It's a good thing for Ryan Newman that April is one of the shortest months on the NASCAR Nextel Cup schedule.
The month has been brutal to the driver of the No. 12 Alltel Dodge.
Newman, who has finished in the top 10 in the point standings for the past three years, is hoping to put an end to his personal spring swoon Sunday at the Samsung/RadioShack 500 at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth.
He'll have to go against his history to do so.
"April's always been a rough month," Newman said. "I'm not surprised by where we are. I'm not disappointed. We deserve to be where we're at."
Newman, an 11-time winner since joining the Nextel Cup Series in 2002, has made 12 career April starts and has never won. In most of those races, he hasn't even been close.
Newman has just two top-10 finishes in April. Both came in Martinsville, Va., including a fourth-place showing in Sunday's Advance Auto Parts 500. In seven of the races, Newman has finishes of 38th or worse.
"We're trying to make it through April the best we can and go from there," crew chief Matt Borland said. "I can't put my finger on why but in April we just struggle. We just want to make sure we can get as many points as we can."
Newman's team knows early-season woes now can have a lasting effect, because of the Chase for the Nextel Cup, which puts a premium on points through the first 26 races. The top 10 drivers in points and any within 400 of the leader qualify for the Chase.
Last year's slow start nearly cost Newman a shot at qualifying for a run at the title. He didn't earn a spot in the Chase until the Chevy Monte Carlo 400, which was the final non-Chase race.
"I'm not a big fan of the whole Chase deal, but it's here to stay," Newman said. "There's a lot of things we like and don't like in everything. But last year we got ourselves in a position where we barely made it."
Newman has dealt with changes every year, but doesn't want to use them as excuses. In 2002, he was just a rookie. In 2003, his team switched from Ford to Dodge. This year the team is driving the new Dodge Charger. There are also rules changes to factor in.
The tracks have had little to do with the struggles. While Newman has 40th- and 39th-place finishes in two April Texas Motor Speedway starts, he won in 2003 when it was run in March.
Bad luck has also hurt Newman. Last year at TMS, he cut a tire. Even when he does well, it's not without some adversity. In Sunday's race, Newman and Scott Riggs made contact on the first lap, cutting one of Newman's tires. He started second but was in last place two laps later before he charged back through the field.
Performances like that give Newman and his team hope. He's eighth in the points standings, and comes to Texas with three top-10 finishes in six races.
"I've seen signs that we're turning things around," Newman said. "From a consistency point, we're getting better. The championship isn't being determined right now."
For Newman, that's a good thing.
Ryan Newman's 2005 running total
Daytona 500 9201081920 3/2 03$306,479Running
Auto Club 500 991381225 0/2 50$138,616Running
UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400 19143826 7/2 67$158,511Running
Golden Corral 500 114126632 5/3 25$120,266Running
Food City 500 730731141 8/5 00$122,726Running
Advance Auto Parts 500 24165850 0/5 00$132,241Running
* Nextel Cup standing