NASCAR Barometer: Newman Upsets in Phoenix

NASCAR Barometer: Newman Upsets in Phoenix

This article is part of our NASCAR Barometer series.

Ryan Newman rediscovered Victory Lane with a surprise win at Phoenix International Raceway in the Camping World 500 on Sunday. The veteran driver leveraged Richard Childress Racing's offseason step forward in performance, and moved ahead in the final segment of Sunday's race. That charge put him in position to make a brave call on his final pit stop to come out with the lead. All he had to do was hold off the other cars in the top five for the last two laps, which is exactly what he did. Contact between Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Kyle Larson enabled the No. 31 machine just enough of an advantage to hold on to the lead for the final miles to claim a much-needed win.

Newman's victory makes four races with four different winners to start the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season. In addition, he's the first driver starting outside of the top 12 to win a race this season. The trends so far show that some of the teams who struggled in past seasons are now among the contenders. Toyota was the dominant manufacturer in 2016, but Ford and Chevrolet appear to have closed the gap. Chevrolet and Ford lead the point standings, and the highest-placed Toyota is Martin Truex Jr. This week, we look ahead to the final race of the West Coast swing at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana California.

UPGRADE

Ryan Newman – A late no-tire stop gave Newman his first victory since 2013. The quick

Ryan Newman rediscovered Victory Lane with a surprise win at Phoenix International Raceway in the Camping World 500 on Sunday. The veteran driver leveraged Richard Childress Racing's offseason step forward in performance, and moved ahead in the final segment of Sunday's race. That charge put him in position to make a brave call on his final pit stop to come out with the lead. All he had to do was hold off the other cars in the top five for the last two laps, which is exactly what he did. Contact between Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Kyle Larson enabled the No. 31 machine just enough of an advantage to hold on to the lead for the final miles to claim a much-needed win.

Newman's victory makes four races with four different winners to start the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season. In addition, he's the first driver starting outside of the top 12 to win a race this season. The trends so far show that some of the teams who struggled in past seasons are now among the contenders. Toyota was the dominant manufacturer in 2016, but Ford and Chevrolet appear to have closed the gap. Chevrolet and Ford lead the point standings, and the highest-placed Toyota is Martin Truex Jr. This week, we look ahead to the final race of the West Coast swing at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana California.

UPGRADE

Ryan Newman – A late no-tire stop gave Newman his first victory since 2013. The quick pit work gave him the opportunity to hold off the field on the final restart of the race, earning him a much-needed win for the rejuvenated Richard Childress Racing team. It also gives him a golden ticket to the season-ending playoffs, where fantasy owners know Newman can work his way into the final. Newman hadn't even finished in the top 10 yet this season, and he didn't have the best car throughout Sunday afternoon either. The team's strategy paid dividends, though. He finished fifth in Fontana in 2015, and the newfound confidence of a recent win could push him to another 2017 top-10 finish this week.

Kevin Harvick – While we all know how good Harvick has been at Phoenix, he had to work for his finish on Sunday. The No. 4 machine didn't have the pace to start up front in Sunday's race, but consistent pit work and staying on top of the chassis enabled him to move forward through the field. By the final laps he was solidly in the top five and inside the top six on the final restart. That sixth-place is where he finished. Things could be looking brighter for this team this week in California, too. Harvick has finished second in both of the last two Fontana races, leading more than 30 laps in each of those efforts.

Kyle Larson – Chip Ganassi Racing continues to reap the fruits of hard off-season labor. The team has taken one large step forward in terms of competitiveness, and Larson leveraged it again on Sunday to score a runner-up finish to Newman. It was another week where Larson knocked on the door of victory, and he walks away from the desert oval with the lead in points. Larson was just one point behind Brad Keselowski heading into Sunday's race with two top-10s from three races. His lone top-10 California finish was in his first race at the track when he came home in the runner-up spot. He crashed out of last year's race, but the pace he has shown so far this season proves he should be a contender this week.

Chase Elliott – Elliott dominated stage 2 of Sunday's race in Phoenix, holding off Kyle Larson and others as he cruised to the stage victory to earn valuable points for the end of the season. The final segment didn't play into his hands, though. His domination faded as the final segment had more long green-flag runs, which Elliott and the team simply couldn't stay on top of. He had two top-five finishes prior to last week's race and he could be a serious contender as the season progresses. Elliott has just one Auto Club Speedway start in the Cup series, but it was a top-10 finish. He started eighth and finished sixth while leading one lap at the track last season.

