Once the chaos that is SpeedWeeks ends, comes the start of season where not every race is a restrictor-plate one. This allows the true contenders to shine at Phoenix and beyond. Drivers like Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. were up front last Sunday. They were expected to be fast and clearly were.
Joining them up front were a few drivers who weren’t necessarily expected to be among the top performers this season. Ryan Newman was one of those drivers. Newman had a very convincing performance that has me wondering if he is set to shine in his first season at Richard Childress Racing. If Phoenix was any indication, the answer to that question is yes.
It was up in the air whether to expect the No.31 team to contend or pretend in 2014. When a driver goes to a new team, the only thing to expect out of them is the unexpected. Newman’s Phoenix performance proved that he is here to play. This will have everyone keeping a close eye on him throughout the season to come.
While at Stewart-Haas Racing, Newman was never able to put together a single outstanding season. Most of his year’s featured average results, nothing spectacular. Factors such as SHR throwing something new into the mix most seasons and the team’s continued growth affected Newman.
He was a part of SHR’s evolution into the team they are today. That evolution never brought a settled team, which is why Newman never could reach his full potential while with the team.
The clear difference between Newman’s first year at SHR and his first at Richard Childress Racing is the position in which the team is in. When he started at SHR, they were in a building process. The story is different at RCR however, as this team has a sturdy foundation and is primed for success.
For RCR to be set and putting everything they have into their three teams will benefit Newman greatly. I believe the benefits of this slightly showed through at Phoenix and will continue to do so in the coming weeks.
It may have only been one strong performance out of the No.31 team, but to me, it symbolized a lot more than that. It wasn’t just one race. It was an overall team effort by Newman and RCR. One that is trying to bring Newman higher than he has ever been before.
I expect more stellar runs from this team as the season progresses. 2014 is shaping up to be quite the breakout season for Ryan Newman.