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Could 2017 NASCAR Cup playoffs be like 2014 for Ryan Newman? (video)

Ryan Newman places third at Richmond for his fourth straight top-10 finish as he focuses on the playoffs now.

After missing last year’s NASCAR Cup playoffs, Ryan Newman is ready to make up for lost time and success.

In a way, Newman enters this year’s playoffs in a similar way as he did in 2014, when he ultimately finished second to Kevin Harvick for the championship.

Newman entered the 2014 playoffs in 14th place with zero wins. He enters this year’s playoffs in 11th place and one win (Phoenix), his first win in more than 3 1/2 seasons, the last triumph being in the 2013 Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Knowing he’s been a lock for the playoffs since his win at Phoenix has allowed Newman to have a bit more confidence, not having to worry about racing his way into the playoffs on points, like he did in 2014.

Plus, he comes into the start of the playoffs with strong momentum: four straight top-10s, including a third-place finish Saturday night.

“We’re working hard together,” Newman told NBCSN after Saturday’s race. “The engine company’s done a great job, the chassis shop has done a better job, the bodies are better, everything’s gotten better.”

Newman finished third, thanks to a great final restart, in Saturday’s Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond Raceway. And he feels confident that as the team is starting to reach its stride, 2017 could very easily play out as 2014 did.

“That round going into Homestead is what really matters,” Newman said. “We’ve got a little bit of work to do all that, but we can put ourselves in position to do that again.”