RYAN NEWMAN Hooking the Big Fish Takes Patience, Especially at 'Dega KANNAPOLIS, N.C. (April 21, 2010) -- The always analytical Ryan Newman knows that you can't rush a good thing. In Newman's eyes, there's a simple formula: if you put yourself...
Hooking the Big Fish Takes Patience, Especially at 'Dega
KANNAPOLIS, N.C. (April 21, 2010) -- The always analytical Ryan Newman knows that you can't rush a good thing.
In Newman's eyes, there's a simple formula: if you put yourself in the right position at the right time often enough, then, sooner or later, the outcome will be favorable for you. Sometimes that favorable outcome takes a little longer than you hope. But eventually, you will find yourself the victor.
And that's just where Newman and his No. 39 Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) team found themselves two weeks ago at Phoenix International Raceway, where they celebrated their first win together as a team in victory lane. In his 43rd start for SHR, Newman, who had come close to victory on multiple occasions during the 2009 season, finally took the checkered flag at the front of the field.
For Newman & Company, it had been a long wait to get that first win together. But finally, their hard work, "don't quit" attitude and, most of all, their patience, paid off.
In racing, Newman says, patience is key. It's a quality that the 2008 Daytona 500 champion says he began learning through his favorite pastime -- fishing. Newman began fishing with his grandpa on Lake Dowagiac in Michigan at the young age of three. They would spend hours together on the lake.
Over time, Newman learned there was a good chance he wouldn't catch a fish in his first few minutes on the lake. In fact, he found it was a process that could take hours. Cast your line, reel it in and repeat. If there's no fish, then find another area of water and cast your line, reel it in and repeat.
Eventually, Newman knows he will cast his line in just the right spot and hook his fish, just like getting that first win with his SHR team. All it takes is a little patience.
This weekend, Newman's patience, along with that of 42 other NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers, will be put to the test in the Aaron's 499 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway. There is no track on the circuit where patience is more critical than at the circuit's biggest and fastest racetrack.
As Newman explains it, patience behind the wheel is crucial, particularly in the extremely tight packs of cars that circle the famed superspeedway. The key is to stay calm and just wait for your turn. Eventually, the opening will be there and the driver will be able to make his move. Patience keeps you from getting frustrated, losing your cool and making a mistake that could end your day, as well as that of many others.
In 16 starts at Talladega, Newman has four top-five and seven top-10 finishes. And although Newman's best finish at the 2.66-mile track -- a third-place effort -- came in last year's spring race, the track hasn't been particularly kind to him, especially last season.
In both 2009 events, Newman's No. 39 Chevy was involved in spectacular late race crashes.
In the spring race, Carl Edwards' Ford spun in front of Newman's Chevy as they headed toward the checkered flag. Edwards' car flipped over Newman's hood and windshield before slamming into the catch-fencing that separates the frontstretch from the grandstands. Despite not being able to see from the massive damage his car received from the impact with Edwards' car, Newman drove his No. 39 across the finish line in third place.
When the series returned to Talladega in the fall, Newman's Chevy was hit from behind by another car, became airborne, made contact with the SAFER Barrier on the outside retaining wall while upside down, and then barrel-rolled twice before it came to rest upside-down in the grass on the inside of turn three. Newman was relegated to a 36th-place finish and his only DNF of the 2009 season. And the chassis of Newman's wrecked racecar has since been taken to be sunk in the bottom of one of his ponds.
Last year's spring Talladega event was one in which Newman and his team felt a sure victory had slipped away from them at the last second. This year, with patience intact and the No. 39 team enjoying the momentum of a huge recent upward swing in performance and points, Newman is poised to hook the big prize -- a trip to Talladega victory lane.
So as the Sprint Cup Series makes its first trek to Talladega this season, Newman will surely recall his recent runs at the track, while carefully calculating his plan for Sunday's race. And in his spare time, there's no doubt the avid outdoorsman will find a pond and enjoy the calm before the storm by casting his line a few times.
But make no mistake that, as patient as Newman will be as he makes his moves on the track, he and the No. 39 Haas Automation/Office Depot team want nothing more than to take care of some unfinished business.
