Stewart-Haas Racing press release
Ryan Newman - Time to turn up the ‘WIX’ at Michigan
KANNAPOLIS, N.C. – Ryan Newman and his No. 39 Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) team are looking to turn up the “WIX” as the battle for a spot in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship heats up and winds down.
With four races remaining until the Chase, Newman & Company are poised to be one of the 12 contenders fighting it out for the 2011 championship.
Michigan...is one of the easiest tracks to drive because it is so big and wide...
Currently eighth in points, with one win to his credit – at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon just four races ago – Newman is 66 points behind championship points leader Kyle Busch and 52 points ahead of 11th-place Clint Bowyer.
Despite Newman’s stronghold on a spot in the top-10 in points, the No. 39 WIX Filters team’s goal remains the same since the start of the 2011 season: maintain a top-10 position in the points while at the same time battle for another victory each and every week, beginning with this weekend’s Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn.
The 2-mile oval nestled in the Irish Hills of Michigan could be the perfect place for Newman to solidify his position as a 2011 championship contender. After all, over the years, the racetrack has played a pivotal role in Newman’s racing career.
When Newman was signed as a developmental driver for Penske Racing more than a decade ago, he made his first start at a place the 33-year-old still refers to as his home track. In June 2000, Newman made his stock car debut in the ARCA Series for Penske Racing at Michigan. He qualified on the outside pole and led three laps en route to a seventh-place finish.
Since that first stock car start at Michigan, the track has continued to play an important role in the Purdue University engineering graduate’s racing career.
It was at Michigan, on Aug. 18, 2001, that Newman drove to his first-ever NASCAR victory by winning the Nationwide Series race in dominating fashion. After qualifying on the outside pole, Newman wasted no time taking over the point and he never looked back. He led 119 of 125 laps and won by 1.3 seconds. Four years later, in 2005, Newman won his second race in Nationwide competition at the track.
In Sprint Cup competition at Michigan, Newman has one pole, two wins, four top-five and five top-10 finishes in 20 starts. Newman’s two victories actually came back-to-back. He won the August 2003 race and followed it up with a repeat performance in June 2004. In 2003, Newman started on the outside pole and led 32 laps en route to the win. In the 2004 race, he started fourth and led 22 laps on his way to taking the checkered flag.
This past June, Newman & Company earned a sixth-place finish at Michigan – his first top-10 and best finish at the track since his win in June 2004.
As the battle for a spot in the Chase winds down, Newman’s No. 39 team, with crew chief Tony Gibson at the helm, have gambled when necessary to overcome the odds, and are now putting the heat on the other competitors trying to land a spot in the top-10. In just the past five races, Newman has posted three top-five finishes – including his win in Loudon – and he hasn’t finished lower than 16th.
Newman’s record behind the gold-and-black colors of the No. 39 WIX Filters Chevy isn’t too shabby, either. In two starts with WIX Filters on the hood of the No. 39, Newman has two top-10 finishes – a sixth-place effort at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway last August and a third-place finish in the Budweiser Shootout at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway in February.
With Michigan being such an important track in Newman’s history, it seems only fitting for the South Bend, Ind., native, to have another breakout race this weekend at the 2-mile oval and solidify his spot in this year’s Chase for the Championship.
RYAN NEWMAN, Driver of the No. 39 WIX Filters Chevrolet Impala for Stewart-Haas Racing:
You have said that Michigan is a special racetrack for you because it is near your home in South Bend, Ind., and it is where you used to come watch races as a kid. Can you talk a little bit more about your special memories at this racetrack?
“The first time I came to Michigan was 1993 or 1994, just as a fan. We parked right behind the main grandstand and got to our seats right before the green flag fell. It was one of my first experiences with NASCAR and it left a great impression on me. I came as a fan several more times after that – probably close to once a year – so it was pretty cool that my first start in a stock car came at Michigan in 2000 in the ARCA Series when I was driving for Penske Racing. To have my dream come true so close to my hometown, with my family at the track, was a pretty big day.”
What are your thoughts on Michigan this weekend and where your No. 39 team is in the Chase at this point?
“There isn’t a track on the schedule that I don’t look forward to going to. There are some tracks I look forward to going to more. Michigan, as I’ve always said, is one of the easiest tracks to drive because it is so big and wide, as well as somewhat forgiving. Once you get your car right, you can pretty much have a good day. But like I said, there’s a lot to look forward to throughout the rest of the season. We’ve done a good job up to this point. But by no means are we locked in. We have to keep on doing what we’ve been doing each and every week and that’s fighting to get solid finishes. Our goal is to finish in the top-five or top-10 each week. We also have to be smart with our strategy and Tony Gibson has done a great job with that. We can’t get too comfortable and say that we’re locked in because there are four more races, and a lot can happen in that time. By no means do we feel like we’re a – I shouldn’t say a – championship-caliber team, but I think we have some room that we need to grow to be more successful and have ourselves a better opportunity at winning the championship.”
We have really worked on our speedway program...
Not only have you talked about Michigan being your home track, but you have also said it is really one of your favorite tracks to drive. What do you like about Michigan?
“It’s a fun racetrack to drive and a fun racetrack to race because it’s a relatively easy track to get around. For a driver, it’s just a great racetrack. In fact, I normally tell people that anyone can drive Michigan. It is so wide that cars can race three- and four-wide there every lap. The track has long sweeping corners, which helps to promote some really good racing. From a driver’s standpoint, you get to draft and bump-draft on the straightaways. I just think it’s a track that is conducive to good racing. You know, you get to a place like Michigan, it’s so wide open that it’s like racing the racetrack is only 10 percent of it, racing the competition is 60 percent of it, and managing your tires is another 30 percent of it.”
What does it take to have a good run at Michigan?
“To have a good run at Michigan, there are definitely a couple of key things you have to have. The first thing is speed. You have to have horsepower to get around this ultra-fast racetrack. I’m confident in that area because we have such strong horsepower from Hendrick under the hood of our No. 39 Chevrolet. The second key is handling. The handling of the racecar is crucial, especially in turns two and three. The car can’t get too tight off (turn) two or be too loose off (turn) three.
“It had been a while since I had a good run there, but we finally put together a good finish at Michigan in June. We didn’t have a great car in practice, but the guys really worked hard on the No. 39 Chevy and gave me something that I could work with and then, at the end, Tony Gibson made a great pit call that gave us some much-needed track position. We have really worked on our speedway program – the mile-and-a-halves and two-mile racetracks – at Stewart-Haas, and we saw the results of that effort at Michigan when we finished sixth there in June. It was a good finish that we typically have not had there, and we need to go back to Michigan this weekend and get the same kind of results.”