KANNAPOLIS, N.C. – The Encierro, or bull run, is the event at the heart of the fiestas of San Fermin in the city of Pamplona that involves hundreds of people running in front of six bulls and another six steers down a half-mile stretch of narrow streets before ending in Pamplona’s bullring.
It’s a spectacle that would be almost unimaginable in any other place in the world. The Encierro starts at the corral in Calle Santo Domingo, when the clock on the church of San Cernin strikes eight o’clock in the morning. After the launching of two rockets, the bulls charge behind the runners for the distance between the corral and the bullring.
Finishing the run oftentimes involves more luck than skill, as a runner’s fate can be determined by those who run alongside.
History has shown that any race around the high-banked, concrete Bristol oval is one of survival. The annual running of the race has long been filled with beating, banging, rooting and gouging. “The World’s Fastest Half-Mile” has been a fan favorite for years, and for good reason. Drivers often lose their patience first, immediately followed by their tempers. Fans have long called it one of the best races of the year, as an unrivaled excitement and intensity fill the air from the first lap to the last.
The Tennessee bullring has also been a favorite for Ryan Newman, driver of the No. 39 Quicken Loans Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR). In nine previous starts with the No. 39 team at Bristol, Newman has one pole position, an outside pole position, and he’s posted six top-10 finishes.
Until this race last year, Newman’s worst result at the .533-mile track since joining SHR was a 16th-place effort in March 2010. But that all changed when a flat left-rear tire on lap 189 sent the No. 39 Chevrolet spinning off of turn four and into the outside retaining wall before being hit by another car as it came back across the racetrack. Newman was able to walk away from the incident unharmed, but the racecar and the team’s chances of earning a third berth in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship in four seasons were both effectively over.
Newman’s 13th-place finish at Michigan international Speedway in Brooklyn last week saw him fall one spot to 15th place in the championship standings, 27 points behind 10th-place Greg Biffle. With three races remaining before the 12-driver, 10-race Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup begins Sept. 15 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill., Newman finds himself not only outside the top-10, but also outside of the wild-card scenario.
However, Bristol could be the track that propels Newman back into a wild-card position, if not into the top-10 in points. While there’s no doubt any race around the high-banked, concrete oval is one of survival, this race could be one of opportunity, as well. A top-five at Bristol would go a long way toward solidifying Newman’s presence in the 2013 Chase field, and it would mean five more mortgages paid for a month.
Thanks to Quicken Loans’ season-long “Bring It Home” promotion, fans who have already registered will want Newman to continue that trend. Those who have not simply need to visit www.qlracing.com to register. All are encouraged to increase their chances of winning a month-long vacation from their mortgage by entering weekly. Participants also can win additional entries by inviting their friends and family to participate.
With a seventh-place finish at Bristol in March, and a history of solid performances on their side, Newman and the No. 39 team are without a doubt looking forward to running at the bullring Saturday night.
Ryan Newman, Driver of the No. 39 Quicken Loans Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
What is it about Bristol that you like so much? “It’s just a great racetrack and a great short track. I’ve always liked the banked racetracks, in general, over the flatter racetracks. So, I guess in some ways, you could say I’m more comfortable at Bristol.
I think Bristol has always been one of those short tracks that everybody loves. And, obviously, that’s changed with the different surface and the way they’ve changed it a little bit. But, ultimately, it’s still a great short track.
I really love the banking and I love the fact it’s concrete and doesn’t seem like it changes a whole lot. Once you get a car right, it’s typically right for 500 laps, which is difficult to get on some of the racetracks. Honestly, there’s just no place like Bristol. I’ve told people before that Bristol is like a baby superspeedway.
If something happens in front of you, it may not be your fault, but you can get caught up in somebody else’s wreck in the blink of an eye. You have to really be on your toes at Bristol. Everything happens so fast there. You don’t have time to think or blink.”
You earned the name “Rocketman” at Bristol because of how quick of a lap you turned in qualifying back in 2003. Why is it so important to qualify well at Bristol?
“It’s huge. When you start up front, your emotions are pretty calm because you’ve got a lot of things going your way. You’re starting in a good position, you’ve got good pit selection and all those things. And it’s really pretty cool going into turn one on that first lap.”
What does it take to win at Bristol? “First thing that comes to mind is patience because it can be a track that really challenges your mentality. And, obviously, you have to have a good car, and good pit stops and the things we talk about every week, but here more so than most racetracks.
It’s that mental stamina of controlling your emotions and controlling the racecar according to your emotions and making the best of all the situations you are in. Bristol is different every time you go there. It can go a lot of green-flag runs and a lot of single-file racing, or it can be crazy and it can get randomly crazier.”
Since joining SHR, Bristol has been without a doubt one of the No. 39 team’s best racetracks. Why do you guys seem to like Bristol so much and do so well there? “We have a good package when we come to Bristol, and I think that’s easy to see by how we have qualified and run there. We haven’t gotten a win there, yet, but it’s a track where we are very confident. For me, personally, I like the short tracks because I like using the middle pedal (brake).
In all seriousness, I think it adds another parameter of a driver’s input when you have to modulate that third pedal. We have to go to places like Las Vegas and you’re using very little brake. When you are using a little bit, it’s hard to screw up. I think our team has done a really good job with the brake package we have.
I like the short tracks. I like having the character added to the program of modulating the brake. At places like Bristol, Martinsville, Phoenix and Richmond, we’ve been really strong as a team.”