KANNAPOLIS, N.C. – The Quicken Loans 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race is one for bragging rights as Ryan Newman, driver of the Quicken Loans Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), and his No. 39 team will converge on Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn looking to claim the victory in their sponsor’s backyard.
A victory in the Quicken Loans 400 would be the perfect scenario as the 2-mile, D-shaped Michigan oval is located approximately 70 miles from the sponsor’s headquarters in the heart of Detroit’s business district.
It also would serve to rekindle Newman’s winning ways and keep his Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship hopes alive via the wild-card opportunity – two of which are awarded to a race winner outside the top-10 in points but among the top-20.
Winning is something Newman has done 16 times in his Sprint Cup career, including twice at Michigan.
His Michigan wins came in successive visits to the moderately banked oval in August 2003 and June 2004. In 2003, Newman started on the outside pole and led 32 laps en route to the win. In 2004, he started fourth and led 22 laps on his way to taking the checkered flag. Augmenting those triumphs is a pole in June 2005 and five top-five finishes and seven top-10s in 23 career Sprint Cup starts.
Despite those notable finishes, Newman struggled to reclaim some of his past successes in his return trips to Michigan. After his back-to-back wins, Newman found very little luck in the Irish Hills as no more top-10s were recorded until the 2011 season. He finished 15th and eighth in his starts there in 2012.
Newman heads to Michigan this weekend fresh off a fifth-place finish at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway. He started 23rd and led three times for 19 laps en route to tying his season-best finish last weekend. He’s looking to improve on that finish this weekend at Michigan, but he’s not the only one.
Ryan Newman, Driver of the No. 39 Quicken Loans Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
What would it mean for you, as the driver of the No. 39 Quicken Loans Chevrolet, if you were able to win the Quicken Loans 400? “A win in any race right now would be big. It would be very special to be in victory lane at Michigan. It’s close to home for me, and it being in Quicken Loans’ backyard means a lot.
It’s Chevrolet’s backyard, as well. So it would have significant importance. But in the grand scheme of things, winning any race would be important for us. We’re heading to Michigan with a sense of renewed confidence. We had a good finish at Charlotte, and, while we didn’t have the finish to show for it, we had a good weekend at Dover.
We were fast in practice, and we were fast in the race until we had issues that took us out early. Obviously, Tony (Stewart’s) win there was huge for everyone at Stewart-Haas Racing. Myself and Tony both had good finishes last weekend at Pocono, so we’re certainly feeling good heading into the Quicken Loans 400.”
Does being in the backyard of not only Quicken Loans but Chevrolet, as well, add any pressure to your weekend? “No. I wouldn’t say it’s adding any additional pressure. With the exception of the Toyota teams, everyone is in his or her manufacturer’s backyard.
From the Quicken Loans standpoint, we try to win every race, no matter if it’s the Quicken Loans 400 or not. It would be extra special to win this race, but I can’t say I feel any additional pressure. That pressure is constantly there.”
Michigan was ultra-fast last year with the new pavement. What do you expect this time around with the aged asphalt and the sixth-generation racecar? “It’s still going to be super-fast; there’s no doubt about that. They haven’t done anything to control or alter the speed of the cars. The new Gen-6 car is faster, and the asphalt will have aged a bit.
But from what we saw last weekend at Pocono, the asphalt aged there, as well, but it was still just as fast. I think it will be a good race from a competition standpoint – I think the fans and competitors alike will get to watch a great race.”
Do you feel like you’re coming home when you come to Michigan? What feelings are conjured up when you come to Michigan? “My very first Cup crew chief was Matt Borland, and he was from Haslett, Mich. So his slogan whenever we came to Michigan was, ‘It’s God’s country,’ and that’s because he’s from Michigan.
I spent a lot of time in Michigan at my dad’s shop in Niles. So it is like coming home for me. Before there was Chicagoland Speedway, and before there was the Brickyard, to me, Michigan was the Cup track.
It was the place we called home. My grandparents had a cottage in southern Michigan. In Indiana, we lived literally a mile from the Michigan state line. So we spent a lot of time in Michigan, and it is really like coming home. The Irish Hills are absolutely beautiful. I really enjoy the area, and it’s much the same to me as it is in Pocono because of its outdoor ‘rusticness.’”