Turning Up the ‘WIX’
KANNAPOLIS, N.C. (Aug. 15, 2012) –The time couldn’t be better for Ryan Newman and his No. 39 Stewart-Haas Racing team to turn up the “WIX.”
Last Sunday’s 11th-place finish at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International vaulted Newman into the second wild-card spot for this year’s Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup with four races to go before the Chase begins Sept. 16 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill.
Only the top-10 in points are locked into the 12-driver, 10-race Chase. Positions 11 and 12 are wild cards, awarded to the two drivers between 11th and 20th in points who have the most wins. In the event multiple drivers have the same number of wins, a driver’s point standing serves as the tiebreaker.
Kasey Kahne holds the 11th-place wild-card spot thanks to his two victories this season, the most of any driver outside the top-10. Newman assumed the 12th-place wild-card spot by virtue of his April 1 victory at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway combined with his 13th position in the point standings, which is higher than his fellow single-race winners in the top-20 in points – Kyle Busch, Jeff Gordon, Marcos Ambrose and Joey Logano.
Considering the wild-card scenario seems to change each and every week thanks to one of the tightest Chase battles in recent memory, keeping the second wild-card spot in his clutches will be no easy task for Newman and the No. 39 WIX Filters Racing team.
The easiest way for the 11-year Sprint Cup veteran to help his cause would be to capture at least one more win. Luckily, the South Bend, Ind., native is no stranger to victory lane at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, where the Pure Michigan 400 will be run this Sunday.
In fact, it was at Michigan, on Aug. 18, 2001, that Newman drove to his first-ever NASCAR victory by winning the Nationwide Series race in dominating fashion. After qualifying on the outside pole, Newman wasted no time taking over the point and he never looked back. He led 119 of 125 laps and won by 1.3 seconds. Four years later, in 2005, Newman won his second Nationwide race at the track.
In Sprint Cup competition at 2-mile oval, Newman has one pole, two wins, five top-five finishes and six top-10s in 22 starts. Newman’s two victories actually came back-to-back. He won the August 2003 race and followed it up with a repeat performance in June 2004. In 2003, Newman started on the outside pole and led 32 laps en route to the win. In the 2004 race, he started fourth and led 22 laps on his way to taking the checkered flag.
Newman’s record behind the gold-and-black colors of the No. 39 WIX Filters Chevy isn’t too shabby, either. In six races with WIX Filters on the hood of his No. 39 Chevy, Newman has four top-10 finishes, including a fifth-place run at Michigan last August.
Despite having five consecutive finishes of 11th or better in the past five races, Newman knows it’s likely going to take more than top-five and top-10 finishes over the next four races to guarantee himself a spot in his fifth Chase. A win is what he needs.
With wins being more important than ever, nothing gives a driver like Newman more confidence to take on the demands and high speeds of the newly resurfaced Michigan track than knowing he has a great team, a great racecar and the horsepower he needs to go to the front of the field and stay there.
That is exactly the confidence Newman and his WIX Filters team need during their full-throttle race to the Chase. Behind the wheel of his No. 39 Chevy, Newman is ready to turn up the “WIX” and take on the competition at the track he considers to be home, and one he has proven, time and again, that brings out the best in him.
RYAN NEWMAN, Driver of the No. 39 WIX Filters Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing:
You have some momentum with five consecutive finishes of 11th or better. Is it about momentum and points right now, or is it about going after another win right now?
“We’re just focused on doing the best we possibly can each week. We want to win. That’s our goal this weekend with WIX Filters and everybody else out there that is our sponsor at Michigan. We have the wild card right now, but that can change after the first lap. So, I’m just staying focused on being the best driver I can be and doing what we have to do to get to victory lane. Performance will take care of itself if we perform, especially if we outperform the wild-card contenders.”
Do you put a lot of pressure on yourself at this point in the season, knowing you are trying to make the Chase for the Championship?
“I don’t put pressure on myself. Maybe other people try to put pressure on me, but I don’t let them. I know I have a job to do and I know I am fully capable of doing my job and doing it the best I can. If we are successful as a team, that will happen. We are dealing with other teams that are incredibly successful. I believe we are fully capable of getting wins and making the Chase.”
You went back to Michigan a few weeks ago for a tire test. What are your thoughts about the tire?
“I still don’t think you have a 100-percent answer. They thought they had a 100-percent answer in the first test. The conditions can be so different in Michigan. It can be hot. That was the problem we had with the tire – even when it got hotter, it got faster. The rubber liked to be on rubber. As the rubber got laid down, the track got wider and everything was great, except for the fact the tire didn’t have the durability to go along with it. So, hopefully, we’ll be in a much better position with the reduced grip with the left-side tire. Basically, they just went back with the same tire with a more modern construction, something that didn’t come out of the warehouse. It gave us the opportunity to know the tires are new and not old tires, and that the consistency is going to be 100 percent, as we hoped it would be.”
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.’”
Source: Stewart-Haas Racing