Pressure's on for Newman

DEAN MCNULTY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:19 PM ET

RICHMOND, Va. -- There will be no glory in finishing second at Richmond International Raceway on Saturday for Ryan Newman.

Going into the race, Newman and his team find themselves in 13th place, 117 points behind Clint Bowyer, who holds down the 12th and final spot in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship

The driver of the No. 39 Newman Haas Racing Chevrolet pretty much has to win the Air Guard 400 and have a lot of other things go his way, if he wants to make the Chase.

First off, even if he wins on Saturday and leads the most laps, he still misses NASCAR's version of the playoffs, if Clint Bowyer finishes 28th or better in the No. 33 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet.

So you can see the size of the mountain that Newman must climb, if he wants to put his car in the Chase. Not an impossible task mind you, but one that even an engineering graduate from Purdue University like Newman realizes will take all his skill and a whole lot of luck to achieve.

"It's evident that you don't need an engineering degree to figure out our odds of making the Chase," Newman said upon arriving at Richmond's .75-mile oval. "Mathematically, we still have a chance, and I guess that means something. But you can't expect to make up all of those points in one shot.

"Again, our position in the standings is not going to change how we will approach the race."

As much of a realist as Newman may be, there is still a big part of him that screams competitor every time he steps into a race car, so he is far from giving up on beating the odds he will face at the Virginia short track.

"History will show that this No. 39 Army team has had success on short tracks, and with that said, we're looking to be running up front just like we did in the past two races in Bristol and Atlanta," he said. "Competing for a win and battling for a berth in the Chase are what we strive for as race-car drivers. And that will continue to be our approach heading into Richmond this weekend."

It's not like Newman is a stranger to the process. He has made the playoff format three times since its was instituted, including last season, his first with Stewart-Haas Racing.

But this season with the Air Guard 400 falling on Sept. 11, Newman has a special motivation to make his quest happen: The No. 39 team's primary sponsor is the U.S. Army.

Saturday, being the ninth anniversary of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon in Washington and American Airlines Flight 11, gives Newman pause to consider what the date means to the men and women of the American armed forces.

"When you look at the date of Saturday night's race -- Sept. 11 -- I feel it's important to sit back and reflect about what happened on that day and of the many sacrifices our army strong soldiers are making so we can enjoy our freedom," he said. "I am proud to wear the army uniform and wearing it Saturday night on 9/11 will make me even more proud, (but) we will be racing with a heavy heart."

Heavy heart or not, Newman has a deal with the army to win races and to contend for championships. And at about $15 million U.S. a season, that army wants to know that its money is being well spent.

So Newman has a dual purpose when the green flag drops at Richmond International Raceway: Honour the troops and make the Chase. Nothing less will do.


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