Ryan Newman is in a hurry.
Please get out of his way.
That means you, Jimmie Johnson.
Newman’s dustup with Johnson in the closing laps at Michigan on Sunday afternoon reflects the mad scramble of a man fighting to get in the Chase. That would not be Johnson, who has three victories.
Although he is 14th in the adjusted standings for the Chase with three races left before the field of 16 is established, Newman is winless. That puts him in a precarious position to not make the cut.
Hence, the aggressiveness in the final laps, and a little bit of “trading paint” as Johnson and Newman scrambled for track position.
Johnson got the better of the exchange, finishing ninth to Newman’s 11th. But it led to some animated conversation between the two drivers after the race.
“Oh, it was just normal ‘Ryan Newman stuff,’ ” Johnson said. “Anybody who has watched this sport long enough or has been in a race car out there understands the frustration that comes along with racing Ryan. Just normal Ryan stuff.”
Newman didn’t want to comment about the incident, but he doesn’t have to say a thing.
Much like last year, he has established himself as a solid guy in the mix of 40 or so regulars on the circuit, but also as a guy who doesn’t have the horsepower to contend for a title. The nickname “Rocket Man” seems out of place for a driver who proverbially runs out of gas contending for championships.
Newman was awarded a spot in last year’s Chase after the manipulative shenanigans by the Michael Waltrip Racing gang at Richmond. Newman went on to finish 11th in the standings.
But he did get squeezed out in other ways, having been bounced to Richard Childress Racing after Kevin Harvick was signed by Stewart-Haas Racing for a ride this season. Newman took over the No. 31 car of Jeff Burton with the Childress team.
And typical of Newman, he’s been good but not great, with two Top 5s and eight Top 10s. He missed his best shot at winning at Phoenix, where he was battling Kyle Busch for the lead until a late caution negated their advantage over the rest of the pack.
So you can see why Newman is in a hurry and a bit testy.
“Was standing beside Johnson and Newman during their exchange. Newman was pissed at Johnson for the way he raced him,” ESPN NASCAR insider Marty Smith tweeted after the race.
“We had a good car,” Newman said, declining to address the confrontation, “… just not the end result that we were capable of there.”
Johnson couldn’t help but take another jab at Newman after getting home from Michigan.
Johnson did the ALS bucket challenge with the help of two girls, challenging NASCAR president Mike Helton, his crew chief Chad Knaus and … Newman.
“I think he might need to cool off a little bit. Bring it on,” Johnson said, smiling.
Doubt that Newman got a chuckle out of anything that transpired on Sunday.
Onto Bristol it is, and the hope that the Purdue engineering graduate doesn’t need administrative intervention to earn a spot in the Chase in 2014.