Charlotte II: Ryan Newman preview

RYAN NEWMAN PROVING HIS TEAM IS THE BEST OF THE REST KANNAPOLIS, N.C. (Oct. 13, 2010) -- Ryan Newman and his No. 39 Stewart-Haas Racing team have been on an impressive streak in recent weeks. In the last seven races, Newman has six top-10s and...


KANNAPOLIS, N.C. (Oct. 13, 2010) -- Ryan Newman and his No. 39 Stewart-Haas Racing team have been on an impressive streak in recent weeks.

In the last seven races, Newman has six top-10s and one top-five finish, which he earned this past weekend at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. His worst finish during that stretch was an 11th-place at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway on Sept. 11.

However, in a lot of respects, Newman & Company feel the impressive numbers are too little, too late, for a run in the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship was not in the cards for them this year. Newman and his No. 39 Haas Automation team fell just short of making the Chase and were relegated to the outside looking in on the battle for the championship.

As the always analytical Purdue engineering graduate has said, his team is off to a great start in a Chase that unfortunately doesn't matter to them. In fact, the team has performed so solidly in the first four races of this year's Chase that it would be sitting in fifth place, 86 points behind Chase leader Jimmie Johnson had things worked out differently for the No. 39.

While Newman and his team don't have the chance to make a run for the championship, they still have six races to prove they are the best of the rest. Newman's team doesn't dwell on the "what-ifs." Instead, they're focusing on their goals over the final six races of the 2010 season. They want to finish 13th in points, making Newman the highest non-Chase driver in the final standings.

Newman and his team want to keep their streak of top-10 finishes alive and, more than anything, they want to contend for wins over these next six races. And with Newman's recent runs, it seems that the No. 39 team is certainly poised for its second victory of the year.

Perhaps, there's no better place for that to happen than this weekend at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway in the Bank of America 500.

Earlier this year, Newman called the 1.5-mile oval "the centerfold of racetracks." The high-banked, high-speed Charlotte oval has always been a favorite of the South Bend, Ind., native, ever since the first time he drove it in a rental car with mentor Buddy Baker.

Newman's love for the track was obvious in his first stock car outing in the 2000 ARCA race at Charlotte, when he started on the pole and dominated the race, leading 66 of 67 laps en route to victory.

He followed up that win by claiming his first-ever NASCAR Sprint Cup Series pole position in just his third Cup start in May 2001. And the following season, Newman shocked the field when he went from worst to first to become only the second rookie to capture a victory in the All-Star Race at Charlotte.

Newman's record in the NASCAR Nationwide Series at Charlotte is equally impressive as he has one win (2005), three top-five and four top-10 finishes in four starts.

Obviously, Newman has proven he knows what it takes to get around Charlotte.

In 19 Sprint Cup starts at the 1.5-mile oval, he has nine poles -- the most of any active driver and second on the all-time list only to David Pearson, who has 14 poles. Newman has four top-five and seven top-10 finishes, with a best finish of second -- in the fall of 2003 and in the 2009 Coca-Cola 600.

This weekend, Newman's focus is on continuing his impressive run of late. While Newman is known for his lightning-quick qualifying efforts at Charlotte, he hopes to turn that one winning lap into a race victory and perhaps become the first non-Chase driver to score a victory in the 2010 Chase.

Newman and his No. 39 team are determined to prove that they are the best of the rest.

RYAN NEWMAN, Driver of the No. 39 Haas Automation Chevrolet Impala for Stewart-Haas Racing:

You have nine poles at Charlotte Motor Speedway -- the most of any active Sprint Cup driver and five behind David Pearson, who has 14 poles. What is it about this racetrack that has made you such a good qualifier?

"In general, I like this racetrack. I like the speed. I like the banking. When I first came here with Buddy Baker, we drove around in a rental car and, after one lap I told him I was going to like this place. I always have. It is a place that I like. I have been fortunate to have good equipment and I have been able to take that good equipment and make it fast. It is just a combination of team effort and, nine times out of 19, we have been able to pull it off."

