Race Weekend Central

NASCAR Mailbox: Ryan Newman Deserves His Spot in Homestead

The championship race is finally upon us and NASCAR Nation is all a-Twitter about possibly having a winless champion, despite NASCAR’s emphasis on creating a system where it should have been all but impossible for that to happen. Though three of the four drivers have victories (Denny Hamlin has one, Joey Logano has five, and Kevin Harvick has four), it is Ryan Newman that has everyone wondering what, if anything, will change next year because of Newman’s involvement in this year’s championship picture.

The problem is that putting the Chase back to its original format – or eliminating it completely – wouldn’t solve this “problem” (more on that later). Remember, it was Matt Kenseth’s near-winless run for the championship back in 2003 that got the wheels turning in the minds of NASCAR higher-ups that a playoff system for the sport might be in order. With the old format, it was absolutely possible for a driver to start the season off strong and coast to the championship in the latter portions of the season because he had already built up a sizeable points lead. Heck, we’re seeing this scenario in the Nationwide and Camping World Truck series seasons this year and several years prior. Where is the excitement in those series and how often are we really wondering who the champion will be at the end of the year?

I know the other half of this argument is that at least those guys deserve it. But I don’t think it’s necessarily fair to say that if Newman or Hamlin wins the championship that they hadn’t earned it. Last I checked, Newman and Hamlin (and Logano and Harvick, for that matter) were playing with the exact same set of rules as everyone else. Newman was playing with the same set of rules as Jimmie Johnson. Hamlin had exactly the same opportunities as Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

Joey Logano has the wins to back up his spot in the championship race. That's not the case for everyone. (Credit: CIA Stock Photography)
Joey Logano has the wins to back up his spot in the championship race. That’s not the case for everyone. (Credit: CIA Stock Photography)

And so on and so forth in the list of drivers who “deserve” to be there more than the current four.

So is it really a problem after all? Newman, winless though he may be, just did what everyone else couldn’t do… he survived. Maybe we don’t like the way he did it. Maybe we would rather see drivers fight for it like Brad Keselowski and Jeff Gordon were. Maybe we’d like to have seen all four drivers have multiple wins rather than two of them.

But to say Newman doesn’t “deserve” to be there? That’s wrong. Newman had to work just as hard to get where he is and if he wins the championship on Sunday night, there is no doubt that having to go through Harvick and Logano – two of the most consistently dominant drivers all season – Newman will have earned that title.

Newman is an underdog, no doubt. But make no mistake… he deserves to be there.

Now onto the mailbox:

“I think it is interesting that this is ESPN’s last race and yet it is Fox Sports 1 that is airing 21 hours of coverage. I guess that explains why they are leaving and FOX is staying, huh?” Tanesha

Actually, it’s not been uncommon for Fox Sports 1 (or SPEED Channel, before they were FS1) to air hours and hours of coverage leading up to the race, whether they were airing it or not. Of course I feel like ESPN is missing an opportunity because FS1 obviously wouldn’t be airing all of this if people weren’t tuning in for it, so why not get people watching your channel if that’s where the race is going to be aired, though?

You’re right, though. Even though ESPN is filled with tremendous talent in terms of their NASCAR coverage, the rest of the network seems to care very little, and it feels like they are just doing their time with the rest of the NASCAR coverage. Maybe it’s wrong to feel that way, and of course NASCAR fans weren’t the base of their viewership like SPEED/FS1 is (or at least was).

And it’s not like practice or qualifying sessions never occasionally aired on ESPN2 or anything like that, a rarity for any other sporting event. Plus, NASCAR Now was a fixture on the channel for a while (albeit with less-than-desirable time slots) and I’ve noticed discussions about the championship creeping up on a few of ESPN’s “mainstream” shows. It hasn’t been a lot and the discussions aren’t necessarily in-depth, but they are there.

It’s one of those credit where credit is due things but, like you, I do think it’s obvious which network cares more about this sport and sees its value. I enjoyed many of ESPN’s NASCAR group but otherwise I think it will be interesting to see how well-received the sport is by NBC.

”This is Marcos Ambrose’s last race and I want to see him get some love!! I know it’s the championship and all but I think he should have SOME send off. It’s not like he was a nobody or anything. At least do him the service of mentioning it, please!” Josef

Ambrose certainly isn’t a nobody, but it’s easy to see why he would be overshadowed. Though he certainly deserves credit for the seven wins he accumulated between the Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series, he otherwise was a non-factor. The only place anyone could really count on him to be competitive was on road courses. That’s certainly impressive but when road courses account for only a fraction of the schedule, it was easy to forget about Ambrose.

Still, Ambrose’s run considering his prior inexperience was certainly commendable and he deserves recognition. Would he have ever won the championship? Probably not. Could he have made the Chase? With this new format, certainly!