RYAN NEWMAN, Driver of the No. 39 Haas Automation / Office Depot Chevrolet Impala for Stewart-Haas Racing:
You were involved in two pretty big accidents at Talladega last year. Can you talk about those wrecks and going back to Talladega this weekend?
"Unfortunately, that's just part of racing at Talladega. It's a race that is all about survival. The first race, I kind of hung out in the back and kept my nose clean. And then, at the end of the race, I was put in the right position to have an opportunity to win. Denny Hamlin pushed me up to the front and then Dale Earnhardt Jr., pushed me. I never expected the 09 (Brad Keselowski) and the 99 (Carl Edwards) to get hooked up and go as quickly as they did. When I saw Carl flying up in front of me, I thought he was actually going to spin down to the bottom and the back of the car caught air. I saw the left-rear tire coming right toward my windshield. So, yeah, it was bad. But, bottom line was, I kept my foot in it, I knew I was going to bounce off the wall, and I still finished third.
"The second race was another deal, another byproduct of racing at Talladega. We got hit from behind and that turned me sideways. Then I got up in the air and just kept flipping and flopping. Unfortunately, the cage came down on top of my head and I couldn't get out. It was definitely an eventful ride. I hit the inside wall. I got upside-down and I rolled what I thought was 10 times in the grass, there, but it was really only like twice. You know, I think I did everything in that wreck except catch fire or leave the racetrack. There were a lot of things that happened in that wreck that happened just right to make it all turn out the way that it did. Ten different things could have happened and I would have wrecked 10 different ways. It was disappointing for us, and I was sore for quite a long time after that wreck.
"As far as this weekend's race, I don't know what to expect. Nobody knows what to expect. This type of racing, you may have something the same, something worse or something better than what has happened in the previous races. This track has gone 500 miles green all the way and it's had many yellows. We just look forward to the opportunity to have a good run with our Haas Automation/ Office Depot Chevrolet and move up in the points. I do think that this time will be different when we go back to Talladega because of the spoiler. I'm personally very happy that NASCAR made that step to make the racing safer and to try to keep the cars on the ground."
This weekend, we go to Talladega with the spoilers on the car. Do you feel this will be part of the solution to make sure these cars don't get airborne like you did there the last time?
"I think it's definitely a step in the right direction. The testing data focused on the spoiler versus the wing with the car going backwards and the 'lift-off speed,' as they call it. I don't know, I think making it safer not just for us drivers, but for the fans, too, and keeping the cars on the ground, is what it's all about. We'll see."
Can you talk about the uniqueness of Talladega?
"It is different. It is different mostly because you are wide open. It is more racecar here than it is at any other racetrack we go to. This is so much different even than Daytona because there's a lack of handling and the need for speed. It is a fun place when you have a really fast racecar."
You have a Daytona 500 victory to your credit and, at Talladega, you have four top-five and seven top-10 finishes in 16 Sprint Cup starts. What has been the most challenging thing that you have had to learn about restrictor-plate racing over the years?
"I think patience is the biggest thing. The second-biggest thing is that so many cars are so close and so equal, you almost have to wait your turn if you're not in that group that's running in the top-five. The ability to stay calm and not overreact is crucial. You have to be able to predict what might happen. Predicting what might happen is important in anything, whether you're driving a street car down the road and wondering if someone is going to cross the centerline on you, or you're driving 200 mph and trying to figure out if there's going to be an accident three cars in front of you. Trying to predict that future is extremely difficult, but it can be done. And predicting what might happen is something you really have to do when you're racing at Talladega."
TONY GIBSON, Crew Chief of the No. 39 Haas Automation / Office Depot Chevrolet Impala for Stewart-Haas Racing:
This team had some highs and lows at Talladega last year -- a third-place finish and two wrecked racecars. What are your thoughts on racing at Talladega, and what goes through your mind when you see your driver in one of the incidents?
"It's just one of those tracks where it's pot luck. You're either in it or you are out of it. We almost won in the spring and then, in the blink of an eye we almost didn't finish the same race. Newman got wrecked not that far from the start-finish line, bounced off the wall and drove a car that he couldn't see out of across the finish line in third. The second race, he was upside-down on his roof in the infield grass only a few laps from the end. It's just one of those racetracks that is crazy and frustrating. It's not been very kind to us. But it still pays the same amount of points, so you have to go into it thinking you're going to win it and wanting to win it. So that's what we'll do.
