Pocono: Ryan Newman preview

RYAN NEWMAN A Winning Demo Day is the Goal for 39 Team at Pocono KANNAPOLIS, N.C. (June 3, 2009) -- When Ryan Newman was given the opportunity to try his hand at stock car racing, it didn't take long for the open-wheel standout and former USAC...

RYAN NEWMAN
A Winning Demo Day is the Goal for 39 Team at Pocono

KANNAPOLIS, N.C. (June 3, 2009) -- When Ryan Newman was given the opportunity to try his hand at stock car racing, it didn't take long for the open-wheel standout and former USAC champion to demonstrate his driving talent.

Two races to be exact.

On July 22, 2000, at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway, it was proven that the hype surrounding the engineering college student from South Bend, Ind., who wanted to compete and win in the top ranks of stock car racing, had what it took. Newman had teamed with Penske Racing as a development driver and handily won the ARCA Series race that day in his first visit to the "Tricky Triangle."

After starting on the outside pole, Newman led 40 of the 80 laps en route to the dominating victory. The win came in only his second start behind the wheel of a stock car. He followed that first win with two more dominating wins in the ARCA Series before making his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series debut later that season at Phoenix International Raceway in Avondale, Ariz.

Nine years, a college degree, 273 Sprint Cup starts and 13 victories later, Newman continues to demonstrate his talent behind the wheel of the No. 39 Haas Automation Demo Day/U.S. Army Chevrolet Impala SS. This weekend, Newman and his Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) team will return to the site of his first-ever stock car win with the goal of achieving their first-ever win together.

In recent weeks, Newman and his No. 39 SHR team have put on a demonstration of consistency. In the past five races, Newman has scored a pole position at Lowe's Motor Speedway near Charlotte, N.C., four top-five and five top-10 finishes -- a feat that he hasn't accomplished since his 2003 sophomore season in the Sprint Cup Series.

The solid string of finishes has bolstered the team from 36th in the Sprint Cup championship point standings following a shaky start at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway to fifth, halfway to the Chase for the Championship.

The consistency and the solid finishes have proven just how talented, focused and competitive both Newman and his crew are. The team is confident and determined to continue its impressive run and steady climb through the points. But one thing remains missing from its resume -- its first win.

Newman has enjoyed success at Pocono in the past. In addition to his first stock car victory in the ARCA Series at the 2.5-mile triangle in 2000, Newman has collected two poles (2003, 2007), one win (2003), five top-five and six top-10 finishes in 14 Sprint Cup starts.

Perhaps the elusive victory for Newman and his No. 39 team will find them at Pocono's "Tricky Triangle." After all, Newman and his team have shown their strength on the racetrack and ability to compete week in and week out. This weekend, they'd like nothing more than to demonstrate their ability to celebrate in victory lane.

Joining Newman and the No. 39 team as they seek the victory will be sponsor Haas Automation Demo Day. The semi-annual event -- held on June 17 this year -- takes place at 50 Haas Factory Outlets around the country. Each Haas Factory Outlet will hold a customer appreciation event at their facility to demonstrate Haas machine tools, provide seminars on labor-saving ideas and show off their service capabilities. This year marks the 16th Demo Day, one of which will be held at the Stewart-Haas Racing shop in Kannapolis, N.C. This year's event will have a special Tony Stewart theme, and on that day, Haas Automation will unveil of the official, limited-edition Tony Stewart VF-2SS Haas machine.

RYAN NEWMAN, Driver of the No. 39 Haas Automation Demo Day/U.S. Army Chevrolet Impala SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:

Can you talk about the No. 39 team and the success you have had over the past five races?

"It's been huge, I can tell you that much. It has been a really long time since I have had a string of top-fives and top-10s like I have now, and I just want to continue that as long as we can. I keep telling the guys that we can't rest on what we have accomplished so far. We have to keep digging and keep hustling because if we keep putting ourselves in the position to win a race like we have for the past several weeks, whether it's because our car is that strong or pit strategy or whatever, sooner or later we are going to get what we want, and that's our first win. They say that getting that first win is the hardest thing. I believe that if we keep doing what we're doing, we're going to get that win, and who knows what will happen after that."

To what do you credit the success?

"As far as who or what do I credit for the success, it has been a total team effort from the word 'go' at Stewart-Haas Racing. Tony Stewart put together a tremendous group of talented racers to lead our team -- Bobby Hutchens (SHR Director of Competition), Tony Gibson (No. 39 crew chief) and Darian Grubb (No. 14 crew chief), just to name a few. Gibson brought his whole team with him from Dale Earnhardt Inc., and that's my team, now. We've all just gelled and everyone seems to work together well, and we are working toward a common goal. Of course, the support from Chevrolet and Hendrick Motorsports has been huge. I guess, what I'm trying to say is, there isn't just one person or one thing that I can credit for our team's success.

