Despite being involved in an accident Saturday night at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway that ruined what appeared to be Ryan Newman’s 11th top-10 finish of the 2013 season, the driver of the No. 39 Aspen Dental Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) heads to Atlanta Motor Speedway this weekend with something to smile about. He once again holds the second wild-card spot for the 2013 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship with two races to go before the final 10-race stretch begins Sept. 15 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill.
By virtue of his win at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in July and 15th-place position in the championship point standings, Newman currently holds a spot for his fifth Chase appearance since the playoff format began in 2004. The 12-driver field is far from set, however, and likely won’t be until the final regular-season checkered flag waves at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway Sept. 7.
Only the top-10 in points are locked into the 12-driver, 10-race Chase. Positions 11 and 12 are wild cards, awarded to the two drivers between 11th and 20th in points who have the most wins. In the event multiple drivers have the same number of wins, a driver’s point standing serves as the tiebreaker.
A strong run this weekend at Atlanta would go a long way toward helping to solidify Newman’s presence in the championship picture.
In 20 starts at the 1.54-mile racetrack, Newman has a record-tying seven pole positions, one top-five and six top-10 finishes. While the lightning fast oval hasn’t statistically been one of Newman’s best over the years, the No. 39 team has earned two top-10 finishes in six starts there since 2009. And, in 2013, the No. 39 team’s strong suit has been the tracks 1.5 miles or longer. Entering Sunday night’s event, Newman’s average finish in 11 races this season at the large, unrestricted tracks is 12.1.
This weekend’s race will mark the second of the 2013 season that Aspen Dental will serve as primary sponsor for Newman. The network of full-service dental practices providing quality, affordable dental care in 25 states adorned Newman’s No. 39 Chevrolet at the All-Star Race at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway in May. This weekend, the car will feature the names of the dentists who own and operate Aspen Dental practices across the country in celebration of their commitment to their patients and the communities they serve.
Also along for the ride this weekend is Judy Berryhill, a patient of the Aspen Dental office in Clarksville, Tenn. Continuing a program that started in 2012, Aspen Dental selects a patient to have his or her photo featured on the No. 39 Chevrolet based on comments provided regarding his or her dental treatment on the Aspen Dental Facebook page.
If Newman can earn another win in the final two races, he will solidify his standing as one of two wild-card contenders. And that would certainly give him and his No. 39 Aspen Dental Racing team something to smile about.