RYAN NEWMAN Patiently Waiting to Reel In a Win at Stewart-Haas Racing KANNAPOLIS, N.C. (July 29, 2009) -- When Ryan Newman isn't behind the wheel of a racecar turning laps, there's a good bet what the avid outdoorsman is doing -- fishing....
Patiently Waiting to Reel In a Win at Stewart-Haas Racing
KANNAPOLIS, N.C. (July 29, 2009) -- When Ryan Newman isn't behind the wheel of a racecar turning laps, there's a good bet what the avid outdoorsman is doing -- fishing. That's why Newman counts this weekend's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stop at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway among his favorites on the circuit.
Newman has tasted success at the tricky, 2.5-mile triangular racetrack. He scored his first-ever stock car victory at Pocono in 2000 in the ARCA Series. And in 15 Sprint Cup starts, Newman has two poles, one win, six top-five and seven top-10 finishes. But it isn't necessarily the challenge of the unusual racetrack that gets Newman's heart pumping when he's at Pocono.
Instead, it's the fact that while in Pocono, Newman has the opportunity to visit a variety of lakes and streams where he can kick back, relax and spend hours enjoying his favorite pastime outside of a racecar.
The love for racing and for fishing developed around the same time for Newman.
He's been racing since he was 4½ years old. He's been a devoted fisherman since he was 3. And although his two favorite pastimes may not sound like they would have a lot in common -- the speed of racing versus the relaxation of fishing on a lake; the roar of the engine versus the peacefulness of the wind making ripples in the water -- Newman insists there is one big similarity that has helped him to excel in both. Patience.
According to Newman, patience is crucial behind the wheel of a racecar. It helps keep a driver from getting in trouble on the racetrack. There are plenty of times at racetracks big and small when Newman admits that he wants to make his move, but the opportunity isn't right. Patience is the key to keeping him from getting frustrated, losing his cool and making a mistake that can hurt the team's efforts.
It's just like fishing, says the driver of the No. 39 Haas Automation/U.S. Army Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR). He knows that, more than likely, he isn't going to catch a fish in the first few minutes, or even the first few hours, on the lake. It may take a while. So, patience is crucial. Cast the line, reel it in and, if there's no fish, repeat the process in another area of the lake. He knows that, eventually, he will hook a fish.
In the end, Newman says his advice is simple in racing and in fishing -- you can't rush a good thing.
For the No. 39 SHR team, the 2009 season has been proof positive of Newman's advice that patience is vital in racing. After a bumpy start to the season that saw Newman sitting as low as 36th in the point standings, the team could have gotten frustrated and given up. Instead, the crew bonded tighter together and became more determined to prove just how good the No. 39 car, team and driver are. Five races into the season, the No. 39 team found its footing and posted its first top-10 finish.
Patience paid off. The team posted a string of six top-10 finishes in six races, including a fifth-place effort at Pocono in June, which bolstered its position in the standings.
Now, as the series returns to Pocono for Sunday's Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500, Newman and the No. 39 team sit seventh in points with one pole, five top-five and nine top-10 finishes. With just six races remaining before the cutoff for the Chase for the Championship, Newman and his team are more determined than ever to maintain their spot in the top-12.
They are also patiently awaiting their first win of the season.
The team has led races and has been close to victory, but it has yet to reel in that big win. Perhaps this is the weekend the No. 39 team casts its line at just the right time and in just the right spot so that it can enjoy bragging rights for nabbing the day's biggest catch -- a trip to victory lane.
RYAN NEWMAN, Driver of the No. 39 Haas Automation /U.S. Army Chevrolet Impala SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
Is your primary focus right now the race at Pocono or staying in the top-12 in points? How do you balance that?
"I guess I kind of look at it as having two races that we are attacking right now, each weekend, as we get closer to the Chase. Our No. 1 goal is to win the race we are at that weekend. Our No. 2 goal is to put ourselves in the position to be in the top-12 so we can be in the Chase for the Championship. Hopefully, one of these will take care of the other, meaning that a win or even a good finish will bolster us in points and help us to solidify our position in the Chase for the Championship. In the end, our ultimate goal is to win the championship and you can only do that by being in the top-12 at the end of the first 26 races. So, that being said, we just have to stay focused on that and put ourselves in a position to capitalize on those last 10."
What do you like about Pocono Raceway?
"I look forward to the race at Pocono. I've always enjoyed the track because it is so unique. The front straightaway can be boring when you're out front, but that's a good problem to have. As a driver, it's challenging because all three corners are different. Each corner is completely different from the other. 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.
"Because it's challenging that way, the crew chief has to compensate and the driver has to compensate. Setting up the car to be fast at each of the three different ends is a big challenge for the teams. So the race and the track can be a nightmare for a crew chief. It's difficult to keep the car right. It really is a super-tough track."
Talk a little bit about the No. 39 team's first outing to Pocono last month.
"Pocono looked like it was going to be a really bad day for us at one point. We had a spark plug problem that started fairly early in the race. It took us a little bit of time to troubleshoot it. We changed the distributor cap and wires, and then we came back in and changed the faulty spark plug. I told the guys I felt like I was driving an old car or something and troubleshooting at the same time.
"The guys did an awesome job not giving up. We were close to going a lap down on pit road, there, but they kept their cool and they got everything changed. We got lucky just being able to stay on the lead lap with the Haas Automation Chevrolet. I think it was lap 108 or 120 or something like that when we got back on eight cylinders and our car really took off. We took the little extra gamble to put fuel in for the last restart and we gave up a couple of spots but, in the end, it was the right thing to do so we could guarantee ourselves a top-five finish, at least. So it ended up being a good run for our guys to be able to fight back.
