Las Vegas: Ryan Newman preview

RYAN NEWMAN It's Time To Make a Bold Statement KANNAPOLIS, N.C. (Feb. 23, 2010) - While Ryan Newman embarks on his 299th career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start at Las Vegas Motor Speedway this weekend, the seasoned veteran will also celebrate an...

It's Time To Make a Bold Statement

KANNAPOLIS, N.C. (Feb. 23, 2010) - While Ryan Newman embarks on his 299th career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start at Las Vegas Motor Speedway this weekend, the seasoned veteran will also celebrate an important first for his No. 39 Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) team.

Sunday's Shelby American will be the first of nine races where new sponsor Tornados, a brand of family owned Ruiz Foods, will adorn the No. 39 Chevrolet Impala as the team's primary sponsor.

Teaming up with Newman and SHR was a leap - a bold move, one could say - for the Dinuba, Calif.-based company. Tornados, a bold-tasting snack featuring meat, cheese and sauce rolled into a crispy crust, was already popular in convenience stores nationwide. Ruiz Foods was now prepared to launch Tornados into retail grocery stores. The company wanted a big idea to bring attention to its product. For a brand with the tagline "Bold is how we roll," the bigger the idea, the better.

The company's big idea was to sponsor a Sprint Cup team, and it didn't take long to turn that idea into reality. The brand joined forces with SHR and announced the venture last November. The partnership begins in earnest this weekend, when Newman and the No. 39 Tornados Chevrolet take the track for the first time at the 1.5-mile Las Vegas oval.

In nine Sprint Cup starts at Las Vegas, Newman has one pole (2005), one top-five and four top-10 finishes. His best finish at the Nevada track is a fourth-place effort during his rookie season in 2002, when Newman started on the outside pole and led the field for 50 laps. Last season at Las Vegas, Newman was making a hard charge for the top-10 when a vibration, which turned out to be a loose wheel, forced him to pit under green. Newman lost two laps and was had to settle for a 25th-place finish.

In his sophomore campaign with SHR, Newman's goals are to improve on last season's performances - to score poles, to win races and to make the Chase for the Championship for a second consecutive season. Although the first two race finishes of 2010 have been less than desirable - a 34th-place finish at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway due to a late-race wreck, and a 36th-place finish at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., due to engine failure - Newman and his No. 39 team have been solid competitors in each race and have shown improved performances on the track.

This weekend is no different. With new sponsor Tornados on board for its first race, Newman is ready for his team's improved performances on the racetrack to translate into a solid finish. Newman would also like to make it a memorable one.

The first outing on the No. 39 Tornados Chevrolet could well result in several firsts for Newman and the team - his first career win at Las Vegas, his first win at SHR, and the first win ever for any car wearing the No. 39 in Sprint Cup competition.

Taking the checkered flag first and rolling into victory lane at Las Vegas for the first time would be quite an opening act for Newman and his No. 39 Tornados Chevrolet. It may seem like a lofty goal, but this isn't Newman & Company's first race together, and they're more than ready to make a bold statement.

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

Las Vegas is the first of nine races for new sponsor Tornados, which is a brand of family owned Ruiz Foods. Talk a little bit about this new partnership for the No. 39 Stewart-Haas Racing team.

"Ruiz Foods is a family owned business, and we think of ourselves as a family at Stewart-Haas Racing. We're excited to have them join our family. Coming into NASCAR and joining SHR is a big deal for them, and we're excited that they are using us to help grow their brand. Last week, I went to the Ruiz Foods plant in Dinuba, Calif., and spent time with their team members, went on a plant tour and learned how their company works. It was really cool watching the production line and seeing how Tornados are made. It's kind of funny, though, because while I was there, I realized that this is the first time I've ever been associated with any kind of food in my racing career. So this is kind of new for me. But while I was talking about it, I also told Bryce Ruiz (the company's CEO) that this is probably one of the easiest sponsors for me, in some ways. I mean, it's a simple connection because of our schedule and what we do. At the track, we are constantly on the go with practice, appearances, media obligations. It's racing, racing, racing, and then you get a little break. Like on Saturday, our practice sessions are set up where we will have a 30-minute window where the guys get the car turned around and have a chance to eat. It's nothing for the guys to go to the truck and grab a Tornado, or put one in the microwave really quick, and come back to the garage and keep working on the car. Time-wise and, obviously, taste-wise, it's ideal for what our guys do - me included - because we are always on the run. We're busy, and we like it that way, but it's always nice to be able to have a good bite to eat when we can. It's funny because I hadn't thought about that at all until I wasn't sitting at the plant talking to the plant workers last week."

