Darlington Raceway 500
Ryan Newman - Boldly Tackling the ‘Track Too Tough to Tame’
KANNAPOLIS, N.C. – Perhaps there is no better time for Ryan Newman’s No. 39 Chevrolet Impala to carry the tagline “Bold is How We Roll” than at this weekend’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Race at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway.
We definitely got off to a really good start, basically from the green flag in Daytona...
For if Newman and his No. 39 Tornados team want to tackle, tame and claim victory at the infamous 1.366-mile, egg-shaped oval, both driver and crew members know that each will have to be at the top of his game. In fact, it will take bold moves from the driver on the racetrack, gutsy calls by the crew chief and intrepid work on pit road by the crew to be successful at the “Track Too Tough to Tame.”
Not only is Darlington one of the sport’s most renowned races at one of the most historic racetracks, it’s a track Newman ranks among his favorites. But the Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) driver, who prides himself on being a historian of the sport, doesn’t want to simply appreciate the legendary racetrack, he wants to add his name to the history books as a winner of one of NASCAR’s oldest traditions – the Southern 500.
One look at his record there and it’s easy to see why he likes Darlington so much. In 12 starts, Newman has one pole (2003) and he has started outside of the top-10 just three times.
His race results have been just as impressive. Although Newman has yet to record a win at the track, he has six top-five and eight top-10 finishes. Since joining SHR, Newman has recorded a fourth-place finish in 2009 and a ninth-place finish last season.
With nine races in the books in the 2011 season, Newman sits eighth in the Sprint Cup point standings, 52 behind leader Carl Edwards. He has posted three top-five and four top-10 finishes, while leading laps in six of the last nine races.
Despite being off to the best start after nine races in his 10-year Sprint Cup career, the past four have resulted in disappointment for Newman and his team. While the No. 39 team has consistently been among the frontrunners at each race, bad luck and other misfortunes have cost the team when the checkered flag has waved.
This weekend, the team intends to leave the past four races behind and turn its season back around. And Darlington could be the perfect place to do just that. In addition to Newman’s impressive record at the track also known as the “Lady in Black,” Newman and the No. 39 Chevrolet tested at Darlington as part of a Goodyear tire test earlier this season.
While the test session may not guarantee a leg up on the competition, Newman’s competitive fire and desire is at an all-time high, fueled by the string of strong performances by his team this season.
The “Bold is How We Roll” tagline will adorn the No. 39 Chevrolet this weekend. It’s the tagline for sponsor Tornados, the bold, rolled snacks brand that Newman took to victory lane last April at Phoenix International Raceway in just their third race together. With that, Newman & Company certainly have the right attitude for their bid to come out on top at Darlington.
RYAN NEWMAN, Driver of the No. 39 Tornados Chevrolet Impala for Stewart-Haas Racing:
Nine races in and you are off to one of your best starts in your career. However, the last four races have been a bit disappointing for you and your team. Can you turn it around this weekend at Darlington? What would a win at Darlington mean to you?
“We definitely got off to a really good start, basically from the green flag in Daytona. We led the most laps in the Daytona 500, which was the first time we had ever led the most laps as a team. We didn’t get the finish that we wanted there, but we showed that we were capable of winning. Then, I think we had something like four top-10s – three of which were fifth-place finishes. So we definitely had an impressive start to the season. But as good as that start was for us, we know we can’t rest on starting out on a hot streak, especially if we want to guarantee ourselves a spot in the Chase. Unfortunately, the last four races haven’t ended as well. It’s been disappointing, but things have happened that we have no control over, and that’s racing. We know that we had good cars at each of those races, particularly at both Talladega and Richmond. We felt like we had top-five cars in both of those races. We weren’t happy with what happened, but those were things that were out of our control. It was disappointing, and now we have to move forward. We feel like we have some good notes going into Darlington. We’ve finished fourth and ninth there our last two races, so I definitely feel this is a track where we can get over the hump from having a few disappointing finishes and get back to where we were at the start of the season.
“Winning a Southern 500 at Darlington has always been a goal of mine. For me, personally, it ranks right up there with the Daytona 500, the Brickyard and the Coca-Cola 600 as a race I want to win before I retire. I’ve always considered myself to be a driver who appreciates the history of our sport and someone who respects the drivers, the races – really, everything that has come before us. The Southern 500 is part of this sport’s heritage. It’s tradition. It has been such an important race and the track has been such a legendary place to race that, to be added to the list of drivers who have won it – David Pearson, Dale Earnhardt, Richard Petty – is a dream of mine.”
Back in March, the No. 39 team was one of several teams that participated in a Goodyear tire test at Darlington. How much does that help you leading into this race weekend?
“I’m glad we had the opportunity to do the Goodyear tire test at Darlington back in March. I don’t know that I would necessarily say that it’s something that gives us an advantage over the other teams because the track conditions were different, the weather was different – there are a lot of outside forces that were different. But for us, it was a good test and, hopefully, we learned some things that will help us this weekend. We went down there with the racecar I’m running this weekend. For us, we went down there to sort of validate our notes and also what Goodyear had to make sure, because of the situation with the asphalt, that the track hadn’t changed and necessitated a tire change. And it didn’t. So, it was an opportunity to go down there and validate things for Goodyear and work on our racecar at the same time. I don’t know that it gives us a leg up, but it was nice to get some seat time at Darlington. We’ve run really well there the past two seasons. I think we’ve had a top-five and a top-10 finish and we would like to improve on that this season.”
I have always loved racing at Darlington since the first time I went and tested there...
You’ve said that Darlington is a racetrack you look forward to each year. What is it about Darlington that you like so much?
“I have always loved racing at Darlington since the first time I went and tested there when I was at Penske Racing. I think some people and drivers are entirely intimidated going to that racetrack. Some drivers absolutely hate it. But it’s one of my favorites, if not my favorite. I always said it was my favorite when it was the old asphalt. Racing-wise, I’ve always said Darlington is not the perfect racetrack. To me, it’s my favorite racetrack to drive. But, racing-wise, going three- and four-wide, you’re not going to see it at Darlington. It’s going to be a very important track-position race in the sense that, if you’re out front, it’s going to be easier to stay out front because it’s difficult to pass there. It’s always been a give-and-take racetrack. It’s a give-and-take racetrack when it comes to passing. Probably, it has always been my favorite track because you are always adjusting. You adjust to the tires, the character of the track. The fact that you are running right next to the wall is challenging. It’s the most challenging track we have and that is why I enjoy it the most. I haven’t thought it was as much fun since they repaved it, but I think the racing was better last year than it was the year before, and I think it will be better again this time around. It is still a great racetrack.
“For me, the other reason Darlington is a favorite of mine is because of the rich history that the track has. There are so many great stories about the great races that occurred there and the drivers who were part of it. It’s just an amazing place if you are a history buff about the sport. For me, personally, I would have to say my favorite memory at Darlington was probably in 2001 in the Nationwide Series. I’m not sure which race it was there, but I think we won the pole that weekend by, like, four-tenths of a second. That was a pretty special memory for me. I’ve had some good runs in the Cup Series, too, but that’s one of the coolest memories I have of Darlington.”