KANNAPOLIS, N.C. (Aug. 6, 2013) – Ryan Newman’s 17 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victories have come at various venues across the circuit. From a superspeedway win in the 50th running of the Daytona 500 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway to a short track victory at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, it seems Newman has won at every type of track. However, there’s one trophy missing from his shelf.
With a victory at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International this weekend, Newman would join an elite list of drivers who have won at every type of track on the Sprint Cup circuit: superspeedway, speedway, intermediate, short track and road course.
Newman came close to winning at Watkins Glen during his rookie year in 2002. He started fifth and led 11 laps before relinquishing the lead to his current teammate and car owner Tony Stewart, who went on to beat him across the finish line by 1.636 seconds.
In 11 career Sprint Cup starts at Watkins Glen, Newman has the one top-five finish and three top-10s. And while he hasn’t won there in Sprint Cup, Newman did capture a NASCAR Nationwide Series victory at The Glen in 2005.
Which is why a win this weekend at The Glen would not only complete Newman’s trophy case, it would do so in fantastic fashion as it would also move him ahead of his fellow competitors in pursuit of a wild-card berth in the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship.
Just five races remain before the 12-driver field is set for the 10-race Chase, which will crown the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion. And, as the series heads to The Glen for the second and final road-course race of the season, Newman is in the midst of a hotly contested battle for a coveted Chase berth.
He jumped from 19th to 15th in the point standings thanks to his win two weeks ago at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, followed by his fourth-place finish at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway Sunday. Newman finds himself only 24 points outside the all-important top-10 and, as one of only three drivers between 11th and 20th in points with a victory, he finds his chances of making the 12-driver, 10-race Chase either by climbing inside the top-10 or via a possible wild-card berth certainly within reach.
But as good as his chances seem to look, Newman heads to Watkins Glen in a precarious position as only the top-10 are locked into the Chase, which begins Sept. 16 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill. Chase positions 11 and 12 are wild cards and are awarded to those drivers between 11th and 20th in points who have the most wins. In the event of multiple drivers having the same amount of wins, a driver’s point standing serves as the tiebreaker.
Stewart holds the 11th-place wild-card spot thanks to his victory at Dover (Del.) International Speedway and his current point standing of 11th. But he will miss the race this weekend at Watkins Glen due to an injury sustained in a Sprint Car accident Monday night at Southern Iowa Speedway in Oskaloosa. Martin Truex Jr., currently 14th in the point standings, holds the 12th-place wild-card spot thanks to his win at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway and his nine-point advantage over the 15th-place Newman.
Newman will likely inherit Stewart’s wild-card spot this weekend but could solidify his place in the standings by earning another victory in the next five races, or by climbing into the top-10 in points.
So, Newman and his team, led by crew chief Matt Borland, will look to continue their trend of strong finishes with their eye on taking The Glen’s winding road to victory lane. They know what a second win would mean in their bid to make the Chase. And, for Newman, it would fill the lone void in his personal trophy case.
RYAN NEWMAN, Driver of the No. 39 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
Talk about the road course at Watkins Glen and your team’s strategy to try and make the Chase.
“We’re there to get the best finish we can. We’re there to win. That’s pretty much it. I’m really proud of the team, and I’m really proud of the effort we’ve put forth these past several weeks. I feel like we’re heading to Watkins Glen with momentum on our side which, obviously, comes at a very critical time for the No. 39 team. We’ve got to keep doing what we’ve been doing as of late and, if we’re able to do that, we’ll continue our climb in the points and hopefully be able to lock ourselves into the top-10.”
What are the keys to running well at Watkins Glen?
“The real key to The Glen is being able to get through the carousel, to carry enough speed getting through the long sweeping corner and coming off of it to get a good run coming off the back chute. The carousel, turn one and getting through the esses are very important. It’s a place where you have to be considerate. Turn one has some rumbles in it. You can wheel-hop pretty easily getting into turn one. The esses are all about finesse going up the hill. And the fastest part of the racetrack is going into the bus stop, where you really have to brake hard. You try to carry as much speed over there and not overbrake. You can gain and lose so much time under braking. The bus stop and the carousel are all smooth and finesse for 90-degree turns. You have to get them right. It’s important to be smooth on road courses.”
