Ryan Newman - Pocono Equals Perfection In Racing And Fishing
For Ryan Newman, this weekend’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway means two things – racing and fishing, and not necessarily in that order.
The avid outdoorsman counts the trip to Pocono as one of his favorites each year because it affords him the opportunity to steal a few moments away from the racetrack and indulge himself in his favorite hobby – fishing.
Newman travels around the Sprint Cup circuit with 12 fishing rods – give or take – a tackle box and a three-piece boat with a trolling motor and battery, so that he can go out and fish any time he finds the chance. And Pocono is one of the places where Newman always finds the time to fish.
In fact, Newman considers the lake fishing in Pocono one of the best spots on the Sprint Cup circuit.
The South Bend, Ind., native savors the quiet moments he gets outside of the racecar on a race weekend. For him, it’s just about taking a few moments to appreciate nature. It’s about a man and his fishing pole – at least on Friday and Saturday.
But on Sunday, Newman’s focus turns to racing and his No. 39 Tornados Chevrolet.
And while he ranks fishing at Pocono among the best on the Sprint Cup circuit, Newman’s history at the 2.5-mile “Tricky Triangle” isn’t too shabby, either.
Pocono Raceway was the site of Newman’s first-ever stock car victory on July 22, 2000. He scored the win in just his second start for Penske Racing in the ARCA series. He started on the outside pole, led 40 of the 80 laps and scored a dominating victory.
In 19 Sprint Cup starts at Pocono Raceway, Newman has finished outside of the top-15 just five times. He has two poles, one win, six top-five and eight top-10 finishes. This past June, Newman fought his way to a ninth-place finish despite losing third gear with 21 laps to go in the 500-mile race.
In a season that has seen unique strategies, exciting finishes and the most first-time winners in series history, it is going to take the combination of Newman’s expertise at Pocono and crew chief Tony Gibson’s wisdom on top of the pit box to take the Tornados team to the winner’s circle for the second time this year.
It wouldn’t be surprising if this weekend’s Good Sam RV Insurance 500 at Pocono Raceway played out much like Newman’s recent win at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon.
In that race, Gibson made a gutsy call to keep Newman’s superfast No. 39 Chevrolet out front rather than pit under caution. Newman pitted for the final time on lap 217, and Gibson spent the remaining 84 laps urging his driver to save fuel at every opportunity.
The bold call paid off and landed Newman & Company in victory lane for the first time in 47 races. Newman led six times for 119 laps en route to his 15th career Sprint Cup win and his first in 2011.
It was all part of a banner and history-making weekend for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR). Newman and teammate-team owner Tony Stewart started 1-2 and finished 1-2, respectively. The last time a team started 1-2 and finished 1-2 was Hendrick Motorsports in the 1989 Daytona 500. However, the last time a team started 1-2 and finished 1-2 with the same drivers in the same order was back on April 7, 1957, at North Wilkesboro (N.C.) Speedway with DePaolo Engineering. There, Fireball Roberts won from the pole, while teammate Paul Goldsmith started second and finished second.
Entering this weekend’s event at Pocono, Newman sits eighth in the Sprint Cup standings, 64 points behind series leader Carl Edwards with six races to go before the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship. Along with his win and pole at New Hampshire, Newman has collected six top-five and nine top-10 finishes in 20 races, and he’s led 262 laps.
So, with Tornados – the “Bold is How We Roll” snack food – on board the No. 39 this weekend, Newman and his team are ready to boldly tackle the “Tricky Triangle” and all of its challenges, even if it means making another gutsy pit call for track position and a chance at another trip to victory lane. And, while Newman most relishes the quiet moments he will have on the lake in Pocono – just him and the small-mouth bass in the water beneath him – he’s hoping the weekend ends in a celebration he will enjoy on Sunday with his No. 39 Tornados team.
RYAN NEWMAN, Driver of the No. 39 Tornados Chevrolet Impala for Stewart-Haas Racing:
You often count Pocono as one of the tracks you consider to be your favorite. Why are you such a fan of Pocono Raceway?
“It’s one of my favorite racetracks just because it is so difficult. It’s challenging because there are three different corners, three different bankings, three different lengths of straightaways. Pocono is just unique. It’s the most unique racetrack we go to. It’s a lot of fun from my standpoint as a driver. I like the challenge. The track has three independent corners and, because of that, it is truly a driver’s racetrack. Each corner is completely different from the others. They drive differently and you have to adapt to them because it is impossible to have the car set up for all three. Turn one is pretty difficult. The tunnel turn is probably the hardest corner. The straightaways at Pocono are so long, you need to get all of the speed down them that you can. You have to make it so that your car can come off of turn three as fast as possible.
