Flyin’ (Under The Radar) Ryan Newman

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Guess who’s fifth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Standings? No peeking! If you guessed Ryan Newman, you have been paying close attention. I even got caught off guard with that until an All Left Turns reader pointed it out to me Tuesday. No need to adjust the lighting on your monitor, in his first year at Richard Childress, “Rocketman” is fifth overall and the 13th seed in the current Chase standings.

How has he done it? Newman has yet to visit victory lane in 2014, and his two top fives and eight top tens are among the most pedestrian among in the top ten. How is this possible for a driver who has seemingly been so quiet been so successful?

Newman has done what good drivers do: they bring their cars home. He has had no DNFs thus far in 2014, and just one finish outside the top 25- a 31st place run at Dover. By comparison- defending champion Jimmie Johnson has FOUR finishes outside the top 30 and 3 DNFs. Top 10 driver Kyle Busch has also failed to finish a race thrice, and sixth place Joey Logano has retired early on four occasions. It may not sound like much of an accomplishment until you consider this is done in the Hoosier’s first year with Richard Childress, an organization that hasn’t been as successful in running with the big dogs in recent lore.

In his last five races, the driver who won an impressive eight races in 2003 and 51 career poles, has an average finish of 10.3- only Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. have been in that span. His best was a third place run at Kentucky.

Newman is second among drivers without a win inside the Chase bubble, leading Clint Bowyer by 25 points, Kyle Larson by 47, and Greg Biffle by 52. Leading up to the Chase are two tracks where he’s been a winner: Richmond (1) and Michigan (2).

While he’s been journeyman solid, hardly anyone outside the hardcore fan seems to notice. With an understated demeanor that would make Matt Kenseth proud, Ryan Newman seems to like it that way. Nothing dramatic, all he does is just finish races. Most team owners would be more than happy to take that.