KANNAPOLIS, N.C. (June 5, 2012) – “Uncertainty and mystery are energies of life. Don't let them scare you unduly, for they keep boredom at bay and spark creativity.” – R. I. Fitzhenry
For Ryan Newman and the rest of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competitors, “uncertainty” could be the best way to describe what to expect at each of the next two racetracks on the schedule.
While both Pocono (Pa.) Raceway, home to Sunday’s Pocono 400, and Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, site of the June 17 Quicken Loans 400, have long and storied histories in racing, both racetracks have undergone facelifts of sorts since their NASCAR events last summer. Both tracks have been freshly repaved.
This weekend, the fresh asphalt at Pocono’s “Tricky Triangle” means the already challenging and often perplexing racetrack for drivers and crew chiefs alike might just be a little trickier.
Over the years, the 2.5-mile triangular layout has proven to be complicated and vexing to many drivers, but that has not been the case for Newman.
In fact, the demanding dynamic and the unique shape of Pocono have made the famed triangle a favorite of the South Bend, Ind., native. And his history at the 2.5-mile track isn’t too shabby, either.
Pocono Raceway was the site of Newman’s first-ever stock car victory on July 22, 2000. He scored the win in just his second start for Penske Racing in the ARCA series. He started on the outside pole and led 40 of the 80 laps en route to the dominating victory.
In 20 Sprint Cup starts at Pocono Raceway, Newman has finished outside the top-15 just five times. He has two poles, one win, seven top-five finishes and nine top-10s.
After 13 races, Newman sits 13th in the Sprint Cup standings, 120 points behind leader Greg Biffle.
So while the new pavement at Pocono might lead to some uncertainty as the crews work in the garage, one thing remains the same for the driver of the No. 39 Haas Automation Chevy – getting a strong finish. The ultimate, of course, would be another trip to Pocono Raceway’s victory lane.
Despite the questions that a newly paved racetrack may raise, it’s more important than ever for Newman & Company to find a way to conquer the triangular racetrack and get a solid qualifying run, then have a smart race.
Newman and his Tony Gibson-led team have proven time and again they are capable of all these things at the Pennsylvania track. There is no time like this weekend to prove once again that they are the masters of the “Tricky Triangle,” new pavement and all.
RYAN NEWMAN, Driver of the No. 39 Haas Automation Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing:
It seems as if drivers either love or hate Pocono Raceway because it is so difficult. What are your thoughts on the “Tricky Triangle?”
“It’s one of my favorite racetracks just because it is so difficult. It’s really fun to drive. I like it because it’s challenging. Each corner is different – different radius, different banking, different bumps. Each straightaway is a different length. It just seems like it’s a driver’s racetrack and a crew chief’s racetrack because he has to get the car to the driver’s liking in all three corners. It’s all about matching up the combination of how the crew chief sets up the car relative to how the driver drives the racecar to make a happy package and have a shot at victory. It’s fun to have unique situations and unique racetracks. We look forward to going to Pocono each and every time.”
Pocono is the first of several racetracks that will be repaved this year. How do you feel in general about tracks being repaved?
“I think tracks being repaved is obviously part of what we have to do. It’s the evolution of the racetracks. But from my perspective, the newly surfaced racetracks are typically not the better races. The older, more worn-out racetracks provide much better racing – side-by-side, multiple grooves. The tire combination that goes along with it has much more fall-off which, in turn, I think leads to better racing. The cars are going to have to handle a 40-lap run with just three-tenths of fall-off. The old racetracks have three seconds of fall-off. That, to me, is just better all the way around for the fans.”
Talk about Pocono and the repave.
“Pocono is kind of a catch-22 when it comes to the repave because, if you think about it, turn three already was repaved. We ran where the grip was, so only two-thirds of the track is going to be really new to us. It’s going to be interesting. The track is so unique and that to me makes it fun. It’s one of my favorite racetracks. But the new repave will provide some different challenges, I am sure. I guess we will have a couple of extra days to try and figure it out.”
This will also be the first time the Sprint Cup Series has a 400-mile race at Pocono instead of the traditional 500-miler. What do you think of shortening the races at Pocono?
“The shorter the race, the more intense it is. We all grew up with that notion, wherever we raced, whether it was a 25- or 30- or 35-lap race at a short track, that’s what you showed up with. That was the level of intensity for that short amount of time and there’s a lot to be said for that. The history of NASCAR hasn’t done that, but I think there are going to be some rewards in us having some shorter races and having some longer races. It all depends on the venue, in my opinion. At a place like Pocono, with the long straightaways, it’s nice to be a little bit shorter. I think it’s a good change.”
You have a special website on the TV panel of your car this weekend – BBQwithMe.com – promoting a sweepstakes in which one lucky fan and five of his friends can come to a barbecue with you and Tony Stewart. What are your thoughts on that?
“It’s a really cool promotion that Aspen Dental is running. Fans have through the Pocono race on Sunday – until midnight – to visit www.BBQwithMe.com and register to win the prize. They’ll get a round-trip vacation down to Daytona. We will have a cookout together the night before the race, and then they’ll be able to come to the race. I’ve had the chance to do some cool promotions with my sponsors this year and, to me, it’s a lot of fun to get to interact with the fans on more of a personal level. I mean, signing an autograph for someone is OK, but getting to talk to them and get to know them is really a lot more fun and meaningful for me. I hope all the fans watching the race on Sunday will jump on the website and enter the contest. Maybe I’ll see them in Daytona.”