However, if Ambrose feels like it’s time to go back home to Australia, then that’s what he needs to do. Maybe he can regain some of his old magic in the V8 Supercar Series.

He will certainly be missed but he certainly did a great job with his time in the sport.

“I would just love it if everyone decided not to tune in this weekend…maybe NASCAR will change all of this after that!! How will they feel when the grandstands are EMPTY at Homestead???? How will they pay for their beach houses and fancy cars THEN?!” Pierce

The ratings at Phoenix showed an impressive increase from week-to-week and year-to-year. Will it be the same at Homestead? (Credit: CIA Stock Photography)
The ratings at Phoenix showed an impressive increase from week-to-week and year-to-year. Will it be the same at Homestead? (Credit: CIA Stock Photography)

I hate to break it to you, but the Phoenix race was up double-digits ratings wise (both from last week’s race and last year’s fall Phoenix event) and the grandstands are already sold out for Homestead.

So… maybe next year?

Whether you like the new Chase or not, the current state of the championship has revved up the excitement level for a lot of people – and I think those numbers show that this is true for people who may not have paid attention to NASCAR in the past.

Which – newsflash – is a good thing if we want NASCAR to be around for a long time.

So deal with it or enjoy it because if I feel confident making any sort of prediction for this weekend, it’s that it will be very exciting and intense.

As far as who will win, I don’t know. My gut says Harvick but all common sense says that it’s anyone’s race due to the fact that so many things have gone wrong for several potential championship contenders over the last several weeks.

I don’t know for sure. All I know is that I don’t want to miss it.

About the author

Promoted to editor in 2013, Summer is one of Frontstretch’s fast-rising young talents. While contributing to social media efforts, she also writes the weekly "Up To Speed" column. A Kansas native, Summer graduated with a Bachelor's in Journalism and Mass Communications in 2015. She also contributes to other media outlets such as Kickin' The Tires.

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..No Summer it is you who is making the mistake and other Nascar media shills, Ryan and Denny DO NOT belong there. On the slimmest of arguments, yes they belong there because of the “rules of the year” put forth by idiots. But by definition of a “Champion”….ah NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! They have the weakest stats of all and if you go by 2013 Chase points and “Classic” points Denny Hamlin isn’t even on any chart. Ryan Newman 0 wins 4 Top 5’s, 15 top 10’s and a whopping (…are you sitting down??) 41 LAPS LED. Sell it to the sheep sister, you and your brethren are trying really hard, too hard, and the one’s with brain ain’t buying it. Your captioned picture says Joey L. has the wins to back it up, yes and a whole bunch of other stats that matter, SO DID BRAD AND JEFF, and what did it get them? Oh please. If Newman or Hamlin win this thing…my God, Brian and his minions, yes men and hangers on..should be very ashamed. Love the double standard, Ryan wrecked his way into the Chase and cheers and crickets..double standards abound in NASCAR. So what I am getting out of that is Ryan will do that in the stupid final too and it will be o.k. What a mess of a good season it comes down to this idiotic format. Oh we are missing the race Summer, I support my driver but I do not support NASCAR at all or the paid shills that push forward this bull. Not that they would notice or care that we will be doing something else that day.

terry k

My gosh, man….what is with the anger? Try to see the BIG picture — the sport was dying. Nascar had to do something. I wish they would have focused on making the on-track product better (they STILL have to do that long term, or no chase reiteration will save them), but they did find a way to pump some life into the last 1/3rd of the season. And by all accounts IT IS WORKING.

One other thing…yes we all have opinions and they all are EQUAL — but here is a suggestion that will keep all of our blood pressures down. If you see an article talking about Ryan or Denny being a champ this week, AVOID IT. If that happens on Sunday, then we can get our the pitchforks and torches and fire away. But the fact is there is better than 50% chance that a DESERVING driver (Harvick or Joey) wins the title (I say better than 50/50 because they have shown a much higher propensity to win this year than the other 2 contenders) and if that happens, then we don’t have to talk at all about the fact Newman and Hamlin probably are undeserving.


I do see the big picture…the sport was dying is not a valid argument. You mean the revenue stream was dying..for Brian, not enough money for him. Well lets go back to why that is/was..what do you think the reason is Terry? I assure you I know. Think back to about 11 years ago and figure it out. By placing a short term gimmick you are guaranteeing a short term solution. This is a gimmick and has nothing to do with sports but the whole thing is about entertainment, I expect more from sports that a reality style playoffs. If the product on the track was left alone, if the gimmicky Chase was not instituted maybe it would not be on life support as you put it. What I take umbrage with is people like Summer telling us that Ryan Newman deserves to be Champion, not this year he doesn’t and how can one put their name on that type of garbage, which is just patently not true. If I wanted drama I would watch soap operas daily, that way I am always on the edge of my seat, excited…and tomorrow is always a day away.

