RYAN NEWMAN Fishing for Invigorating Run at New Hampshire KANNAPOLIS, N.C. (June 24, 2009) -- For avid outdoorsman Ryan Newman, fresh air, a lake and a fishing rod is all he needs to relax and reenergize. That's why Newman counts the natural...
Fishing for Invigorating Run at New Hampshire
KANNAPOLIS, N.C. (June 24, 2009) -- For avid outdoorsman Ryan Newman, fresh air, a lake and a fishing rod is all he needs to relax and reenergize. That's why Newman counts the natural surroundings of New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon as one of his favorite stops on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series circuit.
For Newman the competitive racecar driver, a trip to New Hampshire could be just what he needs to rejuvenate himself and reinvigorate his No. 39 Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) team. Newman and the team have shown their prowess at three other short tracks this season, and the 1.058-mile New Hampshire flat track is yet another place where the team looks forward to exhibiting its strong short-track program once more.
Earlier this season, it was the short-track races that breathed life into Newman and his No. 39 Haas Automation/U.S. Army team. A trip to the half-mile Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway and Martinsville (Va.) Speedway ovals yielded the team's first two top-10 finishes of the 2009 season with seventh- and sixth-place finishes, respectively. Then, the race at the three-quarter-mile Richmond (Va.) International Raceway resulted in a fourth-place effort and was one of a string of four consecutive top-five finishes for Newman.
With the team currently sitting sixth in points, Newman hopes that the Lenox Industrial Tools 301 will be the starting point for yet another string of top-10 finishes as NASCAR embarks on the 10-week "Race to the Chase" at New Hampshire this weekend.
New Hampshire has been a special track for Newman in his career. In 14 starts at Loudon, Newman has four poles, five top-five, nine top-10 finishes and two very big wins.
In September 2002, the rookie Sprint Cup driver scored his first point-paying victory at the flat track. The South Bend, Ind., native started from the pole position and dominated the rain-shortened race, leading 143 of 207 laps.
The win was proof that the young driver who had climbed through the open-wheel ranks and was known for turning a quick lap in qualifying had what it took to win in NASCAR's elite series. The victory was emotional for both Newman and his family, who had worked and sacrificed for years so that Newman could follow his dream into NASCAR. It was the first of 13 Sprint Cup wins for Newman, and his first of two at New Hampshire.
His second victory at the track came in September 2005. That victory renewed Newman's hopes for a championship run. Newman, who had barely squeaked into the first Chase for the Championship, used pit strategy to gain the lead late in the race after starting 13th. In the final laps, he dueled with now team owner and teammate Tony Stewart for the lead. With two laps remaining, Newman passed Stewart and held on to take the win.
Now, Newman is in search of another special weekend at New Hampshire. After scoring six consecutive top-10 finishes, the No. 39 team has finished 23rd and 17th in the past two races (Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn and Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif., respectively).
As he returns to a track where he has celebrated triumphs in his career, Newman hopes his No. 39 team's earlier short-track success will carry over to this weekend's race at the 1.058-mile oval. Newman hopes to revive his team's solid runs and begin yet another string of top-10 finishes, but more than that, he would like for New Hampshire to be the locale for another Newman milestone -- his first win for SHR.
RYAN NEWMAN, Driver of the No. 39 Haas Automation /U.S. Army Chevrolet Impala SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
What do you remember about your first win, which came at New Hampshire in 2002?
"We had won the All-Star Race at Charlotte in May that year. I was a rookie, so that was a big deal, but we were still looking for our first point-paying win. We finally got it in New Hampshire in September, and it was a rain-shortened race. That's one part of racing. They never put it (rain-shortened) on the trophy. They do put it in the record books, but the trophy is what we take home. You won the race. It doesn't say how many laps it was. It doesn't say who finished second. It just says that you were the best on that day. There are different ways to win a race, but there are a few things that help you get that first win. You've got to be in the right place at the right time. You've got to use strategy. You've got to have a fast racecar. You've got to do all those things right, or close to right."
What are your thoughts on racing at New Hampshire Motor Speedway?
