Loudon: Ryan Newman preview

RYAN NEWMAN Creating Another Magical Moment at 'The Magic Mile' KANNAPOLIS, N.C. (June 23, 2010) - Over the course of his nine-year NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career, Ryan Newman has enjoyed some magical moments at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in...

RYAN NEWMAN
Creating Another Magical Moment at 'The Magic Mile'

KANNAPOLIS, N.C. (June 23, 2010) - Over the course of his nine-year NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career, Ryan Newman has enjoyed some magical moments at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon. After all, the 1.058-mile flat track commonly known as "The Magic Mile" was the site of Newman's first point-paying Sprint Cup victory during his rookie season in 2002. On that September afternoon, the South Bend, Ind., native started from the pole and dominated the rain-shortened race, leading 143 of 207 laps.

The win was proof that the young driver, who had climbed through the open-wheel ranks and was known for turning a quick lap in qualifying, had what it took to win in NASCAR's elite series. The victory was emotional for Newman and his family, as all had worked and sacrificed for years so that Newman could follow his dream into NASCAR.

It was the first of 14 Sprint Cup wins for the 2001 Purdue University graduate, and the first of two at New Hampshire.

The second victory came three years later in September 2005. Newman, who had narrowly squeaked into the inaugural Chase for the Championship, used pit strategy to gain the lead late in the race after starting 13th. In the closing laps, he dueled with now team owner and teammate Tony Stewart for the lead. Newman passed Stewart with two laps remaining and held on to take the win, renewing Newman's hopes for a run at the championship.

In addition to those very big wins, Newman has recorded four poles, five top-five and 10 top-10 finishes in 16 races at New Hampshire. In fact, Newman has finished outside of the top-15 just four times.

Entering this weekend's Lenox Industrial Tools 301, Newman is 15th in points, 82 points back of the 12th-place cutoff for the Chase for the Championship. With 10 races remaining before the Chase begins, New Hampshire could be just the place for Newman and his No. 39 Haas Automation team to stir up a little magic of their own, just like they did earlier this season at Phoenix International Raceway.

At Phoenix - another flat, 1-mile oval - Newman ran in the top-10 for most of the race. A bold pit call by crew chief Tony Gibson on the final caution of the night put Newman in position to capture the win. On the final restart, Newman took the lead from four-time Sprint Cup champion Jeff Gordon and held onto the top spot for the final two laps to score the No. 39 team's first victory.

It was a magical moment for Newman and his team, and one they would like to repeat.

This weekend, at the track where he scored his first point-paying Sprint Cup victory, Newman will pilot Chassis No. 39-536 - the same chassis that he drove to victory at Phoenix.

Is there kismet or karma in Sprint Cup racing? Absolutely. And Newman & Company have it, plus the preparation and the expertise to make more magic happen this weekend in New Hampshire.

RYAN NEWMAN, DRIVER OF THE NO. 39 HAAS AUTOMATION CHEVROLET IMPALA FOR STEWART-HAAS RACING:

What are your thoughts on racing at New Hampshire Motor Speedway?

"New Hampshire is really unique. They've made some great improvements to the racetrack. They've added some banking and they've added some racetrack for us to use, so in my opinion, the racing is the best it has ever been there. It used to be a one-groove racetrack, but that has changed thanks to the improvements they've made. More than anything, this is a track-position race because it's a flat track. It's a fun place to race and, obviously, it's been very special to me because it was where I got my first point-paying win in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. And I think I battled pretty hard with Tony (Stewart) to win the race back in 2005, too.

"The Haas Automation team has really excelled on the short tracks over the past two years. This season, we got top-10s at Martinsville and Richmond, and we won earlier in the year at Phoenix. We're actually coming to New Hampshire this weekend with the same car we won with in Phoenix, which is pretty cool. Last year at this race, we had the right strategy. It just wasn't our day. We stayed out and waited on the rain and ended up running out of fuel right when that rain came. So maybe the track owes me one. I've had a lot of success at Loudon in both qualifying and the race, and I'm really confident this is going to be a good weekend for the No. 39 team."

WHAT DO YOU REMEMBER ABOUT YOUR FIRST WIN, WHICH CAME AT NEW HAMPSHIRE IN 2002?

