid crashes and mechanical failures to advance through the points standings.

Newman played the game perfectly, qualifying for the Chase for the Championship on points and avoiding three different rounds of eliminations.

The Final Four drivers have one race to determine the championship, with the highest finisher of the three winning it all.

"A championship is still a championship, and the trophy doesn't have the number of wins underneath it," Newman said. "If we win the championship, that would be great in any form or fashion."

NASCAR wanted to create more seventh-game-like moments. A victory in the regular season automatically moved a driver into the playoffs. A win at any level of the Chase moves a driver to the next round.

But points always were an overlooked possibility. And Newman played his part perfectly.

"It's not the typical equation that you have where performance is equal to championship run," Newman said. "At the same time, this points system is a little bit different this year. Our consistency has been our strength, and our consistency has been not in the Top-3; our consistency has been basically fifth to 11th more often than not, and it's been very difficult to lead laps for us.

"It's my standard answer but it is what it is. We're riding the wave that's presented to us, and we're having fun with it. …

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