You have 17 wins in the Sprint Cup series at 11 different racetracks. The only type of track you have not won on to date in the Sprint Cup series is a road course. What does that say about your driving ability?
“The fact is, I enjoy most all racetracks. There are tracks I prefer over others, but there are no tracks I truly dislike. It’s not like I say I hate going to this racetrack this weekend. So I think that helps in giving me an opportunity to be successful at most, if not all, of them. Just from a driving standpoint, I always said one of my heroes was A.J. Foyt. The modern-day A.J. Foyt is a guy who can drive anything, anywhere, any time. So, hopefully, I can create enough stats and increase the 11 of 17 into like 20 of 40, or something like that. We’ll keep working on it. I like all kinds of different racetracks. I haven’t won on the road course, yet, in the Sprint Cup series, but it’s something I’d love to do this year.”
You enter Watkins Glen 15th in points, 24 out of 10th, third in the wild card standings, but knocking on the door of second place in those standings. Things seem to be heading in the right direction for the No. 39 team these days.
“The last two races were awesome for us as far as the point standings go. It would have been really good if we were able to get our second win of the season at Pocono, but the guys we’re racing could likely say the same things with regard to some of the races they’ve had. Matt Borland and the guys are doing a great job bringing fast racecars to the track every week. I’m looking forward to heading to Watkins Glen this week, and I’m especially looking forward to Michigan the following week because the package we’ve got on the bigger, flatter tracks really seems to be working well for us right now.”
Momentum seems to be on the side of the No. 39 team. What are the chances of keeping that momentum going this weekend at Watkins Glen and possibly getting your first win at a road course?
“I sure hope we can. I’ve finished second there, back in 2002, and did that with no power steering in the racecar. I know I’m capable of it, but we’ve got to do our homework because the strategy sometimes is the most important part of road-course racing, on top of having a fast racecar, of course. The way the pit windows work out and putting yourself in the right place, track-position wise, qualifying at Watkins Glen is so important because you’re only making two, maybe three pit stops and that makes a big difference.”
Is there a track between Watkins Glen and Richmond that the No. 39 team is looking at and saying ‘that’s our best bet to get another win, right there?’
“All of them. I honestly feel like we can be competitive at every one of them. I would have to say, based on our numbers and recent performance that Michigan probably holds the most potential based on how we ran at both Indy and Pocono, but Atlanta is likely to be a bit of a wild card with the way that racetrack is and the tires are for the next few races before we get to the Chase. Who knows? We’ll see. That’s why we love this sport.”
What do you think about road-course racing?
“I like road courses. They’re difficult to pass on. It seems like there are only a couple of passing zones. I’ve always said the more corners there are without passing zones, the more opportunities there are to fall behind the guy who’s in front of the guy who’s in front of you. Road courses are unique in their own right. I wish we had a third one because I think they’re fun. To me, Watkins Glen provides better racing than Sonoma and I personally enjoy it a bit more. I really enjoy the challenge, the hustle of the racecar, the heavy braking. It’s not the easiest place to pass. Everybody kind of knows that. It’s a track-position race and fuel mileage has become a big part of the racing there. It’s usually a two-stop fuel race. You don’t get a lot of chances to work on your racecar, similar to places like Loudon and Richmond. To me, it’s just fun to hustle those cars around the racetrack. In road-course racing, the driver can make up more than he can at an oval just by being able to hustle a car. You have the added mannerism, I guess you could say, of braking. When you brake at short tracks, it’s not the same as when you brake and downshift. So, you have to be a smooth downshifter, you have to be a good braker. Obviously, you have to turn right. There are extra characteristics that you have to include at road courses that you don’t have to include at ovals. That separates the men from the boys, typically. We look forward to going there and doing well.”