KANNAPOLIS, N.C.– Don’t give up. Those three little words could easily be the motto for Ryan Newman and the No. 39 U.S. Army Racing team when it comes to tackling the 2.66-mile Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway.
Despite the rotten luck in recent years, Newman and his No. 39 U.S. Army team are more determined than ever to conquer the biggest and fastest racetrack on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series circuit and get that elusive restrictor-plate victory.
This weekend, Newman & Company will take a page from its U.S. Army counterparts as it rolls into Talladega for the Good Sam Roadside Assistance 500. Just like the 1 million Army Strong Soldiers they represent across the globe – they will put the mission first, attacking their goals with focus, determination and a refusal to accept defeat.
Yes, the Alabama superspeedway hasn’t been particularly kind to Newman, the 2008 Daytona 500 champion. He’s been spun, turned end-over-end and has landed on his roof in the infield. Thanks to the level of engineering and teamwork involved in building and running those racecars, reflective of the Army’s leading-edge technology and the powerful, realistic training of its Army Strong Soldiers, Newman has emerged unscathed from each mishap.
In 21 starts at Talladega, Newman has four top-five finishes and seven top-10s. In seven starts there since joining SHR in 2009, he has just one top-five finish and four finishes of 35th or worse.
His third-place effort during the April 2009 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.
But after an impressive fifth-place finish this past July at the other superspeedway on the schedule – Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway –
Newman is ready to put his past Talladega demons behind him.
With seven races remaining in the 2012 Sprint Cup season, Newman and his No. 39 U.S. Army Racing team are fighting to be the “best of the rest.” Their goal is to finish 13th in points – the best of any non-Chase racer – and a solid performance this weekend in a race during which anything can happen could go a long way toward helping Newman achieve that goal.
The Soldiers that Newman represents are the strength of the U.S. Army, and the Army is the strength of our Nation. Newman and his No. 39 team will need to tap into that strength to survive the high-speed chess match that is Talladega Superspeedway.
More than ever, Newman will need to showcase the physical, mental and emotional strength – the strength like none other – that our Army Strong Soldiers display every day, in order to accomplish the No. 39 U.S. Army Chevrolet team’s mission of arriving in Talladega’s victory lane.
RYAN NEWMAN, Driver of the No. 39 U.S. Army Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing:
What does it take to have a good, clean finish at Talladega?
“I wish I knew the answer to that. This U.S. Army Racing team has really been on the short end of the stick at Talladega for the past few years. Despite our rotten luck, this team has not given up on succeeding at this track. Just like our U.S. Army Soldiers, we have a mission – and that mission is to win this race. And 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. Just like our Army Strong Soldiers, we will have to display a strength like none other this weekend – we will have to be mentally, emotionally and physically strong to be successful at Talladega. And we have to have some luck on our side. If you think about the law of averages, sooner or later we’re not only going to finish a race at Talladega, like we did at Daytona in July, 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. We had a fifth-place finish at Daytona in July, which was huge for us. 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 the weekend?
“I wouldn’t say I dread coming to Talladega. It’s not my favorite racetrack, but I don’t say 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 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.”
How mentally demanding is racing at tracks like Talladega and Daytona?
“Honestly, you prepare yourself from the moment you get to the track, and you know that you’re going to be using your head a lot when it comes to this type of racing. This is the perfect place for us to reflect what it means to be an Army Strong Soldier, to have that mental, physical and emotional strength, a strength like none other. It’s a high-speed chess match. You have to know what you are doing and pay attention to what the people around you are doing. But I go into the race ready for it. It’s really hard on the mind just as far as what’s going to play out, working together and really being on top of things. You have to think one step ahead. It’s definitely a different mindset. I just think you have to be ready for it.”
Your teammate and you have a history of not really drafting together. Is there a reason for that?
“Drafting-wise, we’ve always kind of paired up with other teams. It’s always nice to be able to come back and rely on your teammate instead of relying on your teammate and he’s not there, sending you to try and find somebody else to rely on. So, we’ve kind of always had that in our back pocket. It’s never really worked out, but our restrictor-plate luck has been so hit-and-miss at times, even when we do finish, we’ve had a car lying on its hood at Talladega and things like that. So we’ll see how it works out. I think it’s most important for us to be on the same cycle when it comes to strategy and tires and fuel and all that stuff, and pitting together so we can have each other’s back. With the number of Hendrick-powered cars, there’s a good potential that we’ll all have each other’s back at some point in the race.”
Source: Stewart-Haas Racing