KANNAPOLIS, N.C. (May 1, 2012) – “The charm of fishing is that it is the pursuit of what is elusive but attainable, a perpetual series of occasions for hope.” – John Buchan
Next to his family and racing, there’s no greater passion for Ryan Newman than fishing.
An avid outdoorsman, Newman is always looking for an opportunity to make his way to the local fishing hole nearest the track where the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series is in action on any given weekend. While on the road, Newman carries about 12 fishing rods, tackle boxes and a three-piece boat with a trolling motor and battery so he can head out to fish whenever he can.
For Newman, fishing provides a much-needed escape from the hectic schedule he has on the weekends. He can turn off the outside world for a little while and simply relax and enjoy the peacefulness of the scenery around him.
Newman’s been fishing as long as he can remember. His grandfather bought him his first fishing rod and took him fishing on a lake in Michigan when he was just a kid. In fact, he started fishing and racing right around the same time – at the tender age of 4.
Perhaps that’s why the always-analytical Newman can find a connection between the two very different sports he loves, which will come together this weekend at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway as the South Bend, Ind., native pilots the No. 39 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats Chevy for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) in Sunday’s Aaron’s 499 Sprint Cup race.
So, what’s the common thread between fishing and racing?
In Newman’s eyes, there’s one thing any good fisherman or good racecar driver must have to have to be successful –patience. It’s important to take your time and not get frustrated, whether at the pond or on the racetrack, because that can affect the outcome.
As a fisherman, Newman knows there’s a good chance he won’t catch a fish in his first few minutes on the lake. In fact, he knows it’s a process that could take hours. Cast your line, reel it in, repeat. If there’s no fish, then find another area of water and cast your line, reel it in, repeat.
The same goes on the racetrack. As Newman explains it, patience behind the wheel is crucial, particularly in the extremely tight packs of cars that will circle the famed Talladega Superspeedway this weekend in the Aaron’s 499. The temporary phenomenon of two-car tandem racing that took center stage at the 2.66-mile racetrack the last two seasons is already a thing of the past. With that, the old, familiar tight-pack racing that is so conducive to the multi-car melee is expected to be back in full effect this weekend.
Thus, the series’ biggest and fastest racetracks – Talladega and its sister track, Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway – remain the ones where Newman’s patience is continually tested more than any other racetrack.
The key to survival in such circumstances is to stay calm and just wait for your turn, Newman says. Eventually, the opening will be there and the driver will be able to make his move. Patience keeps you from getting frustrated, losing your cool and making a mistake that could end your day, as well as that of many others.
Seeing his day end early at Talladega is something Newman knows all too well. Over the years, the superspeedway hasn’t been particularly kind to the 2008 Daytona 500 champion. He’s been spun, turned end-over-end and has landed on his roof in the infield.
In 20 starts at Talladega, Newman has four top-five finishes and seven top-10s. In six starts there since joining SHR in 2009, Newman has just one top-five finish and three finishes of 35th or worse.
His third-place effort during the 2009 spring race is his best-ever finish at the superspeedway, and it actually ended with a demolished racecar. Newman managed to finish third despite not being able to see through the massive front-end damage his car received during a spectacular last-lap altercation with Carl Edwards.
Even though Newman has endured his share of Talladega tribulations, he remains patient and confident his luck will turn around and he will finally get that elusive win at the Alabama track. While everyone will be talking about avoiding the “Big One” – the multi-car accident that’s been a trademark occurrence at the 2.66-mile superspeedway – Newman will be angling for his own version of the “Big One,” both while trying to reel in the largest fish from the local pond, and while piloting the No. 39 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats Chevy to his first restrictor-plate race win with SHR.
RYAN NEWMAN, Driver of the No. 39 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing:
Talk a little bit about racing luck Talladega.
“I’m just wanting to know, when the dice get rolled, if they’re going to play in our favor or not. In all honesty, Talladega is a crapshoot. This team has proven time and again at the restrictor-plate tracks that we will do what we have to do to put ourselves in position to go for the win, and we’ll just have to see if luck is on our side on Sunday when we’re in that spot. If you think about the law of averages, sooner or later we’re not only going to finish a race at Daytona and Talladega, we’re going to get a good finish – maybe even a win – considering all the wrong-place, wrong-time wrecks we’ve been caught up in at both tracks. Hopefully, this is our time to come out of Talladega with a strong finish and a racecar in one piece.”
You’ve had some bad experiences at Talladega and have been quite vocal about the racing there. So, what are your thoughts on coming to Talladega and how do you approach coming here?
“I wouldn’t say that I dread coming to Talladega. It’s not my favorite racetrack, but I don’t say that I dread it. I love doing what I do. I love driving a racecar even at Talladega. I think the difference is there’s more potential to get involved in something not of your making there, and that’s frustrating to me. But that’s not just me. Everyone hopes they can avoid the big crash there. And, to be honest, when you’re up front at Talladega, it’s great. When you’re not, it can be miserable. When you’re the recipient of somebody else’s lack of judgment, then it’s not easy to talk about it. And that’s pretty much it. It’s just that there is way more potential for that there than there is at most other racetracks. So, I don’t think I’m any different than anybody else. I’d love to win the race but, when I’m the recipient of somebody else’s misjudgment, that’s even more aggravating to me. But what I can say is we’ve had very good superspeedway cars since I’ve been at Stewart-Haas Racing. We’ve led the most laps and we’ve been in position to win a couple of races. And (Tony) Stewart has won a couple of races. So, I’m very confident coming into Talladega, and I feel good about our racecars. Now, we just have to have some luck on our side to finish the deal.”
You mention luck a lot. How much of winning a restrictor-plate race is luck, as opposed to skill?
“I’ve always said there is always luck in racing. You can create the destiny of your own luck. That luck can be good luck or bad luck. You have to prepare yourself to get out of the bad luck and into the good luck. When I won the Daytona 500 in 2008, part of it was lucky, part of it was the timing of things, part of it was Kurt (Busch) driving his tail off to get behind me coming off turn two. That was skill and, for me, it was luck. It is all a matter of opinion. You can ask 42 other guys out there, they might have thought I got lucky when I won. For me I thought it was skill.”