Ryan Newman returns to the first track he ever saw a NASCAR race on this weekend as he leads the #39 U.S. Army Stewart-Haas Racing team to the Michigan International Speedway for Sunday’s Quicken Loans 400.
But this weekend’s event will serve a much larger purpose than to bring back old memories as the Indiana driver helps the U.S. Army celebrate its 237th birthday.
“It’s the U.S. Army’s birthday, and it would really be special if I could drive the Soldiers’ car into victory lane at my home track,” Newman said. “I say it all the time, but I’m obviously proud to represent the Soldiers and the Army. I just hope this weekend I can honor over a million people who fight for our freedom each and every day with a win. To me, that would be the perfect way to say both ‘thank you’ and ‘happy birthday.’”
But to get to Victory Lane this weekend, Newman and the rest of the NASCAR Sprint Cup field will have to deal with a new racing surface – much like they did a week ago at Pocono. And while tracks have to be repaved once in a while, Newman admitted that he would much rather spend a day racing on the old track instead of the new surface.
“As far as I’m concerned, we all like the old asphalt. That and the tire combination made for some of the best racing,” Newman told. “As drivers, I never like to see them paved. I love them when they’re old and they have character and they’re lacking grip and then you really have to drive the racecar. We can take a tire there that’s pretty grippy and falls off, and that is a good combination for us as drivers, especially for the racing and for the fans.”
It’s the U.S. Army’s birthday, and it would really be special if I could drive the Soldiers’ car into victory lane at my home track.
“That’s just a factor of the change and the use that we have of the racetrack. Just like every other racetrack, it will change the grip and the tire combination, which will have an effect on the racing. I don’t think we’ve ever gone to a newly surfaced racetrack and run three-wide or had three grooves to work with, so it changes the characteristics of the racing. In saying that, it’s something that has to be done for the future of our sport from a safety standpoint. I know they also work pretty hard there, too, with the weepers and the water drainage, so there are some things I think they’ve learned at other racetracks that they can apply to Michigan to help with the drying process and the safety aspect of it, as well. It’s going to be another work in progress for Goodyear to bring and build a tire for a new racetrack of this shape and of this caliber.”
Newman and a number of the other Cup drivers will get their first looks at the track on Thursday with a day-long test session. The former sprint-car driver is looking forward to a faster track like they saw a week ago when drivers shattered the track record – going 7 mph faster than they had ever gone before.
“It kind of depends on the temperature,” Newman surmised. “If we get a cloudy, 65-degree day, it will potentially be really, really fast. That makes a big difference. The speeds are fast. When you talk about 215, 217 (mph) going into the corners, that’s faster than we’ve ever been anywhere at any time.”