While you were spending time at the Ruiz Foods plant, you actually told a couple of stories that the employees thought were funny about how you have been incorporating Tornados into different activities that you have done, and even how you have shared this new food with your family. Tell a couple of those stories again.

"Like I said, I'm really excited about working with Tornados. NASCAR is a new thing for their family, but I think it's a perfect fit for them because our sport is probably the most family oriented sport out there. For me, it's fun to have new sponsors and to do different things with them. When I got to the plant, everyone wanted to know what my favorite flavor was. I had to be honest and tell them I had only tried a few of them, but my favorite was Cheesy Pepperjack because my mom used to always get me pepperjack cheese at the grocery store when I was a little boy. But we have different flavors at the racetrack every weekend, so I'm trying them all. The fact that everybody around me wants to try Tornados since they are my sponsor is kind of how I got to the story.

"Anyhow, we have some friends in Utah, and every year we go there in the offseason to snowmobile. It's a small cabin in Utah. It runs off a generator and it has a wood stove for a furnace and that's it. We go out there in December to go ride snowmobiles, and that is all we do. When you go snowmobiling, you ride for a while, you find a place to eat, you take some snacks and you take a break and eat. Anyhow, on the snowmobiles, they have these things called hot doggers - it's just the terminology because people used to throw mini corndogs in them. We got the bright idea to throw some Tornados in there, just to see how they cook, how they warm up, what it's going to be like. It's literally a can that gets strapped by a hose clamp to the exhaust of the snowmobile. The harder you ride, the hotter it gets, the quicker the food cooks. So the harder you ride, the quicker you get to eat. We had a few boxes of Tornados, and the Tornados were a hit with the group we were with. They cooked up pretty good in the hot dogger. It's a weird story, but it's true.

"The other story they thought was cool was about my grandfather. He's 85 years old, and we sent him a couple of boxes of different flavors of Tornados earlier this year because he wanted to know what they were. He had his family over, and he did a taste test. I talked to him the other day and he's ready for another shipment. So, it's kind of cool the things we can incorporate with a sponsor like this, and I'm looking forward to having some fun off the racetrack and on it with our new sponsor and the No. 39 Tornados Chevrolet."

It was a disappointing weekend for you and the No. 39 team last weekend at Auto Club Speedway. The No. 39 Haas Automation Chevrolet had moved into the top-10 and had been a solid performer in the race. But then you endured an engine failure. Despite the 36th-place finish, you were very upbeat about how your team raced. Can you talk about that a little bit more?

"It was a really disappointing finish to the race for us. We didn't have a good finish at Daytona because of a wreck with like five laps to go before the green-white-checker, and we really went to California feeling like we needed to have a good finish. We felt like we had good notes going in there, and we were pretty confident about the racecar we were taking and our game plan. Then, to have an engine failure was tough, but that's not something that has been common for us since SHR started last season. Hendrick gives us very good, strong, reliable engines and I think we've probably had one engine failure in the course of the past year that I can remember besides this one. It's something that happens - it's part of racing. It was just disappointing because we had such a strong run going and because we've now had two DNFs and we're back in the same hole that we were in last season.

"But for me and Tony Gibson, I think the race at California really showed us just how much improvement we have made over the course of the past year. Before the season started, I talked a lot about the great work the guys had done in the offseason with the racecars to make them better, and how I thought we had made some big gains. This year, we have notes to go back on, whereas last year, we were a new group of people still learning each other. Last year, we were just trying things. This year, we have notes and data points from all the races so we can come back each year and be a stronger team. California showed that we have made some big improvements as a team. To me, California is a good test because it's a 2-mile track. It's that kind of intermediate track where we go the most during the course of the season. That's also the track that we struggled on a lot last year. After California, I feel like we made some big gains. That car was the most competitive car I have had in a really long time at California. It was good all day long, and we were moving forward every run the entire race. We showed what we are capable of during the long runs. Unfortunately, I just didn't get a chance to show what I had at the end of the race. It was a bad way to the end the day, but I'm really proud of how good of a car we had and how much we have improved. We still have some work to do, but I'm looking forward to getting to Las Vegas and seeing how we run on a mile-and-a-half track."