Your team is on a roll right now. Last weekend, you got a top-five at California, and you've had six top-10 finishes in the last seven races. To what do you attribute that success?

"We've definitely been on a good run, recently. I'm proud of what we've done over these past few weeks. We've shown how strong our team is and how good we are capable of being. I told someone the other day that we've gotten a great start to a Chase that, unfortunately, doesn't matter to us. But although we don't have a shot at the championship, we still have a lot of goals. And those goals are to go out there and win races. We have a responsibility to our sponsors to go out there every week and try to win, and that's what we're doing. We have six races, and we still want to win one or two more before the end of the season. And we want to make sure that we finish 13th in points at the end of the season. And we're doing well right now. Obviously, we've made big strides and you can see that in our finishes. Our pit crew is doing an excellent job. They've stepped it up really big, and I really appreciate their support. We've had good cars and good calls on Tony Gibson's part to get us the top-10 runs. I said last week I felt like we needed to improve on that and make those top-10 runs top-fives, and we were able to do that at California. We just need to keep on doing what we are doing and we'll get the wins. We want to end this season on a high note."

What would it mean for you to eventually tie or overtake David Pearson's pole record at Charlotte?

"Ultimately, it's what we all strive for is to be the fastest, to be the best, to be the quickest and get to victory lane. It would mean a lot to me. I think David Pearson was an excellent racecar driver. Still is. Ultimately, it is just a number, but to be where I am and have a shot at it, that's cool. But I'm still a long way away. It took me this long to get nine, not that it took me that long, but it's not easy to win one, and five more is not going to be easy at all. But I know that when we go to Charlotte, we know we want to have -- we know we can have -- a shot at the pole.

"I really enjoy the racetrack -- the speed, obviously, and the banking. I've always said I really enjoy banked racetracks and this is one of the best and fastest banked racetracks out there. I've had fast racecars with Penske Racing, and now with Stewart-Haas Racing, and just have been blessed with fast racecars. I couldn't do it without fast racecars. I've always told my crew chief, whoever it is at the time, 'If you give me a straight arrow, I'll shoot it straight. But don't expect me to shoot a crooked arrow to the pole.' And they've done a very good job for me."

You said that you knew from the first time you and Buddy Baker took a lap in a rental car around the 1.5-mile Charlotte track that you were going to like it. Explain what you like about Charlotte.

"It's the centerfold of racetracks. It's just sexy. I was doing SIRIUS Radio back in May with Buddy Baker and Steve Post when I said that and they kind of laughed at me. But to me, it is. It's got the banking. It's different on both ends. It's fast. There's a lot of grip. If you're going to build some criteria for a racetrack, I think that's what makes a perfect track."

You have nines poles at Charlotte, but you haven't been able to turn those poles into wins. Why not? What would a win at Charlotte mean to you?

"Honestly, every time I've won the pole here, that seems to be a question that comes up. And in May, I kind of laughed and told the reporters, 'Seriously, you tell me. You listen to everybody who has come in here after they've won and they tell you how they've won. So just go ahead and tell me what you know, if you want me to win.' Honestly, I just don't know the answer. I've had really good racecars here. I've had really bad racecars. I've had good racecars that have gone bad and bad racecars that have gone good, but I've just never been the one to cross the start-finish line first. I won the All-Star race in 2002, and I've been fairly close to winning at Charlotte in a points race before. I've had some fast racecars at Charlotte and, at the end of the race, I have just fallen short. For me, my All-Star race win at Charlotte during my rookie season in 2002 was really special because that was the race we weren't expected to win. I was a rookie. We weren't even in the race to begin with, but we raced our way in that night. And we beat everybody at the home field on a given night and we did it because of the pride and the money, not because of the points, and there's a lot to be said about that. So to me, a win at Charlotte would mean the world."

