RYAN NEWMAN Eager for a Home Track Advantage, Boost at Chicagoland KANNAPOLIS, N.C. (July 7, 2010) -- There's no place like home. And for Ryan Newman, this weekend's LifeLock.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill., is as close as he...
Eager for a Home Track Advantage, Boost at Chicagoland
KANNAPOLIS, N.C. (July 7, 2010) -- There's no place like home. And for Ryan Newman, this weekend's LifeLock.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill., is as close as he gets to his hometown while traveling the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series circuit.
The 1.5-mile oval is just a little more than 100 miles from Newman's hometown of South Bend, Ind., where the Purdue University graduate began driving in circles under his parents' watchful eyes at the young age of 4.
Although Chicagoland Speedway wasn't added to the Sprint Cup circuit until 2001, Newman is familiar with the area surrounding the track as he has been racing throughout the region since he was a mere tyke, piloting everything from Quarter-Midgets to Midgets to Sprint cars.
Perhaps having the familiarity and comforts of home will pay off for Newman this weekend at Chicagoland. And that couldn't come at a better time.
This weekend's race marks the start of the second half of the 2010 Sprint Cup season. It also marks a crucial point for Newman and his Stewart-Haas Racing team in their quest to make the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship. With eight races remaining to the Chase, Newman sits in the 15th spot, just 80 points outside of the 12-driver cutoff.
In eight Sprint Cup starts at Chicagoland, Newman has one pole (2002), one win (2003), two top-five and five top-10 finishes. In fact, Newman has three consecutive top-10 finishes at the 1.5-mile oval, including last season's sixth-place effort.
That's just the kind of performance Newman & Company need this weekend at Chicagoland in order to boost their efforts and build momentum as the Chase nears.
Luckily, that's a role Chicagoland Speedway has successfully played in Newman's career once before in 2003. During his sophomore season, Newman entered the Chicago race with two wins, seven top-10 finishes and five DNFs. He was 16th in points.
That weekend, Newman qualified what he termed a disappointing 14th for the 400-mile event, but determination and strategy played into his team's favor during the race. In the end, Newman led twice for 67 laps, including the final 58, and won the race in near-dominating fashion. He beat now-teammate Tony Stewart to the checkered flag by more than 2.6 seconds.
For Newman, it was his third race win of the season but, more importantly, gave him and his team a burst of momentum for the second half of the Sprint Cup campaign. The win sparked a run in which Newman collected six victories in just 13 races.
In fact, starting with that Chicago race, Newman finished outside of the top-10 only four times in the second half of 2003 (a total of 19 races including Chicago). He finished the 2003 season sixth in points.
That's just the kind of momentum surge Newman and his No. 39 Haas Automation team needs to secure a spot in the Chase for the Championship.
RYAN NEWMAN, Driver of the No. 39 Haas Automation Chevrolet Impala for Stewart-Haas Racing:
In the past, you have referred to both Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn and Indianapolis Motor Speedway as home tracks for you. Where and how does Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill., fit into that category?
"I've aways said that I consider Michigan or Indianapolis my home tracks because that's where I grew up going with my dad and my family. I can tell you stories about where we parked and what grandstands we sat in and what happened during the races we went to while I was growing up. I have a lot of memories of watching races at those tracks, both in-person and on television. When I started racing and had my sights set on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Chicagoland Speedway wasn't built yet, and it wasn't on the schedule. So I guess the only difference is I don't have those kinds of family memories when it comes to Chicagoland because it wasn't added to the schedule until 2001, and I was already racing part-time in the Sprint Cup Series. But now that it's part of the schedule, this is really probably the closest thing I have to a home track. Chicago is actually the closest race track to my hometown of South Bend (Ind.) of all the tracks we go to. I really like coming back to the area. I normally just relax when I go to Chicago, but every once in a while I'll go watch a Midget race at Grundy County, which is where I used to race when I was 18 or 19 years old. It's neat to go back. It's just nice to be back in my home area. Last year, Krissie and I came back a day early and we went to the county fair with my family. We petted some pigs and ate some cotton candy and really had a lot of fun. It's cool that we are close enough to where I grew up and to where my parents still live that we can come in and do that because it's something we don't normally get to do."
Talk about racing at Chicagoland Speedway.
