With some clever strategy calls and a strong eighth-place finish in Sunday’s Brickyard 400, Newman was able to clinch the final playoff berth in the 16-driver field, just edging out Daniel Suarez.
“That was a struggle at a lot of times. At the end of the first stage I had a lot of confidence and at the end of the second stage I didn’t have a whole lot of confidence,” Newman said. “We just stuck our nose to the grindstone and (Suarez) got himself in a pickle there and we were able to hold him off.
“That was part of the race. The other part of the race was we didn’t have a fast enough race car to be able to go up there and lead and we need to be able to do that in the next three races.”
Getting to the playoffs is obviously the main objective for drivers when the season starts. Now with that objective accomplished, Newman and his No. 6 Roush-Fenway Racing team can turn to an even more important one – advancing.
“I think we have a lot of work to do. We’re by no means dominating led laps, qualified 22nd, finished eighth. We’ve showed that we can progress throughout the race,” he said.
“But we’ve got to start qualifying in the top 10 to be able to finish in the top five and then we’ll prove that we’re made of more than what we’re showing.
“It’s been a year of progress, a year of learning, a year of a lot of things. I’m more rookie this year than I’ve ever been.”
Asked if he has what it takes to get past Round 1, Newman said: “We were eighth today. If we can do that three times we will be in good shape.”