TONY GIBSON, Crew Chief of the No. 39 Haas Automation Chevrolet Impala for Stewart-Haas Racing:

The No. 39 team has been a model of consistency, recently, scoring six top-10 finishes in the last seven races. To what do you attribute this success?

"Well, I don't know that we have done anything differently. We had worked on some different set-up packages starting before Bristol. We saw some good things there, so we just kind of continued on with it. I think that Ryan is adapting to it, and us learning what to do to it and how to adjust on it better has really been the big thing. I think it's definitely going to pay dividends for us next year, for sure, hopefully with the new nose. I don't really know that we're doing anything differently. I think things are just clicking. Knock on wood, we haven't really had any bad luck. This past Sunday at California, I think we had the car to win, for sure. We just had to fix that damage to our bumper cover on the last pit stop and that put us behind. But he was able to drive back up there to the top-five. I think a few more laps and we would have probably been in a little bit better shape. We were definitely in the catbird's seat there when we were running second, and Ryan thought he had the car to beat at that time. I just think it's really like anything else -- if you run well, everybody feeds off of it. The team, the pit crew, our pit stops have been better. All that stuff just comes together. So there's not one thing I can put my hand on to say we are doing something different, but we are doing little things. It's just building momentum and everybody's feeding off of it."

Do you feel like another win for this team might be just around the corner because of how consistent you have been, recently?

"I think real soon, if things keep going like they're going and we can keep everybody motivated and going in a positive direction, we definitely could win one, here, pretty soon."

This team has been incredibly consistent. You didn't make the Chase, but you were the first team that didn't make it. Had you made the Chase, you would now be sitting fifth in points. Is that something you look at? And if so, do you look at it with disappointment or pride?

"You have to look at it because it is a performance thing. You have to look at it as, 'Should we have been in the Chase?' Absolutely. That being said, you have to look and see how would we have been if we would have been in it. We definitely have shown that we can be a consistent contender every week. I think guys would be worried about us if we were in it. That's been our deal. We never give up no matter what. We could be 30th in points and we would go every week like we could win the race. That's just the attitude of this race team. That pays dividends throughout the year. This team never gives up and never will. I think teams know that about us. They never count us out. It's pretty cool to steal points from those Chase guys.

"It's more a pride thing than anything. Guys know we're there every week and we're competitive. It's just more pride than anything else. Our goal is to finish 13th in points because that's the best we can do, so that's our new goal. After Richmond, we had to set a new goal and that was to win a race or two and make sure we're that first guy who didn't make it in. That's where we need to finish. That's our goal, to make sure we finish 13th and to try and win another race."

Ryan has a great qualifying record at Charlotte. He has nine poles in all, and he actually won two of those with the No. 39 team. Is qualifying a big part of your focus at Charlotte?

"I don't put a big emphasis on qualifying at Charlotte because Ryan does well there. Every week, we want to sit on the pole. There are a lot of guys who are good at qualifying now that weren't before. At Charlotte, we have been extremely good and Ryan is great there. That doesn't mean we're just going to go back there this weekend and sit on the pole because qualifying draw does have a lot to do with it. We're going there with the goal of winning the race."

In three point races at Charlotte, the No. 39 team has never finished lower than 11th. What would a win at Charlotte mean?

"We really don't have a whole lot to lose, so we can gamble on things. We want to win at our home track. To go there and win would really be something special because it's in everyone's backyard and everyone has family and friends there. It would be cool. We're going to go hard at it and try and win a race here pretty quick. We need to. And we want to for the pride side of it. That's what we are feeding off of right now -- our momentum and our pride. We're going to win one before it's over. It's just a matter of being there at the right time. We're just going to try and use this momentum to make it happen."

-source: shr

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Ryan Newman , Jimmie Johnson , Buddy Baker , David Pearson
Teams Stewart-Haas Racing , Team Penske