Charlotte Motor Speedway
More Than Just a Race Weekend for Newman, U.S. Army Team
CONCORD, N.C. -- Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway is not just another Sprint Cup race for U.S. Army driver Ryan Newman.
The event is more than just being the longest of the season -- 400 laps, 600 miles. It is the annual race, contested on a patriotic weekend when the nation remembers its fallen heroes.
The traditional Memorial Day weekend classic at Charlotte's 1.5-mile oval has been a constant of NASCAR's rich heritage in the hub of stock car country.
How cool would it be to drive the Soldiers' car to Victory Lane on Memorial Day weekend ...
"The Coca-Cola 600 always carries more meaning for our No. 39 U.S. Army race team," said Newman. "Though it's a big weekend for motorsports, we must remember that it is also Memorial Day weekend, which is a time to pause and pay tribute to all the men and women of the military, past, present and future. Their bravery and strength as fighters for freedom have allowed us to do what we love to do."
A South Bend, Ind. native and Purdue University engineering graduate, Newman will be busting with Army pride this weekend as he attempts to improve on his already successful season.
After 11 of 36 races, Newman ranks seventh in the driver point standings with four top fives and five top 10s. But what is missing thus far from his 2011 portfolio is a victory. He knows that elusive win couldn't come at a better time for his Army team than on Memorial Day weekend.
"Our U.S. Army Chevrolet is definitely capable of winning this race," stated Newman, a 14-time tour winner. "How cool would it be to drive the Soldiers' car to Victory Lane on Memorial Day weekend -- I know that would put a lot of smiles on the faces of our brave Army Strong Soldiers. No question, it would be a dream win."
The Coca-Cola 600 is not only the longest race of the season, but also one of the most challenging for tuning the car since the race starts in daylight and ends under the lights.
"With the day and night time conditions, it's never the easiest race to tune for," explained Newman. "Regarding the length of the race -- it all depends how the car is handling and how hot it is outside. That additional 100 miles when you’re leading the race, and the car is pretty good-- it probably lasts forever. But it’s just another 100 miles. If the car is really misbalanced, fighting loose entry and struggling up by the fence, it can be miserable. Again, it all depends on how your car is handling.”
What Newman has enjoyed most at the Charlotte track is winning nine poles in 20 starts for an incredible 45% success rate. His first of the nine poles at Charlotte came in only his third career start in May 2001. His last two poles came in the previous two Coca Cola 600 races.
"The qualifying success has been great, but we need to have the same performance in the race," noted Newman, who has finished second twice at Charlotte -- in October 2003 and May 2009.