"It's tough when you see the kind of wrecks we had last year in both races at Talladega. The biggest thing is you are hoping the driver is okay. That's the main thing. The racecars, you can rebuild and fix. You just don't want anybody to get hurt. Once we know he's okay, it becomes a process. You want to get the car in the garage and back in the shop so you can look at the damage. We look at the things that we saw in the car, and we try to make the car better. The wreck last year, I think, kind of sparked NASCAR's decision to go back to the spoiler and make other changes. The biggest thing was that it scares you.
"But the key is survival. Honestly, you go to Talladega to try to survive the big wreck. That race is four-wide, mad chaos. Handling is not a big issue at Talladega. You want to run fast to prove that you can do it but, in the end, Talladega is a crapshoot. Every lap, you have your fingers crossed hoping you're not in the big wreck. Anybody who says they're not worried about that is lying. Any second, your whole race can be done no matter how good your car is that day. It doesn't matter if you're the driver, a crew member or a fan -- you're holding your breath every lap at Talladega. It will be the same way this year."
What are the differences you expect to see at Talladega this weekend with a spoiler on the car versus the wing?
"I think, racing-wise, it's going to be the same. It's going to be more like the Nationwide cars. I think there will be tighter groups, tighter packs than there normally are. I think the racing is going to be tighter than it ever has been. Guys won't be able to pass one another. They are going to be beating and banging. NASCAR has kind of cut the cord on bump drafting, so it's going to be probably crazier than it has been."
Do you feel like this is a track that owes the No. 39 team one?
"Absolutely. I know people say tracks don't owe anybody anything, but I feel like pretty soon we are due a good restrictor plate race. Our team hasn't not wrecked a racecar in a restrictor-plate race, so far. And, other than the win in the Daytona 500 back in 2008, Newman has been in accidents, barrel rolled, ended up on his roof and ended up with torn-up racecars at Daytona and Talladega. It's kind of unfair for one guy to go through what he's gone through at these tracks. It's feast or famine, but I do feel like it owes us one."
The past few weeks have been pretty phenomenal for this team. You got your first top-five of the season at Martinsville, and you followed that up by getting the team's first win and your first win as a crew chief at Phoenix. Then earlier this week, the team really dug deep and fought back to finish just outside the top-10 at Texas. You have moved up a lot in the standings, and the team is now nine points out of the top-12. I know it's early to be talking about points, but what are your thoughts on what this team has accomplished and what it means for them?
"The win was something really special for all of us -- not just me. Ryan, and I think a lot of people, didn't realize it was my first win as a crew chief. For me, getting a win in the Cup Series as a crew chief was one of my goals. It was something that I wanted to be able to cross off that list of accomplishments. But for me, it was more important for us to win as a team. So many of these guys had left their jobs at DEI (Dale Earnhardt Inc.), had put their faith in me and followed me over to SHR. So for me, I felt like I owed it to them and it was important to get that win for them. We felt like we had our chances to win last year and we didn't, so I was starting to wonder if it was ever going to happen. But it finally did, and I was so happy for all of our guys. I saw tears in some of their eyes. It was a pretty emotional victory lane for all of us, and I think it has given us some momentum and confidence that maybe wasn't there.
"What we have been able to do -- getting some solid finishes these past few races and moving up in the points -- is just like last year. If we can keep plugging away and not let things get us down, and no matter how many laps are left, we've got to know in our heart that we can turn it around and make a bad weekend into a decent weekend. And that's what we did this past weekend at Texas. We didn't have a great car, and we kind of struggled. But we never gave up, which has really been this team's motto. We fought back, we got back on the lead lap and we put ourselves in position for a really great finish. Unfortunately, in the closing laps, Matt Kenseth had a tire problem right in front of us, and that kind of slowed down our momentum. To come home 11th was pretty darn good considering where we were going to finish, which was probably 18th or 19th. We'll take that. We did this same thing last year -- we took really bad days and made decent days out of those bad days and that will be the difference of making the Chase or not."