"I think, for me, our first trip to Pocono was the perfect example of how this team has pulled together and has fought through adversity to get to where we are in the points. I'm so proud of what we have been able to accomplish. These guys haven't given up on me and I haven't given up on them, and I think that has made us stronger as a team. We have a lot of talented guys and a lot of determined guys on the No. 39 team, and they want to win each and every week and they want to make the Chase. They just have a lot of drive, and I have a lot of respect for them and what they do. I'm really proud of what we have accomplished so far, and we haven't done everything we set out to do at the beginning of the season just yet -- but we will. I keep telling these guys that we are putting ourselves in contention for a win and for the Chase. And if we keep doing that, we will get what we want, and we really want a win."
You have said that Pocono is one of your favorite areas to visit on the schedule. Do you have any special plans this week?
"Pocono is an important stop for me, personally. Krissie's family lives up there, so we try to get in as much time with them while we are in town. They do a big barbecue for the team when we get there, and that is really cool. I just really enjoy the area so, for me, to come to Pocono is a bonus in itself because I get to race and spend a lot of time in the outdoors all in one weekend. There are some great fishing spots in Pocono, and I'm fortunate enough to have friends in the area who have taken me to some really good areas that I wouldn't have gotten access to otherwise. When we were there in June, I actually went and fished a few times on Friday and Saturday with some friends of ours. In fact, we went out to a local lake on Saturday and my buddy and I pulled in something like 52 fish. I brought my crew chief (Tony Gibson) out with me, but I don't think he got quite that many.
"Actually, Tony Gibson and I have a fun little rivalry when it comes to fishing. We're always trying to out-do each other. You know how it is -- if I catch the biggest fish and he catches the most, we'll both jab at each other about who is the better fisherman. Both of us come to the racetrack each weekend with our rods and reels ready to go because you never know when we're going to head to some local pond. It just gives us a good chance to relax and talk -- sometimes about racing, sometimes not. We just have a lot of fun, and I think that makes it easier for us when we get to the racetrack to work."
TONY GIBSON, Crew Chief of the No. 39 Haas Automation /U.S. Army Chevrolet Impala SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
Talk about the No. 39 team's position in the points with six races left until the Chase for the Championship?
"Our goal from the beginning of this season has been to make the Chase. We're in a dog fight right now, and we're just trying to make sure we have every bit of ammunition we need. We have a 145-point lead over 13th, which is great, but we are still fighting to have a bigger cushion. Those points can change so dramatically after each race. We're just doing everything we can to have solid finishes each and every race and to come out of the race with a good points day regardless of where we finish.
"We had a good stretch of top-10s there for a while, and then we had a few weeks where we kind of stumbled. We ran out of fuel in Loudon and got in a wreck at Daytona, and we lost points there. But our focus never changed. We had a good finish at Chicago with a sixth-place run and we gained some points with our 14th-place run this past weekend in Indianapolis. And that's what we know we have to do each and every week to get in the Chase. We want to get back in the top-five and top-10 on the racetrack each week, but we also need to have a good points day at every outing.
"We haven't won a race, yet, but we feel like we may have had a few opportunities that got away from us. We're going back this week to Pocono, where we had a really fast racecar and had a good finish. There are a lot of tracks coming up where we had good finishes, and we're going back to those tracks with the goal of getting the same finish or better. I'm really proud of this Haas Automation/U.S. Army team. Nothing has really come easily this year, but we have never given up. And, hopefully, we will go back to these tracks where we have run well, get another good finish and get some momentum that will carry us into the Chase."
As a crew chief, what makes Pocono such a challenging and sometimes frustrating track?
"For me, I have always liked Pocono. I have had success there with a couple of different drivers, and I like the racetrack, but it is definitely a challenge because it is such a unique track. Your focus is to figure out the three different corners. All the corners are so different that it is hard to find a balance to fit all three. For a crew chief, I think the most important thing is to concentrate on what will help you and your driver the most.
"Luckily, I have worked with a lot of drivers who really enjoy the racetrack, too. Ryan loves Pocono, and we've had the opportunity to sit down this week and talk about what we did there a month ago and what kind of adjustments we would do differently to improve on where we finished. We're really looking forward to getting back there. We had a top-five and Tony and the (No. 14) guys won the race. It would be great to get two more top-fives there and have a good points day."
We're more than halfway into the season at this point. Are you surprised at what the No. 39 team has accomplished at this point? And can you talk about Tony Stewart as an owner?
"I think the fair answer to the first question is, 'Yes and no.' I don't think coming in here that any of us could have predicted that the No. 14 team would be first in points and the No. 39 team would be seventh in points. But with the talent we have in the race shop and in the racecar, I knew that we would be good. The driver, the owner the sponsor support that we have from U.S. Army, Haas Automation and Chevrolet have been awesome, and the relationship that we have with Hendrick Motorsports has really been good all year. If we have a question about the engines or the chassis, they have been right there to help us with everything. So, with all the backing that we have had, I'm not surprised we are where we are 20 races in to the season.
"And Tony is great. He understands how to separate the owner and the driver role, and I think that is part of the reason for our success. At the track, he does keep up with how Ryan and our team are doing and what's going on with us. He's come on the radio and talked to Ryan before the race and during cautions. He is our team's biggest supporter day in and day out. He tells us time and again that he cares about what we do, and we know that he wants to see us in victory lane. For Ryan to win a race would be awesome for him. He gives us everything we need to win races and run well. He wants us to win so badly, and we are trying. He came over after the race a few weeks ago, still in his uniform, and congratulated everybody. And he wanted to find all the guys on the pit crew so he could tell them what a good job they did. It is pretty awesome when a guy like Tony Stewart will stay an hour after the race instead of leaving, and come over there still in his firesuit congratulating all the guys, patting them on the back and pumping them up. There aren't a lot of guys who would do that, and I know that has meant a lot to everyone on the SHR teams."