20 October 2014
NASCAR Sprint Cup Talladega: Penalty threat leaves Newman in doubt
Ryan Newman's car failed post-race technical inspection at Talladega on Sunday, and he will learn on Tuesday what penalties he faces.
Ryan Newman secured his spot in the third round of the Chase with a strong fifth-place finish at the end of Sunday afternoon's Sprint Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway.
The result meant that he finished the Contender 12 round tied with Kevin Harvick for second in the points standings, easily ensuring that he makes it into the line-up of the final eight drivers still competing for the 2014 championship title.
But hours after the end of the race, news came that the #31 Richard Childress Racing Chevy had failed post-race technical inspection, with the car found to be too low at the rear on both sides. While the minimum ride height requirement has largely been dropped from the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series rules package this season, it still applies for the four superspeedway events held at Talladega and Daytona.
Newman is almost certain to receive some form of penalty when NASCAR announces its post-race decisions on Tuesday, but the question is whether the penalty could possibly affect Newman's transfer into the Eliiminator 8 round.
The last time that a vehicle failed post-race inspection for being too low, it was in the Camping World Truck Series. The offence was deemed to be a P3 infraction under NASCAR's new six-tier penalties system and was handed a 10 ten point deduction.
That would be no problem for Newman, whose points tally would drop to 3107 and still leave him in third place in the standings, and safely in possession of the all-important Chase transfer spot.
However, given the importance of the race and the fact that this happened at a key stage of the Chase, NASCAR may view this as a more serious P4-level penalty which comes with a maximum 25 point together. There is an additional ten point deduction for an infraction discovered after the race, as in Newman's case, which could leave him facing a loss of 35 points in total.
That would be disastrous for Newman who in this scenario would drop to 3082 point which would put him behind Hendrick Motorsports' Kasey Kahne, and who would therefore be promoted into the next round of Chase as a result.
It's considered unlikely that NASCAR would materially affect the Chase line-up at this stage by upping the severity level of the infraction, and the likelihood is that Newman will get only a ten point deduction and be confirmed in his Chase spot, but he won't know for sure until the penalty notices are announced.
In the meantime, Newman was feeling relaxed about the outcome and already looking forward to the next round of the Chase.
"Just a great result I guess in the end to make it to that next bracket," he said after the race. "I caught a break on pit road there when that caution came out; it really gave us the lead. By the way everything lined up we ended up as a fifth-place car.
"I don't know if I could have done anything better. I obviously could have done things worse, but just the way things line up happy to stay in the top five there in the last couple of laps.
"I didn't know what was going to happen because there were a lot of guys who had some pent-up frustrations from last week," he noted. "It ended up being a clean finish from what I saw there."
Going into the next phase of the Chase, the points are reset meaning that the remaining eight contenders are all back to being level on points, and past wins no longer give anyone an edge. That's perfect for Newman, who despite being a solid performer all year is still searching for his first win of 2014.
Having one come in the next three races at Martinsville, Texas or Phoenix would be perfect timing, as it would ensure him a seat at the table for the winner-take-all championship showdown at Homestead-Miami on November 16.
"I think to me the next three races are the ones that are the most important to win. We have been knocking on the door here the last three. We will keep digging," he insisted.
"I thinking winning in one of the next three races is the most important win that you could have - just to give yourself the best shot at Homestead."
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