CHARLOTTE, N.C. Ryan Newman has been upside down, on his side, bounced around like a pinball and come close to catching on fire. In between all his horrific crashes and bad luck this season, he's put together a Winston Cup series-high six victories and won seven poles. That success isn't enough to overcome all the failures, so Newman sits a distant fifth place in the standings.
There's almost no chance to catch leader Matt Kenseth for the title he's 617 points back but Newman doesn't worry about what could have been.
''You're wasting time if you're thinking about the past,'' he said.
At a time when winning in NASCAR is harder than ever because the cars are designed to be equal, Newman and his Penske Racing South team have managed to dominate the series this season.
Sure Kenseth is the most consistent driver, avoiding all bad luck to put together one of the most steady seasons in history. But he has just one victory compared to Newman's six.
And Newman probably could have had a few more.
The second-year driver was strong at the season-opening Daytona 500, but ended up upside down in the infield grass after an accident sent him flipping down the frontstretch. A wreck at Talladega sent him bouncing across the track, and his tire sailing over the wall and into the parking lot outside the track.
His engine exploded at Michigan, sending flames shooting into the cockpit and Newman scrambling to safety. And he was stranded on his side, impatiently waiting for safety workers to rescue him after crashing in practice at Watkins Glen.
But his ability to forget each crash, broken part and blown tire has cleared the way for Newman to bounce back often this season.
''He doesn't dwell on the past too much,'' crew chief Matt Borland said. ''He's always looking at what we've got the next day or next week or next practice session. He doesn't get mentally hung up on things that might have gone wrong.''
Newman and his team also don't sit and ponder what could happen if NASCAR makes good on a proposal to tinker with the points system.
One of the ideas being toyed with is awarding bonus points for victories as many as 50 and possibly giving an additional five points for winning poles.
Newman would still not be the points leader under that formula, but it would close the margin on Kenseth and perhaps even put Newman within striking distance with a few more wins this season.
Still, Newman isn't exactly lobbying NASCAR to make the change.
''I don't think there's anything wrong with the structure of the points system right now,'' he said. ''If they want to add bonus points, I don't think it'll affect the situation a whole lot.
''The Winston Cup champion should be a champion in all respects and consistency is a big part of being a Winston Cup champion.''
So Newman is instead looking toward next season and chasing after his first Winston Cup title.
His model right now is Kenseth, who won a series-high five races last year but suffered through inconsistencies to end up eighth in points.
But Kenseth put his focus on fixing that this year and is running away with the title. If Newman can find the same balance, he figures his third year in NASCAR's top division could end with him on top.
''We've already started'' talking about next year, Newman said. ''We're already thinking about new rules, new tracks, whatever.''
Until then, Newman will try to win as many races as he can and climb high in the standings. He'll start this weekend at Dover International Speedway, where he won in June.
''I think we're roughly 200 points out of second place and the potential is still there for that,'' Newman said. ''If something happens to Matt, either on the track or off the track, with the nine races left, there's still a chance.
''Until we're mathematically out of it, we're just going to go out and do the best job we can to get points and win races.''
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