"We had won the All-Star Race at Charlotte in May that year. I was a rookie, so that was a big deal, but we were still looking for our first point-paying win. We finally got it at New Hampshire in September, and it was a rain-shortened race. That's one part of racing. They never put it (rain-shortened) on the trophy. They do put it in the record books, but the trophy is what we take home. You won the race. It doesn't say how many laps it was. It doesn't say who finished second. It just says that you were the best on that day. There are different ways to win a race, but there are a few things that help you get that first win. You've got to be in the right place at the right time. You've got to use strategy. You've got to have a fast racecar. You've got to do all those things right, or close to right."

This weekend, you're running in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Race. You've done that for the past few years at New Hampshire. What is your goal with that race?

"Just to have fun, that is goal. That's what I'm here for the whole weekend, but the Modifieds - those racecars - are such a blast to drive. It seems like they go faster in the corners than they do on the straightaways, and that is what a driver likes to feel. It's a great series, has a lot of great drivers in it. I'm just looking forward to it. I had always wanted to race a Modified and, a couple of years ago when Bono (Kevin Manion) and Gary (Putnam) gave me the chance in their car, I jumped at the opportunity. We've run okay. We've won the pole here before and I've actually felt like we had a pretty good shot at winning one year, but we got caught up in an on-track incident. But I've had a lot of fun in the 7NY Aggressive Hydraulics car. It is a different kind of race than we have here in the Cup car because we can bump draft so much. Here in the Cup cars, you really can't draft. It's just about passing and it's more of a track-position race. With the Modifieds, it seems like you can do a little bit more racing and a little bit more passing."

TONY GIBSON, CREW CHIEF OF THE NO. 39 HAAS AUTOMATION CHEVROLET IMPALA FOR STEWART-HAAS RACING:

What are the keys to racing at New Hampshire Motor Speedway?

"Track position is everything. Tires aren't as important there as they are at some of the other tracks just because of the tire they take, and the pavement. Handling-wise, rolling through the center is really critical. Tight in the center makes you loose off the corners. So rolling through the center and track position are really the two key things. If you can roll through the center any good, and find yourself at the right place at the end of the race with your track position, you'll be just fine."

The No. 39 team is taking the same car it won with at Phoenix to New Hampshire this weekend. Are their similarities between Phoenix and New Hampshire, or with other short tracks where you have run so well in the past? Does taking a proven racecar - one that has won - give the team extra confidence heading into the weekend?

"Really, turns three and four at Phoenix are similar to Loudon. It's not quite as tight at Phoenix as it is at Loudon, but the banking and the way you approach the corner is the same. So, that's the reason we decided to take that car with a similar setup. It kind of suits that style of racetrack. It's a good little racecar. We ran it last year at Richmond and ran really well with it. We just figured we have a good track record with that car, and we need a couple of good runs here to move up in the points, so we're just going to take our best bullets to the racetrack and see how it shakes out.

"I do think that taking a car that has run well in the past, or has won a race like this car did at Phoenix, gives you some more confidence. I think it helps the driver, too. I think it helps him mentally, knowing that it's a good racecar for him and that it has a good track record. He feels comfortable with it. And that's half the battle - knowing that you have a car you believe in that has been good to you."

It's officially the Race to the Chase as there are 10 events to go until the Chase for the Championship. Right now, the No. 39 team sits 82 points out of 12th-place. Is it gut-check time for this team, and what is the focus like?

"It's here. It's game on. We've got to make it happen. Basically, there are three of us who really seem to be fighting it out for one spot, and someone's going to get knocked out. We're going to do everything we can to get ourselves back in there. We haven't had too good of luck the last couple of weeks, but we do have some good tracks coming up, so we'll just have to see what happens. We just have to do everything we can to take advantage of where we run well and capitalize on it and get ourselves back in that top-12.

"It's like we've said for the past two years - we never give up, we never quit. Ryan's the kind of fighter this whole team has been since we came together last year. And if you ever put us in a position at the end of the race to try to make something happen, we'll be right there. We would like to already have our spot locked into the Chase, but we don't. It's really close, points-wise. You could go backward just as easily as you can go forward, and I think we are going to see that happen every week right up until the Chase starts. We just need to be solid each and every weekend, have top-10 finishes and put some pressure on the guys in front of us."

-source: shr

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Ryan Newman