"New Hampshire is really unique. I feel like they have made some great improvements to the racetrack in the past. They have added some banking and they have added some racetrack for us to use, so in my opinion, the racing is the best that it has ever been there. It used to be a one-groove racetrack, but that has changed thanks to the improvements they have made. I think, more than anything, this is a track-position race because it's a flat track. And the double-file restarts will make the race even more interesting. It's a fun place to race and, obviously, it has been very special to me because it was where I got my first point-paying win in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. And I think I battled pretty hard with Tony (Stewart) to win the race back in 2005, too.
"The Haas Automation team has really excelled on the short tracks this season, and New Hampshire is another one where I think we should have success. We got top-10s at Bristol, Martinsville and Richmond, and I feel like we would have had a better finish at Phoenix had we not had the radio complications that we did. These last two races (Michigan and Infineon) haven't been the finishes we wanted, but I think we will be able to get back on track and get another solid top-10 finish at New Hampshire this weekend. I've had a lot of success at New Hampshire in both qualifying and the race, and I'm hoping to continue that trend with my Stewart-Haas team. I'm really confident this is going to be a good weekend for the No. 39 team.
"For me, personally, I like the area just as much as I do the racetrack. It's just a fun place to hang out. We've always enjoyed Lake Winnipesaukee and there is some great fishing in the area, too. So, I have a good time whenever I go to New Hampshire."
A lot of people believe that you and the No. 39 team are knocking on victory's door. They are saying that you are one of the next teams to get a win. Does the pressure grow as races go by and a driver hasn't won, yet?
"I think you are fooling yourself if you say there isn't any pressure to win and that it doesn't grow, at times. Yes, in my opinion the pressure grows, but to me it isn't bad. It isn't destructive pressure for you or the team. It's just internal pressure to keep trying to achieve that goal. It's not like you can try any harder to get the job done. You're doing that each and every lap, each and every week. From a team standpoint, you try and fix what maybe needs to be fixed, whether it's a pit stop that's hurting them, whether it's the car and they're not leading laps, or whether it is strategy and not putting themselves in the position to win. It's not a trial and error process. It's a methodical answer that you're trying to achieve based upon what you're lacking.
"I agree that our team is knocking on the door of winning. And like I have told the team several times, if we keep doing what we're doing and putting ourselves in the position to win, then we will get what we want. The past two races (Michigan and Sonoma) haven't been our best races. We've had some problems, but we have been able to recover from any issues that we had during the race and get a decent finish in the end, when we could have come out much worse than what we did. That's what's important when we are looking at the big picture and having a chance to make the Chase for the Championship. That's something I'm proud of with this team. Yes, we want to win, and I believe we will. "
You have a very busy weekend on tap. You are racing a Winged-Midget at Lee Speedway in Lee, N.H., on Friday night, and then you are competing in the NASCAR Whelen Modified race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Saturday. Talk a little about your extra-curricular racing this weekend in New Hampshire.
"To me, this weekend is something I have really been looking forward to. People always say that racers will race anything, anytime. And I guess that's true. I have never driven a Winged-Midget, and it's been a while since I have been in a Midget, so I'm looking forward to the race at Lee (N.H.) Speedway. The car is very similar to what I drove back in my USAC days, and the owner, Tim Bertrand, called me the other day and told me the car was a rocket ship. So, I guess that means the pressure is on. It will be fun to get back to my roots and some short-track, Friday-night racing, and I'm sure it will be a challenge because I'm competing with some really good drivers.
"As far as the Modified race, I got my first chance in the car last year at New Hampshire, and we were able to get the pole. We had a great run going in the race. We led laps and then had a problem early with a flat tire, but we moved back up toward the front of the field. Unfortunately, we got caught up in an on-track accident and didn't get the finish we had hoped to get. We were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Hopefully, we can change that this time around. I had always wanted to race a Modified, and when Bono (Kevin Manion) and Gary (Putnam) gave me the chance in their car, I jumped at the opportunity. We were able to bring Aggressive Hydraulics on board for a few races this season, and we won in our first outing with them at New Smyrna (Fla.) Speedway during Speedweeks. It was a really exciting race and a very close finish at the end. I was honored to come out of there with the win, considering the great Modified drivers we were battling in the final laps. Any racer will tell you that, when they get the chance to race, they are going to, so I'm looking forward to getting back into the Modified at New Hampshire this weekend. I have good equipment, and I have some more experience in the car, so I am excited about Saturday's race."