Kyle Busch – After a frustrating start to the season Busch recovered well in Phoenix to finish a somewhat disappointing third. He pulled together a strong machine through the weekend's practice sessions and had the car to beat in the final stage of Sunday's race. Track position and maintaining the top lane on restarts were what enabled Busch's domination in the final miles, and it was that same strategy that saw him lose position to Newman on the final stop, costing him the win. Busch has three Fontana victories, two of which came in the last three races. With those wins and four top-fives in the last five races at the track he should be one of the favorites ahead of the Auto Club 400 after two weeks of disappointment.

DOWNGRADE

Kurt Busch – An alternator issue forced Busch to replace a battery on pit road, but resetting the electronics meant he couldn't tell his speed afterward. He was caught speeding on his exit from the stop and served a penalty stop as the second segment got underway. Busch won at California back in 2003. He led 65 laps at the track two years ago and scored four top-10s and three top-fives in the last five races. There is a long season ahead of Busch to get things corrected before the playoffs begin, and the team's stumbles after their big Daytona win indicate they may need more time than fantasy players would like. Busch presents risk with the team's current struggles.

Matt Kenseth – As predicted, tires were an issue in Phoenix, and Kenseth was the first major victim. His tire failed exiting the final turn and he plowed into the outside wall, which took him completely out of the race. It was a disappointment after practice indicated he should have been in store for a top finish. It was a disappointment considering Toyota was so strong, and Kenseth could have taken advantage. He will have to wait until next week, though. With just one top-five from four races so far this season the No. 20 team will be anxious to turn things around as quickly as possible. California would be a good venue for that to happen, too. Kenseth has three wins at the track, but hasn't scored a top-10 there since 2014.

Joey Logano – Logano arguably had the strongest car early in Sunday's race at Phoenix. He started the race from pole after a convincing qualifying performance, and backed up that top starting spot by holding off Kyle Larson to win the first stage of the race. Unfortunately his ability to stay out front faded during the second segment, and a late tire issue ruined his chances for a top finish. That tire failure killed his chances of a top-10 finish. Logano has never won at Auto Club Speedway and his best finish at the track was third in 2013 but will have to overcome last week's trouble to be in contention to be one of the favorites this week in California.

Ryan Blaney – Blaney continues to frustrate fantasy players, and Phoenix was another reason why. The young driver showed plenty of speed in practice and qualifying, and was clearly among the top-five cars heading into Sunday's race. The finish after the full distance was a disappointment, however. After starting on the front row he slipped back to finish 23rd. He started in the top 10 in each of the last two races but only has one top-10 finish to show for his efforts. Having not led a lap since the Daytona 500, he remains full of unfulfilled potential. As the other manufacturers close the gap on Ford it could become more difficult for Blaney to score top finishes.

BIGGEST SURPRISE

Daniel Suarez – Suarez even being in the Monster Energy Cup series is a surprise, and Sunday's top-10 finish in Phoenix was another one. It was the first top-10 finish for the rookie driver who only turned his first laps in a Cup car two months ago in testing after being called up to replace Carl Edwards. Suarez has the talent to compete with NASCAR's top drivers. He proved it with a stunning 2016 season in the Xfinity series, dueling with the likes of Kyle Busch and others. There will be more top finishes to come from this young Mexican driver, and it's likely that he'll pick up his first win in the series in relatively short order if he continues as he did on Sunday.

Want to Read More?
Subscribe to RotoWire to see the full article.

We reserve some of our best content for our paid subscribers. Plus, if you choose to subscribe you can discuss this article with the author and the rest of the RotoWire community.

Get Instant Access To This Article Get Access To This Article
RotoWire Community
Join Our Subscriber-Only NASCAR Chat
Chat with our writers and other RotoWire NASCAR fans for all the pre-game info and in-game banter.
Join The Discussion
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
C.J. Radune
Radune covers NASCAR, Formula 1 and soccer for RotoWire. He was named the Racing Writer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association in 2012 and 2015.
NASCAR and F1 DFS: PrizePicks Selections for the Coca-Cola 600 and Monaco Grand Prix
NASCAR and F1 DFS: PrizePicks Selections for the Coca-Cola 600 and Monaco Grand Prix
NASCAR DFS: Coca-Cola 600
NASCAR DFS: Coca-Cola 600
NASCAR DFS Trucks: North Carolina Education Lottery 200
NASCAR DFS Trucks: North Carolina Education Lottery 200
Coca-Cola 600 Preview: Memorial Day Marathon
Coca-Cola 600 Preview: Memorial Day Marathon