"Even though it's a 'cookie cutter' racetrack, I look forward to it because of the 18-degree banking and the fact that it is kind of unique. Chicago is really a big circle. It's always a track that has been rewarding if you are good in the corners because even the back straightaway has a kink in it. You have to carry a lot of momentum there. I always say I'm a fan of the banked racetracks, and this is another track I have enjoyed racing, and it is a track that has gotten better each year we have gone there. I've been fortunate enough to win there, and the past few years we have had some solid top-10 runs there. This weekend, we need to have another one of those top-10 runs there. It's really important for me and the team that we have a good run this weekend at Chicago, so we can get turned around and headed in the right direction and so we can make up the points we need to and make a run for a spot in the Chase."
This weekend marks the start of the second half of the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season. What are your thoughts on your team's performance to date? With eight races to go to the Chase for the Championship, you are 80 points outside of the top-12 cutoff. What will you and the No. 39 Haas Automation team have to do to get into the Chase?
"This year, we started off in a deep hole just like we did last year. And just like last year, we have been able to rebound. One of the differences is that, last year, we had a really good string of top-five and top-10 finishes in a row. We haven't put that same kind of string together yet this year, but I think we've been close to putting something together like that. I think we've been more consistent this year than we were last year at this point. We got our first win at Phoenix this year in April, and that was so big for our team and the organization. I think our communication has improved as a team, and our pit stops have improved. I'm really proud of all that we have accomplished as a team to date, but I think we know we still have our work cut out for us. Our goal has been and still is to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship, and we still believe we can make it. This is a team that has a lot of fight in it, and we're not going to quit. We have a lot of determination.
"To get in the Chase, we just have to keep doing what we have been doing -- we just have to try and do it better. We've got ourselves in a position to be in the top-12, but we need to do it better because we're sitting 15th in points and 80 points out. Two weeks ago, we were 15 points out, so Daytona hurt us. But that also shows how quickly you can gain or lose points. We know what we need to do. We need to get those top-fives and top-10 finishes each and every week. I think the biggest thing right now is, every week it seems like we are racing with that same group of cars, the guys who are from ninth to 16th in points, the guys who are trying to get in the same position you want to be in, and that makes it really difficult. So, any little bit of edge we can get will be huge when it comes down to it."
TONY GIBSON, Crew Chief of the No. 39 Haas Automation Chevrolet Impala for Stewart-Haas Racing:
Talk about racing at Chicagoland Speedway.
"Chicagoland is definitely a good track for us. Last year, we qualified pretty well there and we had a good run and finished sixth, so it's a track where we're confident we can run well. We're taking the same car back to Chicago that we had there last year. It's 531, which is also the same car Ryan sat on the pole with at Charlotte. It's one of Ryan's favorite cars. This is a car that has responded to changes well, and it's a car we've had success with, whether it's sitting on the pole or running well or having good finishes. It's a car the driver has had success in, and that's half the battle when you go to the racetrack. All drivers have cars they really like, and when you find that car, you want to run it as much as you can. Obviously, you can't run it every week, but you want to run it as often as you can. We're looking forward to heading to Chicago. It's an important weekend."
With eight races to go to the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship, the No. 39 Haas Automation team sits in 15th-place and 80 points outside of the 12-driver cutoff. What is the team's focus at this point and what are the goals?
"I think the answer to that is we have to run like we did at Loudon a couple of weeks ago. We have to do what it takes to bring home the top-five and top-10 finishes. We had a good car at Daytona but, unfortunately, we got taken out of the race or I think we would have had a good finish there. We were 82 points out of the Chase before Loudon, and after Loudon we were 15 points out of the Chase. After Daytona, we're back to being 80 points out of the Chase, so I think that shows us what we have to do. If we can run in the top-five or top-10, the rest will take care of itself. I've said all along that it is a dogfight to get into the Chase and we are right in the middle of it right now. We've seen first-hand how the points can change so dramatically after each race. Now, we've just got to do everything we can to have solid finishes each and every race and to come out of the race with a good points day, regardless of where we finish. That's just what we've got to do. This is a team that doesn't give up. It's a team that doesn't quit. There's a lot of fight in us, and we have proven that time and again. We know how we need to perform and what we have to do, and we're going to fight for our spot in the Chase."