Sonoma: Ryan Newman preview

RYAN NEWMAN Honoring the Fathers KANNAPOLIS, N.C. (June 15, 2010) - Ryan Newman makes no bones about it. If it weren't for his father, Greg Newman, he probably wouldn't be racing today. The story goes that when Ryan was born in December 1977,...

Honoring the Fathers

KANNAPOLIS, N.C. (June 15, 2010) - Ryan Newman makes no bones about it. If it weren't for his father, Greg Newman, he probably wouldn't be racing today.

The story goes that when Ryan was born in December 1977, his proud papa announced right then and there in the delivery room that Ryan would be a racecar driver. At the young age of 4, Ryan got his first racecar, a Quarter Midget, and began going in circles.

Greg worked long hours at his auto repair business to make money so that Ryan could race each weekend. When Greg was done working at the body shop, father and son would spend their evening out in the garage, toiling on the cars, getting them just right for the upcoming weekend's race. Not only Greg, but the entire family sacrificed so Ryan could race.

Over the years, the sacrifices paid off as Ryan got his big break in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Now in his ninth full season of competition, Ryan has 14 wins in Sprint Cup competition, including the 50th Running of the Daytona 500. Winning that race, Ryan said, was a dream come true for both him and his dad. The twosome had traveled to Daytona many times over the years to sit in the grandstands - and even try to sneak into the garage with homemade pit passes thanks to construction paper and glitter - and watch the Daytona 500. Crossing the start-finish line at Daytona in first place was the culmination of a lot of hard work, sacrifice and support that Ryan's dad had given him through the years.

With this Sunday being Father's Day, there would be no better way for Newman to honor his father and thank him for his support over the years than by driving the No. 39 Haas Automation Chevrolet to victory lane after Sunday's Toyota/Save Mart 350k at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif. In eight starts at the 1.99-mile road course, Newman has two top-five and five top-10 finishes.

But a win at Infineon on Father's Day would also be the perfect way to recognize another dad who has played a significant role in Newman's and all of Stewart-Haas Racing's (SHR) success during these past two seasons - Bobby Hutchens, its director of competition.

Since Hutchens joined SHR in late November 2008, he has been the father figure for the fledgling organization. It's a role that he doesn't take lightly. He's worked hard to build, mold, shape and direct the organization that put both of its teams in the Chase for the Championship in its first season together.

Hutchens is a constant presence in the shop and on the shop floor, looking over the racecars and conversing with each of the employees to ensure that everyone at SHR is truly a member of the family. Not only does he oversee the competition side of the race team and the work done on the racecars in the shop, he's also the biggest cheerleader and supporter for the guys in the shop. He knows each of the more than 150 employees at the shop by name, pats them on the back, thanks them for their work, and is constantly encouraging them.

As Newman once put it, "Bobby's the first person to pat you on the back and tell you what a good job you did. He's also the first person to pull you aside and tell you what you need to do better so that the outcome is better."

While Hutchens has been heading the building of a championship race team and providing father-like guidance and advice to his teams, he's also been juggling the rebuilding of his home life, too. Shortly after joining SHR, Hutchens' wife Sharon was diagnosed with her second bout with cancer. On Dec. 22, Sharon Hutchens lost her battle with the disease.

Hutchens - father to sons Taylor, 19, a sophomore at North Carolina State University, and Trey, 12 - shrugs off the idea that he's doing anything special by balancing his duties at the race shop and at home. But his SHR family recognizes the special dedication he has to both his sons and his race teams.

At the shop, Hutchens focuses on getting both SHR teams to victory lane and into the 2010 Chase for the Championship. He travels to the racetrack and oversees his teams on weekends, going back and forth between both pit boxes during the course of a race.

Away from the shop and the racetrack, Hutchens juggles finding meals, doing laundry, coaching his son Trey's basketball team and even working on Trey's latest hobby - a Quarter Midget racecar.

Although Hutchens won't be with his team in-person at Infineon Raceway because he will be at a Father-Son basketball camp with Trey this weekend, Newman & Company knows that he will be with the team in spirit.

