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Ryan Newman buoyed by back-to-back third-place finishes

Ryan Newman car PHX1 2015 getty

Ryan Newman didn’t get his first top-five last season until June 28, when he finished third at Kentucky Speedway. It wasn’t a surprise that it took so long to get that first top five, as Newman was in his first season with a new team (Richard Childress Racing) and a new crew chief (Luke Lambert).

Newman earned five top-five finishes in 2014, including three in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Though he didn’t win a race, the top-five finishes seemed to occur at the right place and at the right time, helping him finish second in the Chase behind champion Kevin Harvick.

Things have stayed on the upswing for Newman in 2015. In four races, he has consecutive third-place finishes (last Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway) and a 10th at Atlanta.

He admittedly struggled on restarts at Phoenix but kept battling back.

“It was a good points day nonetheless,” he said. “We’re four races in and have two top-fives. It took us until June last year to get our first one.”

Since a 38th in the season-opening Daytona 500, Newman has vaulted from 34th in the Sprint Cup standings to eighth.

The key to Newman’s improvement might be qualifying. At Atlanta, he qualified started and finished 10th. At Las Vegas, he qualified seventh and finished third. At Phoenix, he qualified fifth and finished third.

“We’re knocking on the door,” Newman said. “We’ll keep digging.”

Follow @JerryBonkowski