Newman Looking for Kinder, Gentler Superspeedway Race DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb.3, 2010) -- By all accounts Ryan Newman's first season with the new Stewart-Haas Racing team in 2009 was a major success. After a slow start, the U.S. Army driver...
Newman Looking for Kinder, Gentler Superspeedway Race
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb.3, 2010) -- By all accounts Ryan Newman's first season with the new Stewart-Haas Racing team in 2009 was a major success.
After a slow start, the U.S. Army driver came on strong to land a berth in the prestigious Chase and went on to finish ninth in the final point standings with a season total of five top fives and 15 top 10s.
But if there was one part of the 2009 campaign Newman and the No. 39 U.S. Army team would like to change it would be the unfriendliness they encountered in the five superspeedway races (including the Daytona 150 qualifying race).
"We took a beating both physically and mentally at Daytona and Talladega last year," said the 32-year-old Newman. "We want to put that behind us and get off to a good start this season. We have a great superspeedway car with Hendrick power and feel we're as capable as any team to win the Daytona 500. We're the Army team, and like our Army Strong Soldiers, we keep on fighting until the mission is completed. We know our Soldiers all over the world will be watching this race, and it would be pretty cool for them to see their car in Victory Lane."
Newman knows firsthand what it takes to win NASCAR's biggest race -- he won the 50th running of the Daytona 500 in 2008.
But to have any chance of winning the Great American Race, those superspeedway demons which plagued the team last year need to be exorcised before the Feb. 14th opener at Daytona International Speedway.
"I think we had enough bad luck at Daytona in 2009 to last a decade," noted Newman. "But to expect the unexpected pretty much defines superspeedway racing."
During last year's Daytona Speedweeks, Newman suffered a blown engine and was involved in two accidents before the green flag even dropped for the 500.
He had an engine malfunction in practice, was involved in an accident in the 150 qualifying race and the day before the 500 he lost another car in a practice mishap. The Daytona 500 didn't go much better for Newman, who finished 36th in the rain-shortened event with a second back-up car.
At the ensuing 2009 superspeedway races, Newman was involved in harrowing accidents at both Talladega events and drove a damaged car after being collected in a 13-car wreck in the summer Daytona race.
"It seemed like we got walloped every which way at the superspeedways last year," stated Tony Gibson, crew chief and Daytona Beach native. "Considering all the things that happened to us at the big tracks last year, we still managed to get a third at the first Talladega race and a 20th in the second Daytona event. But right now I will tell you this -- we're going to Daytona knowing that we can win. Hopefully the bad stuff is behind us and the luck cycle will be on the side of the Soldiers' car."
Newman's record in eight Daytona 500 starts includes one win, two top fives and three top 10s. His dramatic win two years ago in the golden anniversary of the fabled 500 was the result of a final lap pass over Tony Stewart, who is now Newman's teammate and team owner.
"When I crossed the finish line to win the 500 two years ago, there was no doubt that I knew the significance of what the victory meant," recalled Newman about the herculean moment of winning stock car's biggest prize. "We accomplished plenty last year with this U.S. Army team, but we didn't get to Victory Lane. A Daytona 500 win will more than make up for it. We can do it, there is no question in my mind."
Before Newman attempts to win his second Daytona 500, he will compete in two other non-point races at Daytona's 2.5-mile oval -- Saturday night's (Feb.6) Budweiser Shootout and next Thursday's (Feb. 11) 150-mile qualifying race.