Earlier this year, when Newman's No. 39 team won its first race at Phoenix International Raceway in Avondale, Ariz., Hutchens wasn't there because he was coaching in a basketball tournament. While the SHR team was celebrating in victory lane, Hutchens called from his home in Lexington, N.C., to let Newman and the rest of the guys know he was proud of them and their accomplishment.

This weekend, while it will be business as usual at the racetrack in Sonoma, we will pause to celebrate Father's Day and to acknowledge those who have sacrificed and influenced our lives in ways too numerous to count. It would be only fitting for Newman and his team to deliver Hutchens a present to remember.

RYAN NEWMAN, Driver of the No. 39 Haas Automation Chevrolet Impala for Stewart-Haas Racing:

This weekend, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to its first road-course race of the season. What are your thoughts on Infineon Raceway and road-course racing?

"It's the first time we get to run a road course and, typically, there's a different type of cream that rises to the top there. I enjoy it. I enjoy hustling the racecar around the track, and Infineon's a good road course. Personally, I enjoy Watkins Glen a bit more, but I enjoy them both and I look forward to racing out there. It's a big track-position race, and fuel mileage has become a big part of the racing there. But it's the same for everybody. In road-course racing, the driver, in my mind, can make up more than he can at an oval just being able to hustle a car. You have the added mannerism, I guess you could say, of braking. When you brake at short tracks, it's not the same as when you brake and downshift. So you have to be a smooth downshifter, you have to be a good braker. Obviously, you have to turn right. There are extra characteristics I guess you have to include at road courses that you don't have to include at ovals. That separates the men from the boys, typically.

"I have always enjoyed road racing. I have really enjoyed hustling the car around the racetrack. I think it's a lot of fun in Sonoma and at Watkins Glen. We've had great races at Sonoma, but it seems to be typical to come down to fuel mileage, which is a little bit crazy and not the best way to race, in my opinion. From a driver's standpoint, you just want to hustle the car as hard as you can and not have to worry about shutting the car off during yellow flags to be able to save fuel. That is just not as much a fun type of racing. But it is what it is and I look forward to it. We had a really good test. We went to VIR (Virginia International Raceway in Alton) back in May, and the car felt really, really good."

Do you approach a road-course race differently than other races on the circuit? How is a road-course race different for the driver?

"Not really. Once we get there, we attack it and do our thing like we do any other race weekend. Road-course racing is physically demanding and mentally, as well. It's really a lot of fun to hustle the car around the racetrack. It's definitely challenging. just doing what you can to save fuel on a road course, which is one of the hardest things you can ever do inside a racecar, in my opinion. It's a big track-position game and, if you qualify well, you have a chance to race well. If you don't, your challenge will be to make a bunch of passes and race hard all day."

Talk about your relationship with your dad, racing, and what a win at Sonoma on Father's Day would mean.

"I think the easiest way to say it is that I wouldn't be here racing today without my dad and everything he did to further my racing career. My dad, my mom, my sister - they all made sacrifices and everyone chipped in so that I could race. My dad had an auto repair shop, so he was busy making money so that we could go race. When he wasn't working at the auto repair shop, he was busy with me, working in the garage on my car, or we were traveling back and forth to and from the racetrack.

"I think everyone has heard the story, now, that when I was born my dad looked at me and said, 'We have ourselves a racecar driver.' My dad got me my first Quarter Midget, and I started racing at 4. But this wasn't something he pushed me to do. My dad had wanted to be a racecar driver, but he couldn't. Then, when I came along, he let me race. My dad actually tried to take racing away at one point to see if that's what I really wanted to do, and it was. He wanted to make sure it wasn't something he was pushing me to do, that it's what I wanted as much as him, and I did. In fact, I think he would tell you I wasn't too happy when he tried to take racing away from me. I appreciate that, in hindsight.

"It was a great learning experience for me, growing up with my dad, being around cars, around racecars, working on racecars together. I'm extremely grateful for all the things he's taught me. We've had our ups and downs, just like any father and son. We've also had some pretty incredible experiences together, like having him spot for me when I won the Daytona 500 in 2008, hearing the excitement in his voice, listening to him get choked up and then hugging him in victory lane. That was something not many people have. That was our dream coming full circle. He doesn't spot for me anymore, and we have a different relationship. In many ways, it's better because we can talk about other things instead of racing. I love him very much, and I would love to give him a victory for Father's Day."