"I'm just really proud of what we have accomplished, so far. I'm ecstatic with where we are sitting in points. We have battled back from a rough start. We keep moving forward. I think I've said before that I'm proud of the fact we have improved in the points each week. So, like I said, it's been really a group effort. There are a lot of people who have been instrumental in helping our Chevrolet get faster each week, working on our pit stops, working on our race cars, working on downforce and things like that. It's been a lot of fun, and I -- we -- just want to keep the ball rolling. To me, that's the most important thing -- that we keep moving forward and we keep improving each and every week."

What do you like about Pocono Raceway?

"I've always enjoyed Pocono because it's unique. The track has three independent corners, and because of that, it is truly a driver's racetrack. 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. The uniqueness of the track also makes it one of the more difficult places to qualify.

"As much as I like racing at Pocono, I know that, for a crew chief, the track is a challenge. 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."

Pocono is where you got your first win in a stock car. You are still waiting on your first win with SHR. How hungry are you for that win?

"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 for my family and for everyone who had helped me in my racing career along the way. Growing up in Indiana, I had 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 had 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. There was some excitement on the final laps, some bumping, but it was a big win for me.

"And yes, I think all of us are anxious and hungry to get that first win for the No. 39 team. It's been over a year without a win for me, and for Tony as an owner to get that points win, would really be something special. We're inching closer each week. In my opinion, we just have to keep doing what we've been doing and stay working hard. It's really easy to get complacent in this sport and, not that we're in that position, but I told the guys after Richmond that we'll just keep doing what we're doing and we'll get what we want. That's obviously a victory, so we'll just put the effort in it and I know that we will get that win."

Pocono is one of your favorite areas to visit on the schedule. Do you have any special plans this week?

"I really enjoy the area so, for me, to come to Pocono is a bonus in itself because I enjoy the outdoors. There are some great fishing spots there, but don't ask me where they are because a good fisherman never tells where his favorite spots are. I don't want to share. Krissie's family also lives in the area, so we spend some time with them at their house, grilling out and having a really good time.

"Tony Gibson and I have a fun little rivalry when it comes to fishing, so we're looking forward to hitting the fishing holes this weekend once the garage closes each night. If I fish and Gibson's not there, or vice-versa, we'll text pictures back and forth. We went fishing after the Coca-Cola 600. I caught the biggest fish and Tony caught the most. So, we'll see what happens this weekend."

TONY GIBSON, Crew Chief of the No. 39 Haas Automation Demo Day/U.S. Army Chevrolet Impala SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:

The No. 39 team has now moved to fifth in points. Are you surprised that you guys are in the top-five in points with just 13 races together?

"I'm not surprised that we have done so well or that we are fifth in points right now. I knew this team was capable of consistently getting top-fives and top-10s. Honestly, I knew that we had the capability at Daytona. We had a great car there. We just had the misfortune, and we never got a chance to show how good we could be. I think what has really been important for this team is that this team has stuck together and they haven't given up, even when they had the opportunity to do so. We stayed focused. Our luck turned around. I think if I am surprised about anything, it is how quickly we have been able to gain points and make up spots."

You have had a string of top-fives and top-10s lately. Is it frustrating because you haven't won, yet?

"This past weekend at Dover, we thought we had a chance to sit on the pole, but we had the car too loose, so we kind of kicked ourselves over that. And during the race, we just never got the balance on the car right. We couldn't find our sweet spot. We were a top-10 car all day, and we finished eighth, but we were disappointed after the race. This team feels like we should have a top-five every week. That's where our standard is. I look at it and think it's pretty nice to be disappointed with an eighth-place finish. So, yes, our team is ready to win. I don't know if we are frustrated that we haven't won, but you could say that we are focused on putting ourselves in the position to win each week. If we keep doing what we have been doing, we will win. There's no doubt about that."

As a crew chief, what makes Pocono such a challenging and sometimes frustrating track?

"It is definitely a challenge. 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. In my opinion, that's focusing on turn three. Being good in turn three is crucial, because that's where you can gain the most momentum and make the most passes -- coming out of turn three and onto the front straightaway heading into turn one. "

You're an outdoors kind of guy, as is your driver. Do you and Ryan have any plans at Pocono? Is there a rivalry between you two fishermen?

"Oh, yeah. We've already made our plans for fishing on Friday and Saturday. It's a really good way for Ryan and I to get away and talk about what's going on at the track and to get our minds off of the track, too. It's just relaxing for us. Ryan hasn't ever really said there's any competition between us when we are out fishing, but we are both racers, which means we are both competitive. I can tell that we are definitely trying to one-up each other. We went fishing the other night and I caught several fish. I think Ryan got one. Same thing happened at Atlanta. Usually, Ryan gets the bigger fish, but I have reeled in more fish, quantity-wise. The most important thing, though, is we have fun. I think we're both looking forward to spending some time outside with our fishing rods this weekend at Pocono. Ryan says he has a few good places lined up for us, so we'll see who does better."

-credit: shr

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Tony Stewart , Ryan Newman
Teams Stewart-Haas Racing , Team Penske , Hendrick Motorsports