“This year is a little different than in years past because NASCAR’s done a little bit of a soft pitch with the changing of the transmission ratios, so we will actually shift like we used to. The last couple of years, we weren’t allowed to shift. In the old-style racecar, we could. It adds a different twist for the drivers and for the crew chiefs to get the ratios right, to get the car handling when you are shifting and when you’re not. It changes the way we drive and the way we set up the racecars a little bit. It’s fun to have unique situations and unique racetracks.”
Can you explain what you mean when you say that Pocono is challenging?
“Pocono is about as complex as the road courses are. At road courses, you get a lot of different turns and straightaways. You can easily package that into three or four different corners the way a car drives. Pocono is very different in all three corners, so it’s very complex when it comes to setting the car up and from the driver’s standpoint. It’s all about matching up the combination of how the crew chief sets up the car relative to how the driver drives the racecar to make a happy package and have a shot at victory. It can be a very long, grueling race.”
Fuel mileage has been key this year at several tracks. Pocono often comes down to fuel mileage, and just two races ago you won your first race at New Hampshire by saving fuel. How big of a win was that for you and do you anticipate seeing another fuel-mileage race this weekend at Pocono?
“It was an awesome weekend in New Hampshire. I guess the unexpectedness of us qualifying 1-2, then backing it up on top of that, was amazing. Obviously, a great weekend for Stewart-Haas Racing – all the effort, all the teammates, our relationship with Hendrick Motorsports from a chassis and engine perspective. That was an amazing week. If we never duplicate that again – if we ever do, that would be amazing, but if we never do – we always have something that we could brag about. We had a good racecar, good pit stops and Tony Gibson made the right calls. I knew I was doing a really good job of saving fuel, which is not the easiest thing to do. Our saving grace was that we had a good racecar, we were able to pull to on a lead and maintain that lead. And then, I actually ended up running out of fuel doing my victory donuts.
“And yes, this weekend, fuel mileage could easily be crucial in determining the winner. The bigger the racetrack, the more sensitive it is when it comes to fuel mileage. Each lap is 2.5 miles, there. Getting back to pit lane when you’re close to running out of fuel, it tends to be a place where the driver really has to manage his fuel when the crew chief asks you to save some fuel. There are a lot of great things that could happen at Pocono that we don’t really have at some other racetracks. You get to places like Pocono, Indianapolis and Michigan and fuel mileage can be as much of a crew chief’s friend as a foe.”
With six races to go until the Chase, how important was your win at New Hampshire in terms of momentum for your team?
“From a performance side, our sport is really, really strong. You see guys who are winning who are 20-plus points back. That just tells you how competitive the series is, how important it is to get a top-10 or a top-five finish. So when you get that win, it’s even more important this year with the points and the way the wild card system works for the Chase. It was a huge points weekend for us and from a Chase-running standpoint at New Hampshire. It definitely gave us momentum. You have to do the right things to expand good experiences into better experiences, or even the same experiences. As a group, it’s important for us to take what we did in New Hampshire, collectively, and communication-wise make sure we keep that moving. We finished 12th last weekend in Indy, and I wish it would have been a better finish, but we never got the track position we needed. We fought all day and we rallied to get a decent finish. At this point in the season, that was important. And our win, with the way the points work this year, that was a nice safety net for us in a lot of ways, but we know we can’t rest on that one win. We have to keep doing what we are doing to make the Chase.”
Pocono is where you got your first win in a stock car. Does the track hold a special significance for you because of that victory?
“My first win at Pocono wasn’t in NASCAR competition. It was in my second ARCA start, but it was so big for me and my family and everyone who had helped me in my racing career along the way. Growing up in Indiana, I always wanted to drive in NASCAR, which wasn’t heard of. Most kids in Indiana wanted to compete in the Indianapolis 500. But for me, I always loved stock car racing. So, winning at Pocono back in 2000 was bigger than I can explain. It was proving that I had made the right decision and that I was ready for the move to stock-car racing. It was really a special day.”
Although you have a pretty good record at Pocono, you often talk more about your love of the area. What is it that you like about this area so much?
“Everybody knows that I’m an outdoors guy, so going to Pocono is kind of like a bonus for me. I like the racetrack a lot, and I like the things you can do outside of racing there, too. It’s a pretty laid-back area. It’s in the country. The scenery’s great and, for me, I get a chance to do a lot of great fishing. There are a lot of good places to fish up there, and I enjoy that aspect of it. On Saturday, that’s what it’s all about for me – after qualifying. Twelve fishing rods, tackle boxes and a three-piece boat with a trolling motor and battery and we can go out and fish any time we can. I really enjoy it. It’s a way for me to break away and relax and enjoy the outdoors. Pocono is a great place to go fishing.”
By: stewart-haas racing