INDIANAPOLIS, Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2001 - Ryan Newman is back home again in Indiana for the eighth running of the Brickyard 400 on Aug. 5, and the 23-year-old South Bend, Ind., native in his first short season in the NASCAR Winston Cup ranks is ...
INDIANAPOLIS, Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2001 - Ryan Newman is back home again in Indiana for the eighth running of the Brickyard 400 on Aug. 5, and the 23-year-old South Bend, Ind., native in his first short season in the NASCAR Winston Cup ranks is completing an odyssey.
"Ever since 1994 when they first tested cars there, I made a special trip to go down and see what it was like," Newman said last month during a two-day test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. "I've been looking for it ever since."
In 1994, he was 16 years old and starting his driving career in the USAC midget ranks. Seven years later, he's been tabbed by Roger Penske to drive the Alltel Taurus in selected races and already nailed down a pole position in May at Charlotte, N.C.
Newman also has earned a vehicle structural engineering degree from Purdue University.
"I got the classes done this past semester, and I'm transferring the credits over throughout the summer semester," Newman said. "I'll get my diploma here the first of August, so I'm finished with the work. All I have to do is the paperwork, and it should be done."
Skills learned by Newman in the classroom apply to racing.
"I think the biggest translation is me being able to work with the crew and the engineers and the mechanics as far as how to relate what I'm doing behind the wheel to what they do to turn the wrench," Newman said. "Just to be able to understand the physics of things is huge when it comes to making a race car turn left. There's an equation or a mathematical solution to everything we do, whether it be turning the wheel left or stepping on the gas."
Newman has tested an IROC car at the Speedway and attended last year's Brickyard 400, sitting next to Penske, who spotted for Rusty Wallace.
"You could pretty much hold on to those wide-open all the way around here," Newman said of the IROC experience. "So to run 198 miles an hour or whatever we run down the straightaway and then have to hit the corner and be just right was a pretty big deal. I can see what it's like to drive an IRL car around here at 225 or whatever they are on the straightaway and then have to hit the corner and hit their marks just right.
"It's not your average racetrack at Indy because you've got four different corners and, basically, four different ends of the racetrack. Most racetracks you have only two, so if you're right, you're right four times and if you're wrong, you're wrong four times."
Newman put together an impressive USAC record - 1999 Coors Light Silver Bullet Series champion ...'99 National Midget runner-up ... the only driver in USAC history to win three Rookie of the Year titles with midgets ('95), Silver Bullet ('96) and sprints ('99). With that impressive resume of success in the Midwest and his Indiana roots, it's not surprising that his ticket list for the Brickyard is long.
"It's pretty big," he said. "There're a lot of friends and family, but it's just going to be great to be at Indianapolis. Rusty ran really good here last year and finished second, so we've got some good notes. We've got some different tires this year, so we're trying to do a little development there as far as setup."
NASCAR Winston Cup practice begins at 2 p.m. (EST) Friday at the 2.5-mile oval, with one-lap Winston Cup qualifying at 10:15 a.m. Saturday and the 100-mile True Value IROC at Indy race at 2 p.m. that day. The Brickyard 400 starts at 1:30 p.m. Sunday.