Bobby Hutchens, the director of competition, has been a father figure in many ways for the Stewart-Haas Racing team. Talk about what Hutchens means to this race team.

"Bobby has been through so much over the past year, with building our race team and the loss of his wife. With everything he's been through, I think it's hard not to admire his support and dedication to this race team and also to his family. Tony (Stewart) and I were actually talking about it the other day, and Tony said it best when he called Bobby 'overcommitted.' He is right there in the race shop every day. He's in meetings, the go-to guy when anyone has questions. And he's our biggest cheerleader. Then he drives home and is a dad. He's been through a lot, and we just try to support him any way we can. Tony has talked a lot about how he wanted Stewart-Haas to be a family, and I think it definitely is one big family and Bobby is kind of the head of that family. He's the first guy who will pat you on the back and congratulate you, or tell you it's okay if something were to go wrong. But he's also the first guy to tell you what you need to do to be better. "

TONY GIBSON, Crew Chief of the No. 39 Haas Automation Chevrolet Impala for Stewart-Haas Racing:

What are the challenges of a road course for you as a crew chief and for the team? Particularly, can you talk about the fuel mileage strategy?

"It is kind of difficult. You are turning right and left. You have a lot of off-camber corners, a lot of elevation changes. Your bump stop loads go through the roof. Your tires are off the ground more than they are on the ground. It's kind of hard to set up for that. Basically, you try to manage it the best you can. Your braking is huge there. Braking and wheel hopping are two of the biggest things we fight there. Trying to find that balance, where you can outbrake a guy without wheel hopping, is probably the biggest thing we fought last time at both road courses. We made some gains on it, but there were still some guys who could outbrake us without wheel hopping. To me, that seems to be the hardest thing - getting that balance of underbraking and the wheel hop, getting that calmed down. It's really hard. These cars are so top-heavy that, when you slam on the brakes, they want to go up on the nose, the back wheels get light and you start wheel hopping, especially when you are coming downhill. So, it's a difficult balance, but you do your best. The driver knows going in that you aren't going to get it perfect all the way around, and they've got to kind of help manage that, too.

"The other thing with road-course racing, besides maintaining the brakes, is fuel mileage. Some guys will pit as soon as they can make it the entire race so that, when it all cycles around, they will be out front. So fuel mileage is critical. You just want to have the best strategy when it comes down to it. You're pretty much done if you run out of fuel on the road course. You don't want to run out. I think its going to be really interesting this year with the green-white-checker rule because we could potentially have three attempts at a green-white-checker finish, which we didn't have last year. I think that's going to be a factor you have to weigh at the end of these races because we see cautions all the time, especially at the end of these races because guys are trying to make moves and gain spots. So you're going to have to keep that in mind, too. We could run an extra six, seven or eight laps at the end of these races, and that could be pretty critical when it comes to a guy rolling the dice and trying to stay out for fuel mileage."

How has your father, Bo Gibson, been an influence on your racing career?

"My dad is the reason I got into racing. He raced my whole life, both of my brothers drove, and my dad taught us all everything we needed to know to get started in racing. Dad got us all started. There were a lot of sacrifices on his part, moneywise and timewise, to get us in the sport. Everything I am experiencing now and have experienced in this sport is thanks to him. It would be awesome for me to be able to get a win for him on Father's Day. I know it would be a big deal for Ryan and his dad, Greg. And it would mean just as much to me if that is something we could get done this weekend."

The No. 39 had a tough race last weekend at Michigan and fell back in the points. How do you rebound from that?

"It was kind of a heartbreaker because we did have a really good car at Michigan until about lap 136, when Ryan hit some sheet metal on the track and it broke the splitter and caused some aero damage. We were pretty pleased up to that point with our car and how our day was going. But you'll have that. Guys have bad days all the time. We'll bounce back from it and learn from it and go on. Like I've said, this is a tough team, and we will bounce back from this. We never give up. We never quit. Yeah, we took a hit in the points last weekend, but we still have time. We like being the underdog when no one is talking about us. That's when we just might be able to sneak in there."

-source: shr

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Ryan Newman
Teams Stewart-Haas Racing