Ryan Newman has a win, but he races as if he doesn’t

AVONDALE, AZ - MARCH 19: Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Grainger Chevrolet, celebrates in victory lane after winning the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Camping World 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on March 19, 2017 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

LONG POND, Pa. – Until he stayed out on older tires and held of the onslaught behind him at Phoenix earlier this season, Ryan Newman hadn’t won a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race since he took the checkered flag at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2013.

“Let me put it to you this way: I don’t remember the last time I had a win and didn’t have to worry about getting in on points,” Newman said about his path to NASCAR’s 10-race playoff in 2014 and 2015.

Not that there’s anything wrong with earning enough points to qualify for the postseason. In 2014, without winning a race, Newman advance to the championship event at Homestead-Miami Speedway, where he finished second to race and title winner Kevin Harvick by a mere half-second.

But victories are the surest way to qualify for the playoff, and Newman already has one this year. As long as there aren’t more race winners in the first 26 events than there are spots in the playoff, Newman is in.

“There are still no guarantees, (but) I don’t see us having 17 winners in 26 races,” Newman said in advance of Sunday’s Axalta presents The Pocono 400 at Pocono Raceway (3 p.m. ET on FS1). “It could happen, but I don’t see it. And, I think that it’s nice to have that off your mind, but I still feel that you have to have the mentality that you don’t. You have to have the stubbornness and the racing mentality of you can’t just say that we’re in.

“I’ve seen guys the last few years that get that (win), and they don’t perform well in the first or second stage of the playoffs, and it costs them. So, I think when you race for points, no matter if you win or you don’t, it is good practice for being closer to becoming a champion.”