Bill B

Personally I never thought the possibility of a champion with no wins was a “problem” before the chase started. I realized that since there were 43 teams competing, and not one on one like other sports, that there had to be a way to measure performance other than wins. It wasn’t until Brian came into power that not winning became a “problem”. And now that there is a possibility that the champion could be winless, we are told that’s OK.

I don’t know why Summer, but it seems like every opinion you have is the opposite of how I feel. And I don’t think I’m alone in that.


You’re not and well said, by the way.

John C.

Zero wins and 4 top 5s!! Nuff said!!!


So, the final two races were sellouts. The next to last race finally had higher ratings. That only leaves about 35 races with falling ratings and paltry attendance. But, I guess as long as Daytona is content to crow about such a small speck of their season being a hit, it works. Nascar makes their money no matter what, so who cares? Probably the smart thing to do is eliminate the entire first 26 races and just hold an elimination playoff to guarantee ratings. I have to wonder, however…without the highly publicized fights, would anyone still be watching?

Carl D.

I don’t have a real problem with a winless champ if he’s scored the most points over a season. To do that without a win, you need a lot of top 5’s and top 10’s. Ryan doesn’t have that. I like Ryan and I’m pulling for him, but his season has not been championship-caliber no matter how Nascar spins it.

The chase might be responsible for increased attendance and viewership for the last couple of races of the season but it sure hasn’t helped most of the other races. Yes, we’re stuck with the russian-roulette chase v2.0 and though many of us have accepted it, we don’t have to like it.

For the record, I don’t care whether you agree with me on the issues or whether your opinions are different than mine. Your point of view is just as valid as anyone else’s, and I actually appreciate reading articles that have a different perspective than my own. What I don’t care for is the condescending tone that creeps into your columns on a regular basis, and the fact that you refuse to answer requests from YOUR READERS wanting to know how to contribute questions for your mailbox column. I’m convinced you have little if any appreciation for the people that actually read what you write.


The 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers came in as a #6 (of 6) seed and won it all. The 2014 San Francisco Giants came in was a #5 (of 5) seed and won it all. Is Ryan Newman, a #15 (of 16) seed, on the verge of pulling a Bruce Bochy and winning it all?

This is exactly Cinderella at the ball. A Cinderella Champion is exactly what sport will love. Beating the top seeds with no-mistakes racing may be boring but it’s on par with seeing a #16 win an NHRA national event.

Isn’t college basketball known best for its low seed upsets? Why not Boilermaker Ryan do the same thing for NASCAR?


Simple solution to the winless champion problem, you must win a points race by the time the checkered flag flies in Phoenix on race 35 to be eligible at Homestead. If not then, the next highest finisher in the Eliminator round with a win gets the spot. I said that the minute they announced this new format, not just now when my driver gets knocked out. I have no problem with Newman being where he his. He played the rules right and got in. The problem is the glaring flaw in the rules designed and promoted for 10 months to “promote winning”. I’m sorry, in auto racing you should have to win at least one race to be called Champion. No championship system is perfect, auto racing doesn’t lend itself to traditional playoff formats where you actually send people home after each round, but glaring flaws need to be addressed. Newman winning the championship without a win is like a 6-10 NFL winning the Super Bowl because they expand the playoffs too much. Maybe NASCAR should go with a European soccer model. A title for scoring the most points in a season and an award for winning the Chase. In the EPL, the team with the most points wins the championship, but there is also the FA Cup tournament. Winning either or both has a bunch of prestige for a soccer team. Just a thought.


1) Any format where there is even the POSSIBILITY that a driver can not win a race all year and then finish the last race of the season somewhere between 30th and 40th place and be declared Champion is a farce. Period.
2) Summer is not very knowledgeable, nor is she even a very competent writer. The know it all condescension is particularly grating. But she is what she is, the person to be annoyed with is whomever can fire her but does not. This faux column is borderline humorous in its transparency.


He wrecked a guy intentionally to come in 11th? 12th? He did not win a single race all year…of course he deserves a shot at the championship! What a joke! Just like Newman.

Kevin in SoCal

Summer wrote: “Heck, we’re seeing this scenario in the Nationwide and Camping World Truck series seasons this year and several years prior. Where is the excitement in those series and how often are we really wondering who the champion will be at the end of the year?”

Exactly why I dont hate the Chase. There is ZERO excitement from these fans who hate the Chase for the other two series that dont have a Chase. Their two champions are already decided weeks in advance.

Carl D.

Kevin… ”

“There is ZERO excitement from these fans who hate the Chase for the other two series that dont have a Chase.”

Not true. I detest the chase and enjoy both the Nationwide and Truck series and watch those races whenever I get the chance. Of course, my excitement is tempered by watching cup drivers win races in the lower series, but that’s another issue altogether.

For the record, let me just say that I consider Chase Elliott a true champion. If Ryan Newman or Denny Hamlin win the cup title, I will consider them a champion in name only.

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