Veteran Ryan Newman – the 2008 Daytona 500 winner and 2014 championship runner-up – kept the non-Playoff drivers honest in closing out the season. The Richard Childress Racing driver finished 17th in the standings – tops among those who did not advance to the Playoffs.
Newman’s nine top-10 finishes tied him with Daniel Suarez for most top-10s among non-Playoff drivers. This year marked the first time in his 17-year Cup career that he did not score a top-five. Newman moves from RCR to Roush-Fenway Racing in 2019.
There was a relatively similar learning curve for the Cup Series’ two rookies this season – Hendrick Motorsports driver William Byron, 20, and Richard Petty Motorsports’ Bubba Wallace, 24.
Byron won the Rookie of the Year honors for his work in the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. He finished 23rd in the points standings and scored four top-10 finishes. Wallace kept Byron honest the whole season, starting off the year with a dramatic runner-up finish in the Daytona 500 and adding three more top-10 showings. He finished 28th in points.