RYAN NEWMAN It's Time for a Reversal of Fortune KANNAPOLIS, N.C. (June 30, 2010) -- To say that superspeedways have been unkind to Ryan Newman and his No. 39 Tornados Racing team is a gross understatement. In fact, it probably makes more sense...
It's Time for a Reversal of Fortune
KANNAPOLIS, N.C. (June 30, 2010) -- To say that superspeedways have been unkind to Ryan Newman and his No. 39 Tornados Racing team is a gross understatement.
In fact, it probably makes more sense to use the old song lyrics, "If it weren't for bad luck, I'd have no luck at all," when talking about Newman and his No. 39 team at both of the superspeedways on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series circuit -- Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway and Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway.
Since joining the No. 39 Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) team at the start of the 2009 season, Newman has been the victim in a string of unfortunate wrecks of the "wrong-place/wrong-time" nature -- in practice sessions and in races. In fact, in six point-paying and three non-point paying races at the two superspeedways as a member of SHR, Newman has been sidelined early due to accidents in five of those events.
Although the superspeedway races have been a thorn in Newman's side, especially as of late, his luck hasn't always been bad at Daytona. In fact, the biggest win of Newman's Sprint Cup career came at the famed racetrack in February 2008 when he claimed victory in the 50th Running of the Daytona 500.
On the final lap of the race, Newman took the lead on the backstretch of the 2.5-mile Daytona superspeedway and was pushed to victory by then-teammate Kurt Busch -- quite a moment for the driver who, as a youngster, had traveled to Daytona as a fan and used construction paper and glitter to make fake passes so he could sneak into the garage and see the racecars and drivers up close.
The win provided a huge sense of accomplishment for the South Bend, Ind., native, as everything that he and his family and friends had worked for throughout the years culminated in a large celebration in the sport's most famous victory lane. It was actually the second time that Newman had been to Daytona's victory lane. He also won an ARCA race at the track in 2001.
But as frustrating as these tracks have been, Newman and his team know that their superspeedway woes are bound to change, and there's no better time for that reversal of fortune than in Saturday night's Coke Zero 400. After all, Newman is in the thick of a heated battle to secure a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship.
With nine races to go to the 2010 Chase, Newman sits 14th in the championship standings, just 15 points outside of the 12-driver cutoff.
This weekend, Newman's No. 39 Tornados Chevrolet will carry the phrase "Bold Is How We Roll" on its bumper. It's the tagline for Tornados, the bold, rolled snacks brand that Newman took to victory lane earlier this season at Phoenix International Raceway in just their third race together.
For Newman, to avoid the wrecks and have a solid finish at Daytona -- and possibly make a return visit to the track's famed victory lane -- it will take bold moves to maneuver his No. 39 machine to the front of the draft. Bold moves and a little luck, that is.
RYAN NEWMAN, Driver of the No. 39 Tornados Chevrolet Impala for Stewart-Haas Racing:
The biggest win of your career came at Daytona International Speedway when you won the 2008 Daytona 500. Talk about how special that win was to you?
"Winning at Daytona was an incredible experience. I won the ARCA race there in 2001, but nothing will ever compare to winning the 50th Running of the Daytona 500 in 2008. After the race, I could hear my dad's teardrops over the radio while he spotted for me as I came to the start-finish line to win, and I think that shows the importance of this race and this place to me and my entire family. I always said that just competing at Daytona was an honor. When I was a kid, my dad would bring me to Daytona for the 500 and we would make fake passes with construction paper and glitter so that I could sneak into the garage and meet the drivers. Winning the Daytona 500 was a dream-come-true. It was the culmination of everything that me and my family had sacrificed for all those years of building my racing career and to getting me to that moment. I still get speechless when I talk about it. People have asked me how long it took to sink in, and it didn't take long at all. It happened as soon as I crossed the start-finish line. I knew what I had achieved. I knew the effort it took by all the people around me throughout my racing career to help me get to that point. The people who bought my first uniform owned a Pizza King in South Bend, Ind. They gave us -- I think it was -- $400. Those people. The people who bought me a right-rear Midget tire for Christmas. Just the people who gave us credit cards to use for gas to get back and forth. All those people, I feel, were part of the team that got me to victory lane that day and that's what was really special."
What is the key to Daytona?
"That's almost like a trick question. The key to Daytona is having a good-handling racecar and good luck on the same day, which is, unfortunately, something we have not had recently here at Daytona or at any superspeedway race we have been part of over the past year --and-a-half. Unfortunately, we've been involved in several incidents not of our own making and we have been through a lot of cars. The guys back at the shop have worked really hard building some really solid and sturdy superspeedway racecars, and I have really put them to the test. My crew chief Tony Gibson keeps telling me that, sooner or later, our luck is going to turn around at these superspeedway races. He says that the odds are in our favor, and I sure do hope he is right because I sure would like to finish one of these races, which is something I didn't get to do back here in February and at Talladega in April.
"But one of the most important things about Daytona is that it is very much a handling racetrack. The asphalt has really worn over the years and the bumpier and rougher the track is, the more of a challenge it is, handling-wise. That's really something I know we will be focusing on in practice -- just making sure we have a well-balanced, good-handling racecar. Even on new tires, it can be a handful. It's fun because of that. It's fun because it allows us to separate out and actually race, versus being stuck in a pack and hitting bumper-to-bumper and figure out who is going to get the best push. I look forward to Daytona. This weekend, it's not so much about outright speed. Instead, it's more about being who can handle the best. I think the new restrictor plate and the spoiler just add another element, so we'll see what happens."
