Hoosier Hopes to Rebound at Sponsor's Home Track KANNAPOLIS, N.C. (Feb. 18, 2009) -- Ryan Newman has never claimed a home-field advantage at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. In fact, California couldn't be farther from the comforts of home...
Hoosier Hopes to Rebound at Sponsor's Home Track
KANNAPOLIS, N.C. (Feb. 18, 2009) -- Ryan Newman has never claimed a home-field advantage at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. In fact, California couldn't be farther from the comforts of home that Newman the outdoorsman has grown to love. But this weekend, the Indiana native comes to the 2-mile California track as a hometown favorite.
So, how does a Hoosier claim the California track as home? The answer lies in Newman's affiliation with newly formed Stewart-Haas Racing as the driver of the No. 39 Chevrolet Impala SS. The team is co-owned by two time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Tony Stewart and Oxnard, Calif.-based Haas Automation, the largest CNC tool manufacturer in the western world. The company's 1 million square-foot facility in Oxnard employs 1,200 people, and is the largest, most modern machine tool manufacturing operation in the United States.
This weekend, Haas Automation will also adorn the hood of Newman's black No. 39 Chevy. Newman, who has one pole and four top-10 finishes in 12 career Sprint Cup starts at Auto Club Speedway, including a 10th-place effort last February, is hoping to post a solid showing for his co-owner and sponsor in their own backyard.
For Newman, the California weekend is also a chance to put the trials and tribulations of Speedweeks at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway behind him. In the course of five days at Daytona, the No. 39 team endured a blown motor and two wrecked racecars. Despite the run of bad luck, the team refused to give up and soldiered on throughout the season-opening weekend.
As the No. 39 team rolls into California, Newman hopes to employ some of the skills that he learned in his basketball-loving home state of Indiana and rebound from the misfortunes that struck him at Daytona.
RYAN NEWMAN, Driver of the No. 39 Haas Automation Chevrolet Impala SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
The first outing with your Stewart-Haas Racing team didn't go as well you had hoped. The team faced a lot of adversity at Daytona, but you maintained composure throughout it all. What did that show you about your new team?
"I have so much confidence in this No. 39 Haas Automation team and in my crew chief (Tony Gibson), and what happened with us in Daytona proved that they deserve every bit of my confidence and respect. Through everything that happened, I didn't hear anyone complain. They each jumped in and did what they had to do to change the engine or get the backup car ready. And the best part was that they didn't get down, and they didn't let me get down. I've been a part of some special teams in my career, and I feel like this No. 39 Stewart-Haas Racing team is going to be a very solid and good team. Daytona is behind us now, and I'm looking forward to hitting the racetrack in California for a better weekend."
After one race in the books, talk about your Stewart-Haas Racing team and what makes it special?
"With our resources from a mechanical standpoint and our resources from a personnel standpoint, I still maintain that we will be competitive right out of the box. If you take away the bad luck that we had and look at how and where we were running at the time at Daytona, I think anyone could see that we had a very fast car in Daytona. We qualified third, and we were third in the Duel when we got wrecked. And before the second wreck on Saturday, we had a great package in our No. 39 Chevrolet for both power and handling. Our primary and our backup cars both proved to be solid, but we just didn't have racing luck on our side. You take away the bad luck that we had, and I was very happy with my racecar. I think that we will absolutely be competitive throughout the season. I feel we should, without any doubt, have an opportunity to be in the Chase."
What are your thoughts as you get ready to head into round two of the Sprint Cup schedule at California?
"I have not had the best record at California. The racetrack can be a lot of fun because it is a very smooth track and it is super fast, but I just haven't done all that well there throughout my career. We didn't really do any testing in the off-season with NASCAR's new rules in place. Our team went to Rockingham (N.C.) Speedway and New Smyrna (Fla.). I couldn't tell a whole lot at those tracks, but I could tell how strong our engines are. I am really looking forward to trying out my Hendrick power-plant at California. Horsepower is key at California, and I have no doubt I will have what I need under the hood for success. The second pole of my career came in California during my rookie season, and I haven't qualified near as well there since that time in 2002. It would be nice to put to rest all the bad luck we had last week and start the weekend with a pole in Fontana."
This is a big weekend for Stewart-Haas Racing because Auto Club Speedway is a "home track" of sorts, for team co-owner Haas Automation is based in nearby Oxnard, Calif. Talk about the importance of this race for you and the team.
