Penske South Racing driver Ryan Newman wouldn't be surprised if the last wound up first when the 10-race "Chase for the NEXTEL Cup" ends at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 20.

"As far as the points go, we deserve to be 10th and 10th is what gets us in," he said. "We were a 10th place team after the 26th race and we'd like to be better than that, hopefully the first team after the 36th. We have a team that's capable of being first. We'll see if we can do that."

The 27-year-old driver opened his bid for his first series title with a test at Kentucky Speedway today. He said he is comfortable starting his second "Chase for the NEXTEL Cup" just 45 points behind series leader Tony Stewart.

"We're in the best position in some respects because the worst we can be is 10th," Newman said. "It's just a situation where we'll go out and do the things we've always done - that's qualify well and race well. We'll see where the situation stands at Homestead."

Newman moved from 11th in the standings to the coveted final position in the 10-race shootout with a 12th-place finish at Richmond International Raceway on September 10. The performance matched his best effort in a six-race stretch in which he generated an average finish of 24.2.

With a rough stretch of races behind him, he wants his team to focus on having fun as they bring the season to a close.

"After the checkered flag fell at Richmond, I told the guys to have some fun in these last 10 races because our last four or five have been pretty hectic," he said.

The South Bend, Ind., driver used today's track time to acquire data that may help him improve on last season's seventh-place showing in "Chase for the NEXTEL Cup." He drove to a total of three top-three finishes during the 2004 title chase including a win in Dover, Del., a second-place finish at Phoenix International Raceway and a third-place finish in Martinsville, Va.

"The team is just trying to learn some things as far as data acquisition," he said. "This is a good track to come to because it's pretty consistent and it has good grip. You can learn some principles here, but every track is unique. You can't go to Kansas thinking about what you had at Kentucky because it's totally different. We're coming here to learn some things to apply in these last 10 races. We'll see if it works."

He expects one racing principle to remain true during the final stretch of the season - consistency wins championships.

"Every race is equal as far as the points go, so you keep doing the best job you can," Newman said. "It can all change in one day, one weekend. We could come out of Louden, N.H., with the points lead, you just never know."

Story by Mike Schmaltz

~ Kentucky Speedway ~