Back to Where it all Began a Decade Ago
KANNAPOLIS, N.C. (April 18, 2012) – For one’s 10th anniversary, it is proper to give gifts of aluminum or tin.
Ryan Newman would like to change one letter of the designated gift of tin, and give his sponsor Haas Automation a “win” in honor of its 10th season as a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series sponsor at the same track where it made its debut.
It was 10 years ago this September that Haas Automation – the largest CNC machine tool builder in the western world and founded by Gene Haas – made its first start as a primary sponsor in the Sprint Cup Series at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City. The company’s name and red “H” logos adorned the hood and quarter panels for the No. 60 Haas-CNC Racing machine for driver Jack Sprague, also owned by Haas.
While the sponsor’s first outing was lackluster – ending early with a 35th-place finish – it didn’t keep the team or the sponsor from being a regular competitor on the Sprint Cup circuit.
Fast forward to April 2012 and there’s no doubt the sponsor (Haas Automation) and the race team (then Haas-CNC Racing) have come a long way since that first Kansas outing.
Today, founder Haas shares ownership of what is now known as Stewart-Haas Racing with three-time and reigning Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart. The merger, which took effect in 2009, has resulted in 16 Sprint Cup points paying wins, a Sprint All-Star race win and a Sprint Cup championship.
And Haas’ company, Haas Automation, serves as one of multiple primary sponsors for Newman and the No. 39 Chevrolet, including Sunday’s STP 400.
Kansas hasn’t been the strongest of racetracks for Newman in recent years. In the past nine starts, he has just one top-10 finish at the 1.5-mile oval. But despite the recent hiccups at the track, Newman does know what it takes to finish up front at Kansas as he has one win (2003) and two runner-up finishes (2001 and 2002).
This weekend, Newman will pilot the same chassis with which he finished fourth at Las Vegas earlier this season. With a proven racecar underneath him and a win already to his credit this year at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, Newman has the confidence that his Tony Gibson-led team will rise to the challenge that Kansas Speedway presents. While every mile-and-a-half track has its own characteristics that make it completely unique and change the car’s handling characteristics, knowing he will climb back in a fast racecar will help take one variable out of the equation.
Turning “tin” into “win” is the ultimate goal this weekend. As he sits ninth in the Sprint Cup point standings, Newman would like nothing more than to rebound from a disappointing outing last weekend at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth and give his sponsor and co-owner something to celebrate at the track where it all began a decade ago.
RYAN NEWMAN, Driver of the No. 39 Haas Automation Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing:
Talk a little bit about your season and what challenges Kansas provides for drivers.
“Obviously, the win at Martinsville was pretty big for our team. To get a win that early in the season was big for us. But just because we have one win doesn’t mean we can rest on that. We had hoped to carry over some momentum from that win, but that didn’t work and last weekend at Texas was disappointing. We just couldn’t get the car to handle. It wasn’t for lack of effort. It’s just tough when the last 234 laps are caution free. You never get bunched up, and you don’t have as many chances to work on the car. Things didn’t go our way at Texas, but even with that finish, I still feel like our intermediate program has really improved over the past two seasons. We had a great run in Las Vegas. We didn’t qualify where we had hoped, starting 18th, but the guys tweaked on the car and made it better and we ran in the top-10 for most of the day. Then, on the last restart, I was just in the right place at the right time and we went from eighth to fourth. So I’m confident heading into Kansas. I’ve compared the Kansas track to Las Vegas before, and we’ve got the same car, so we’re looking forward to getting back up front and competing for a win this weekend at Kansas. It’s been a long time, but I have been in victory lane here before. The track has aged and the seams with the asphalt are sensitive, for sure. The biggest thing is probably going to be track position. So, our goal will be to go out there and qualify well and have a good race.”
Last year was the first time that we came to Kansas twice. What are your thoughts on this track and having two races here – one during the Chase.
“If you look back at 2001, I was fortunate because this was one of my first races at Penske Racing and we finished second. Kansas was one of our first big outlets in the Midwest and I think it’s a deserving place to come here two times. Since then, there’s been a lot of growth around here. Everything has grown up so much around the track and part of that is because of the fans, part of it is because of the market. There are great race fans who continue to come back, so I think it was a good call for us to at least sample coming here twice. I think last year it was different because coming here twice meant folks would have some notes to use when we come back in the fall for a Chase race. But since there’s going to be a repave here after this weekend’s race, that totally changes everything. Everyone will be on an even playing field when we come back here in October.”
You mentioned that winning a race early in the season – at Martinsville – was big for your team. How does winning a race early in the season help your confidence throughout the rest of the year?
“Well, it’s big for us from a points standpoint because we gain an advantage in the points, but primarily to give us something to fall back on if we need it to make it into the Chase. That is a sense of relief. But that relief doesn’t get you anywhere when it comes to performance. It just gives you something to fall back on. So our job is still to go out there and win each week and make the effort to win each and every race and keep moving our way up in the points so we don’t have to rely on the win. It’s a relief and that’s what we shoot for. But, realistically, it doesn’t matter if it was right now or if it was three races before the Chase. For us, also, it was nice to finally get a win and contribute to how well the organization had been running. Tony has been racking up wins, and it was nice to add one of our own. We would like to add another one.”
Your sponsor this weekend – Haas Automation – has been a primary sponsor in the Sprint Cup Series for 10 years. In fact, its first race was at Kansas Speedway in September 2002. Talk a little about its longevity in the sport.
“Gene Haas and Haas Automation have definitely done a lot in and for NASCAR. I think, from my perspective, a lot of people don’t realize Haas Automation provides machine tools for the majority of NASCAR teams. We have our own machine shop right here at Stewart-Haas Racing, and those machines make a lot of parts and pieces that make our racecars successful. I’m very grateful for what Gene and Haas Automation have done, and I’m proud to represent them. We haven’t been able to get Gene his first win in a Haas Automation-branded racecar, and I think it would be pretty cool to do that this weekend at Kansas – the same track where he had his first Sprint Cup start back in 2002.”