"Everybody wants to be top dog on their home turf. So, obviously, our team knows how important this race is to our co-owner and our sponsor, Haas Automation. We want to make everyone involved with the company proud, and I don't think there is a better way to do that than to have a strong run on Sunday. Haas Automation has been involved in NASCAR for several years, but I think that we have an opportunity to give them something they have not had before and that's a win in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
"But for me, California is a really important race for another reason. Although Daytona is our biggest race, I think that most people will tell you that the season really starts with California just because it seems to be a better gauge in determining what you have compared to other teams. I made the decision to join Stewart-Haas Racing because I had a lot of faith in Tony (Stewart). I admired him for his ability on the racetrack and what he had done as an owner in other racing series. He has worked really hard with the help of Bobby (Hutchens, director of competition), Darian (Grubb, crew chief, No. 14 Old Spice/Office Depot Chevrolet) and Tony (Gibson, crew chief, No. 39 Haas Automation Chevrolet) to put together a competitive organization.
"I feel that Stewart-Haas had a good foundation in the past. Now, we have some additional tools with the key personnel who have come on board. With our affiliation with Hendrick Motorsports and all the work that has gone on in the shop during the off-season, I feel this team has all the parts and pieces, and I would like nothing more than to go out on the track and show just how strong we are. So, we're really looking forward to this weekend."
TONY GIBSON, crew chief of the No. 39 Haas Automation Chevrolet Impala SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
What did you learn about your team in Daytona, considering the adversity that the No. 39 team faced?
"I've been with a lot of these guys for more than five years, and I knew they were tough, so I saw what I believed to be true about this team in action. They don't quit. They believe in one another. They are really strong, both physically and mentally. We went through a lot this week. We had the motor problem on Wednesday and we lost both our primary and backup cars. I don't think many teams have been through what we went through in one week at Daytona. It just shows the strength of Stewart-Haas Racing.
"Both teams had a challenge on their hands -- the No. 14 Old Spice/Office Depot team had to go to a backup car during final practice and the No. 39 U.S. Army/Haas Automation team had to go to a second backup car on Saturday. We faced a lot of adversity, but everyone worked really well together and everybody chipped in to help. That shows just how strong this team really is. We pulled through it.
"We had some more problems on Sunday, but we didn't tear a car up and nobody got hurt. We came out of Daytona with a car in one piece. It obviously wasn't the finish we wanted (36th, two laps down). I thought we had an okay car. When we got up to the front there to get our lap back, the car ran pretty well. We just didn't have any help to get that lap back."
Is it difficult to keep the team upbeat and confident after a tough weekend like the No. 39 team experienced in Daytona?
"I don't think so. The thing about racing is that there is always next week to make up for what didn't go your way the week before. You don't have two weeks in between, where you have to sit and think about what happened. You put that race behind you and look ahead to the next one. We can go to California and run extremely well, and that's what our mindset is -- to go out there and sit on the pole and win the race. Every week, we go to the track with the mindset that we can do just that. We can't really do anything about the luck part of it. All we can do is prepare the cars the best we know how, and go into the race weekend with a game plan and a good mental attitude and hope things pan out for us."
Daytona was your first outing with Ryan behind the wheel. Despite all the hardships, how was the communication between Ryan and the team?
"I thought it went smooth, given what was happening to us during the course of practices and the races. There were no big issues. Everybody stayed calm through the whole deal, and Ryan was right with the guys when they were working on the backup cars to get them ready. Prior to Daytona, we had only gone to two tests -- Rockingham and New Smyrna -- so that we could get to know one another in-person and over the radio. So, we had a little bit of experience with one another on the racetrack. We knew more about each other away from the track. But overall, I thought the communication went really well. The more we work together, the more we will understand one another. We will get to the point where we know how loose 'loose' is, and how tight 'tight' is, and we won't have to ask quite as many questions. It takes time learning each other's nuances, but that will come. I think we had to battle through a lot last week, but everyone seemed to take it in stride. I'm looking forward to a better weekend with Ryan on the racetrack this weekend."
Auto Club Speedway could be considered a home track for team co-owner Haas Automation, which is also the sponsor on the No. 39 Chevrolet this weekend. How important is it for this team to have a good showing in its owner's/sponsor's backyard?
"It's important to run well every week. It's like people say -- each race pays the same points in the end. But yes, it would be nice for both teams to go out to California and run really well this weekend for Haas Automation and all the people who are involved with this team who are based in California. We would like to have a strong run in front of a 'home crowd,' of sorts. Hopefully, we can go out there, run strong and represent our owner and sponsor really well. I think that would be a good shot for all of us."
What are your thoughts on Auto Club Speedway and what it takes to be competitive there?
"It takes a lot of horsepower, and Stewart-Haas Racing isn't lacking in that area thanks to the engines we get from Hendrick Motorsports. I think Ryan will have the speed that he needs to be successful at California. Auto Club Speedway is also a handling racetrack, and it takes a good aero package to get around the track. It's really smooth. Your aero package is really important. The group at Stewart-Haas Racing takes a lot of pride in working on the aerodynamics of the racecar, so we feel very confident that we will have a solid setup when we unload our No. 39 Haas Automation Chevy on Friday."