TONY GIBSON, Crew Chief of the No. 39 Tornados Chevrolet Impala for Stewart-Haas Racing:
Daytona is obviously considered a wild card when it comes to races on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule. Does being in the hunt to make the Chase for the Championship change the way you approach Daytona or the strategy you employ?
"Man, I wish I had the answer for that. Over the last year-and-a-half, we have had every strategy you could imagine at the superspeedway races. We've run strong and been up front. We've had good cars, but we have not had the best finishes. At Talladega last year, we said we were just going to run up front all day, and we did that and we finished third. But we finished third with no roof on the car and the carburetor ripped off of it. So, we go to the next race and we decide that we are going to hang around in the back and take it easy. And we did that. We started coming up through the pack with 10 to go and we got the carburetor ripped off again. It's like no matter what our strategy is at these tracks, it hasn't worked for us. But honestly, that's part of the game at the restrictor-plate tracks. I actually told Newman and the guys on the team the other day that the odds were working in our favor. They way I see it, sooner or later, we're going to finish one of these races and, when we do, it's going to be big. We'll probably win the race. People ask me all the time if I feel like we are owed a good race at the restrictor-plate tracks and my answer is, absolutely. I know people say tracks don't owe anybody anything, but I feel like pretty soon we are due a good restrictor-plate race. Our team hasn't not wrecked a racecar in a restrictor-plate race, so far. And, other than the win in the Daytona 500 back in 2008, Newman has been in accidents, barrel rolled, ended up on his roof and ended up with torn-up racecars at Daytona and Talladega. It's kind of unfair for one guy to go through what he's gone through at these tracks. It's feast or famine, but I do feel like it owes us one.
"We go into every restrictor-plate race with high expectations of winning just like everybody does. You're at the mercy of the guys around you. A guy could wreck five cars in front of you, and there's nothing you can do. Luck plays a huge part in the restrictor plate races. I don't know that you can really have too much of a strategy. I think we're going to try and stay in small packs if we can and try to eliminate the big issues. That's probably the best plan to have and, if it's meant to be, it's meant to be. You just race hard, and we hope it works out for us.
This weekend will be the first time for the spoiler at Daytona. There is also a new restrictor plate. What are your expectations for this weekend, and how are you approaching the race?
"Handling is going to be so, so important down there this time. We are trying to put as much driveability as we can into the car because that's what it's going to come down to -- the guy who can hang onto it. We're not going for the speed side of it. We're going for the handling, so the drivers can hang onto these cars. I think that's going to be the key. I think a guy who goes down there with an extremely fast car may not be the guy who wins the race. At the end, I think it's going to come down to handling. That's going to be more important than ever because the racetrack is real abrasive and it's coming apart and it's bumpy and it's rough. Trying to stay ahold of that thing is going to be the key.
"I don't think anybody knows how fast we are going to run. The horsepower is going to be up with this plate change. We're probably going to have about 40 more horsepower than we had before and, with the spoiler, there's quite a bit of drag added on. I think NASCAR is hoping it balances out to be a good compromise. I think it's fine when these cars are out there by themselves, but when you put them out there in the draft, those blades are going to make huge holes in the air and guys are going to get huge runs. I think you're going to see really fast drafting speeds. I really, really look for a really exciting race. For the fans, it's going to be great. For us, it's going to be nerve-racking and nail-biting. I just hope -- I keep everything that I've got crossed --we can stay out of trouble and finish this race."
You are a Daytona Beach native and grew up around this track and racing. What would it mean to get a win at Daytona?
"That's something that would be awesome, just really special for me. I've been around NASCAR and Daytona my entire life, it seems like. My mom Peggy sold tickets at the ticket speedway office for years, and she worked for the France family. My dad Bo raced, and guys like LeeRoy Yarbrough and Tiny Lund drove his cars. Any win at any racetrack is a big deal. But I've been coming to Daytona since I was a kid -- really as long as I can remember -- and a win here would be pretty cool."
After your sixth-place finish at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon last weekend, the No. 39 Tornados Racing team is just 15 points outside the Chase for the Championship. Talk about your thoughts on battling for a spot in the Chase.
"We're definitely in the hunt to make this Chase. It's going to be a dogfight until the end. It always is. And we don't do anything easily. It's exciting. It will build a lot of character the next nine weeks. We have great tracks. Our team is focused. Our company is focused. We've just got to get it done. We've got to beat these guys, and we've got to be better each week. We've just got to give (Newman) good cars. We have to get out there and outrun them -- get top-10s and top-fives and it will take care of itself. We never give up. We always stay strong. You've got to have heart and keep digging and that really paid off for us last weekend. We had a great points day. We went into the race 82 points out of Chase and we left there 15 points out of the Chase. You know, we've got a shot at this deal and we're not giving up. We've got nine more races to get it done. We hopefully will dodge a big bullet this weekend. It's going to be stressful for everybody at Daytona, but that's part of the excitement of going to these restrictor-plate races and the race to the Chase."