If there’s any consolation for Kurt Busch and Ryan Newman after being eliminated from the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs on Sunday, it’s the overwhelming contribution each veteran made to their respective organizations in 2019.
While that’s not much consolation for these hard chargers, both drivers lit a spark as newcomers with their teams. Prior to Busch being recruited by Ganassi Racing and Newman arriving at Roush Fenway Racing, their predecessors were simply spinning wheels.
And there’s no reason to believe that either racer will throw in the towel, despite watching the remainder of the Playoffs from the sidelines.
“Our Playoffs were a nightmare,” Busch said. “We didn’t execute. We didn’t have lap times. We have to regroup for these last seven races to make something better out of our season. It was a nightmare for three races.”
In the first 26 races of the regular season, Busch led the charge for Ganassi. He won at Kentucky Speedway in July—the first victory for the No. 1 Ganassi team since 2013. Busch also posted five top fives and 14 top 10s and remained in the top 10 in the standings until the postseason arrived.
But at Indy, Busch hit the wall and finished 30th. The team’s bad luck continued throughout the first Round of the Playoffs, with Busch’s first DNF of the season at Las Vegas followed by an 18th-place result at Richmond and a 20th-place finish at the Charlotte Roval.
“We’re out, but we can try to salvage something overall,” Busch added. “We were a top-10 team all year, but the wheels just came off. This was a nightmare. We just didn’t have the speed. It was crazy.”
While Busch’s season hit the skids in the Playoffs, Newman had been trending up over the past month. He was 16th after Darlington but with finishes of eighth at Indianapolis, 10th at Las Vegas and fifth at Richmond, Newman climbed to a season-best ninth in the standings entering the Roval race. With a 14-point cushion coming to Charlotte, Newman appeared to be in good standing. Then the wheels came off.
“I felt like I made a lot of mistakes trying too hard,” Newman said on Sunday. “We did not have the race car, and that’s what I had to do. I felt like we were in a position at one point and then just kept trying too hard trying to keep the 10 car (Aric Almirola) behind us and missed the curbs. That was unfortunate.
“We came in at a big deficiency and finished one point out or whatever it was, but, no matter what, we are still going to fight for fifth. I’m proud of everybody at Roush Fenway for the fight and the opportunity that they’ve given me. We’re not done; we’re just out at this point.”
Don’t expect Busch or Newman to bow out without a fight. Newman has five wins at the remaining seven tracks including three at this week’s venue—Dover International Speedway. A win for Newman would end a personal streak dating back to the 2017 spring race at Phoenix and would mark the first time the No. 6 Ford would return to Victory Lane since Mark Martin at Kansas in 2005.
Busch also has wins at five of the next seven venues, including one at the Monster Mile. As consistent as the No. 1 team has been all season, it’s imperative for Busch to end on a high note, particularly if he intends to stay the course with Ganassi Racing in 2020.