Ryan Newman waves to the Stafford Motor Speedway crowd. (SRX/Wayne Riegle Photo)

Newman Eyes SRX Title With Stewart Lurking 

The sixth and final race of the Superstar Racing Experience season takes the green flag Thursday night at Lucas Oil Speedway in Wheatland, Mo., with two drivers in contention for the championship.

Ryan Newman enters the season finale with a commanding 39-point advantage over former NASCAR Cup Series teammate Tony Stewart. While last season’s champion Marco Andretti is mathematically in the hunt (46 points back), if Newman starts the first heat then Andretti is eliminated. 

Stewart’s Title Chances

Stewart needs to have a near-perfect evening on the three-eighths-mile clay oval to put Newman on the hot seat. 

The most points Stewart can score on Thursday is 49. The 52-year-old would need to sweep the heat races (12 points each) and win the feature (25 points).

Even then, with Newman’s consistent results this season (3.5 feature average finish), it would take a disastrous showing from Newman for Stewart to swipe the championship.

“We’re going to do everything in our power to try to do everything we can to catch him at the end of this thing,” Stewart said. “It just takes one corner and one moment that can change the complexity of it. 

“We want to make sure that we do everything we can to put ourselves in a position in case something were to happen that we can try to capitalize on this.”

A large part of why Stewart isn’t closer to Newman in the title hunt is due to his inconsistent finishes in pavement races. In four races on asphalt, Stewart has an average finish of seventh, with only one top-five (third) at Virginia’s Motor Mile Speedway. 

Stewart points to the Goodyear radial tire that was introduced this season after two years of competing on bias-ply tire, as the reason for his struggles. 

Stewart whips around Eldora Speedway. (SRX/Wayne Riegle Photo)

“It feels a lot more like what we used to have in the Cup Series,” Stewart said. 

“So, trying to figure out what I need to do with this tire versus what we had the last two years with the bias ply. I think it’s been a little bit of a challenge for me and trying to figure out exactly what I need to do to my race car to suit my driving style.”

Stewart got back in a winning groove last week at Ohio’s Eldora Speedway, sweeping the heat races and winning the feature. 

Despite winning, the three-time Cup Series champion was caught off guard by the radial dirt tire’s blistering pace. 

He mentioned how lap times were two seconds quicker than the first time the series ran at the half-mile dirt oval in 2021. 

“Just trying to learn a tire I think has been the hardest thing,” Stewart admitted. “I don’t do any pavement racing anymore, so trying to figure that out has been a little bit of a challenge. But even when we got back on the dirt, it was something somewhat familiar for me.”

Newman’s Consistent Drive

After falling two points short of the championship last year, Newman came into his second SRX season with a more well-rounded mindset of how to approach the six-race summer series. 

“I guess learning really the cars, a little bit of the tires, even though the tires are different this year, being a Goodyear radial instead of a Goodyear bias ply,” Newman said. “And then, just how the racing goes, how the format is. 

“All those things were so new last year. It’s not that I hadn’t done those things, but I hadn’t done it in this format against these drivers. So I’m really having a knocking the ice off or knocking the rust off, whatever you want to call it, from last year to this year has definitely helped.”

Newman has one victory this season after winning the second race at Stafford (Conn.) Motor Speedway. 

A large part of Newman’s consistency comes from his comfortability inside the cockpit. As Newman analyzed why the SRX car suits his driving style, he pointed back to when he and Stewart made the jump to NASCAR in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

“The car itself reminds me of how we kind of started in the Cup Series,” Newman said. “Four conventional springs, no bump stops, nothing really fancy about it, other than the fact that it’s pretty dialed in and really close to what we need to get started.”

With his background racing in USAC Silver Crown Series competition, Newman feels the 75-100-lap format often seen in the series is similar to the style of racing in SRX. 

“Conserving your tires and being there at the end is more important than leading a bunch of laps,” said Newman, who was the 1999 Silver Crown champion. “So, those two things I think combined just kind of fit me more. 

“I guess maybe at the same time it reminds me a little bit of the Whelen Modified cars, which are roughly the same kind of tire, roughly the same kind of race, where the same thing happens. 

“You have to conserve and be there in the end.”