Talk about racing at Las Vegas.

"We had a pretty fast racecar at Las Vegas last year, but we had a loose wheel later in the race. We ended up having to pit under green and that caused us to lose a couple of laps to the leader. We finished 25th, but I remember leaving there last year thinking we had a much better car than that. Last season, the intermediate tracks were our weakness, but we got better throughout the course of the year. After the improvements we made to our mile-and-a-half program last season, and then after what both me and Gibson felt like were huge gains at California last weekend, I'm really looking forward to what we can accomplish this weekend at Las Vegas in the No. 39 Tornados Chevrolet.

"As far as the track goes, they've made some changes to it over the past few years. It's higher-banked, has a rougher surface and there are more bumps. The track has some character to it, which makes it tricky, and I think it's one of the reasons we like it. I'm looking forward to Las Vegas. I'm really hoping this is the place for my luck to change. I think this team has really improved the way we approach the mile-and-a-half track. I think our cars have gotten better since last year's Las Vegas race, and I'm confident. Unfortunately, just like last season, we've had a couple of bad races to start 2010. We're hoping that Lady Luck is on our side this weekend."

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

Although the California race didn't turn out as you and the No. 39 team had hoped, you were still very positive following an engine failure and a 36th-place finish. You and Ryan both talked about how much the team had improved and how happy you were with those gains on the racetrack. How important is seeing that improvement and staying upbeat despite the finishes?

"Last year, we had struggled on 2-mile racetracks, and we worked really hard in the offseason to try to find something that Ryan would like to drive there. That was really one of our focuses in the offseason. We did a lot of work with our racecars on the seven-post (shaker rig) at the wind tunnel, and we thought going to California that we had really made some gains. And, in the end, we did. We think, looking at our performance at California and Ryan's feedback during the race, that this is a good starting spot moving forward. I think we'll be able to base the rest of our mile-and-a-half races on what we learned this past weekend. We think what we learned and our notes will transfer this weekend to Las Vegas and, hopefully, we will be able to keep some momentum going and continuing making gains on these racetracks that are such a big part of our schedule.

"Honestly, the finishes have not been what we have wanted, but we have really had great racecars the first two races of the season. We had the wreck in Daytona and the engine problem in California, but those are things that are out of our control. We can't do anything about that. Things like that will happen during the course of the season, but we need to focus on what we have done to these racecars and how we have improved. If we can keep our focus and keep doing what we are doing to improve our position on the racetrack each week, and we can keep the driver excited about the gains that we are making, then it's going to be just like it was last year. When the luck turns around for us, it's going to be good, and we are going to be competing for race wins every weekend."

The No. 39 Chevrolet was a really fast, strong car at Las Vegas last year. How does that, in addition to the fact that the No. 39 Chevrolet was so strong at California, help build momentum for the team this weekend?

"We did have a good car at Las Vegas last year. We qualified sixth, and we were really fast during the whole race. Unfortunately, we had a lose wheel and that ended up costing us. But it was a race where we left feeling really positive about what we had. We're coming back to Las Vegas with what we believe is an even better car aero-wise. It's a newer, lighter version of our cars. We think this is really good track, and we believe this is a track where we have a shot at the pole and our first win.

"The improvement we saw at California in our performance on the racetrack is something we're really proud of. Our racecars are good. Our communication continues to get better each weekend. We're getting better as a team, and that's showing in our on-track performances. Again, we haven't had the finishes we have wanted, but that has been out of our control. We're picking out the positives and focusing on them.

"For us, Las Vegas is a big weekend. We want to get a good finish and put the last two races behind us. It's also the first weekend for our new sponsor Tornados, and to be able to give them a good race their first weekend on the car would be something really special. They are a great family, and we've all had a lot of fun getting to know them and we're excited to have them as part of our Stewart-Haas family."

-source: shr

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Ryan Newman
Teams Stewart-Haas Racing