Newman's Turnaround on 1.5, 2-mile Tracks Making a Difference in Chase Bid
No. 39 Chevrolet to Pay Tribute to U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers
HAMPTON, Ga. (Aug. 31, 2011) -- Atlanta Motor Speedway's 1.54-mile venue should be a welcome sight this weekend for Ryan Newman, who will be driving the No. 39 U.S. Army Reserve Chevrolet in a tribute to Soldiers, who combine civilian experience with military training to provide specialized skills for missions around the world.
When comparing Newman's finishes from last year to this season at the 1.5 and 2-mile tracks, it is better understood why he has gone from not making the Chase in 2010 to being in a current position of possibly clinching a berth in Atlanta, one race prior to the Chase cutoff -- Sept. 10 at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway.
Entering Sunday night's AdvoCare 500 Sprint Cup event, Newman's performance in eight races this season at the 1.5 and 2-mile venues has dramatically improved with an average finish of 10.63 compared to a 21.00 average during the same period and same amount of races last year.
The difference equals a positive gain of 84 driver points for Newman, who is currently seventh in the Sprint Cup standings. Take away the 84 points, Newman would be in 13th-place and in a fierce battle for a Chase position.
"Don't get me wrong, we're still in a battle," said Newman, a 15-time Cup winner. "Every day we remind ourselves that this is auto racing and you can take a quick dive in the standings. But what I like about our current position is that we control our destiny for making the Chase. There's no question that our finishes this year at the mile-and-a-half and two-mile tracks have made a big difference. We run the majority of races at these venues and if you're going to be successful, these are the places you need to perform at. This is an area we worked on and it has paid some pretty good dividends so far."
For the record, 14 of the 36 Sprint Cup races are contested on the 1.5 - 2-mile tracks and half of the 10 Chase playoff races will be on 1.5-mile ovals -- Chicago, Kansas, Charlotte, Fort Worth and Homestead-Miami.
Newman's crew chief, Tony Gibson, said the team realized after last year that it needed a better package on the 1.5 and 2-mile tracks.
"We weren't getting it done on the mile-and-a-half and two-mile tracks," said Gibson. "Nearly half the races are at these tracks and we knew we had to improve. We're not perfect, but our improvement at these facilities has made a huge impact in our overall performance. Right now our (Chase) destiny is in our hands and not somebody else's. We don't want to beat ourselves by doing something stupid."
Newman, who has captured five top-10 finishes in the last seven Cup races, will also be looking to set an Atlanta Motor Speedway record for most career poles. The 33-year-old Newman and retired star Buddy Baker are tied with seven career poles at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Newman won his second pole of the season and 48th of his career in last week's Sprint Cup race at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway.
"As we do every week we go full force during qualifying," noted Newman. "The record would be nice, but it's the big picture we're mainly concerned about and that's bringing home a good result on Sunday night for our Army Strong Soldiers."
Newman's overall record at Atlanta Motor Speedway includes 18 starts, one top-five and six top-10s. His average start is 6.4 and average finish is 17.3.
It will be a double-duty Atlanta weekend for Newman, who will also compete in Friday evening's Camping World Truck Series race. Newman will drive the No. 08 Turner Motorsports Chevrolet, which will honor his outdoors buddy Beau Slocumb, who lost his life to cancer earlier this year.