A hot, sweaty and tired Ryan Newman slowly extracted himself from his No.31 Chevrolet in the pits on Sunday after the Ford EcoBoost 400 Sprint Cup race at Homestead-Miami Speedway had come to a conclusion.
Newman had only one regret after finishing second.
He would have liked just a minute or two more of racing in the hopes he could overtake winner Kevin Harvick.
Not to be.
“I had a pretty good run, but we just ran out of racetrack, ran out of room,” Newman, 36, lamented after finishing a half-second behind Harvick. “We just didn’t have quite enough. That’s disappointing.”
Harvick agreed his car might have had a little more horsepower at the end.
“I was just going to hold the pedal down and hope for the best,” Harvick said. “I knew our car was fast.”
Newman not only finished second to Harvick in the race, but also second to him in The Chase, the coveted Sprint Cup Series Championship.
Be assured that “second” or “runner-up” are not Newman’s favorite words these days.
High finishes have been a mark of Newman’s racing season in 2014. Winning has not.
In the season-long Cup Chase, Newman made the Final Four without a single triumph, using 15 top-10 finishes to keep advancing to the finale in Homestead during his first season racing for the Richard Childress team.
Of the battle with Harvick and, to a lesser extent, fellow Chase participant Denny Hamlin at the end, Newman said, “I was happy with the situation I was in. Our sport would have been better if all four of us were on the front two rows [going to the finish line] but in the end I was one of the guys that had a shot at it, and I was happy to be in that position. You live for that moment and you drive as hard as you can.”
In the final moments, Newman refused to make a maneuver that might have created a wreck with Harvick.
“I could have kept it wide open and washed up into him,” Newman recalled. “But it wasn’t the right move, it wasn’t what I would have wanted him to do to me.”
Looking back over this season, Newman said he was pleased even though it was a winless year.
“We started the season in Daytona getting spun out in the last five laps to being the runner-up for the championship,” Newman said.
Also, Newman, a Purdue engineering graduate, didn’t completely lose his sense of humor as he looked back on what happened during the season and on Sunday.
“I was thinking after I got out of the car, our tables really turned when Jeff Gordon didn’t win Phoenix,” Newman said. “If Jeff had won Phoenix, Harvick would have been out and we would have been the top guy at the end of the race. I blame all this on Jeff Gordon.”
To say Newman loves his work and being around cars would be an understatement. There is plenty of grease under his fingernails as he owns some 15 cars of his own. Certainly, the $244,450 Newman earned in Sunday’s race might allow for another car or two – or maybe even build a larger garage.
One would think Newman sometimes would need to get away from restrictor plates, manifolds and exhaust fumes.
Not the case.
In addition to working on his cars, there is something else Newman enjoys during his spare time.
He likes playing video games.
You guessed it.
Auto racing video games.