Texas II: Ryan Newman preview

RYAN NEWMAN Shooting for a Big, Bold Turnaround at Texas KANNAPOLIS, N.C. (Nov. 3, 2010) -- They say everything is bigger in Texas. Ryan Newman and his No. 39 Tornados team hope that's one saying that proves true as they are looking for a big...

Shooting for a Big, Bold Turnaround at Texas

KANNAPOLIS, N.C. (Nov. 3, 2010) -- They say everything is bigger in Texas.

Ryan Newman and his No. 39 Tornados team hope that's one saying that proves true as they are looking for a big turnaround in their fortunes at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth. Newman and his Stewart-Haas Racing team are ready to get back on the right track and end the 2010 season on a high note.

Just three weeks ago, Newman was enjoying his best and most successful stretch of the season. The No. 39 team was a force to contend with each week in the top-10 and, more often than not, the best-finishing non-Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship contender.

In a span of seven weeks, Newman finished no worse than 11th. The stretch dated back to the night race at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway in late August, when he finished sixth. Newman followed that up with an eighth-place finish at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Ga., and an 11th-place effort at Richmond on Sept. 11.

After Richmond, Newman posted four top-10 finishes and one top-five effort -- eighth at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon; eighth at Dover (Del.) International Speedway; ninth at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kansas; and fifth at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif.

Newman and his team appeared to be at the top of their game as, each week, the No. 39 was a contender on the racetrack. Newman & Company were poised to end the 2010 season on a run of impressive finishes. But the last three weekends haven't been so kind to Newman and his Stewart-Haas Racing team. In fact, Newman has dropped from 13th -- the highest non-Chaser -- to 15th in points.

At Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway, Newman's outing ended before it ever really started with an accident on just the second lap of the race. The incident and garage time repairing the resulting damage left Newman with a 36th-place finish.

The team followed that up with what looked to be yet another strong run at its favorite short track, Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. After starting fourth, Newman clearly had one of the cars to beat as he led 32 laps early in the event. But, midway through the race, Newman's racecar suffered a broken rear gear, sending the team to the garage for repairs and resulting in a 30th-place finish.

And, this past weekend at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway, Newman's early strategy didn't pan out as he went one lap down to the leaders. He was still able to race to the front and showed how strong his No. 39 Chevrolet was, once again. But, in the end, despite getting back on the lead lap, he didn't get the push he needed and ended up 23rd.

Newman enters this weekend's AAA Texas 500 with a strong determination to turn around his team's misfortunes. And, he will pilot a car that has proven to be strong, performance-wise. It's the same Tornados Chevrolet that he drove to a fifth-place finish at California, just four weeks ago. In that car, Newman battled for the lead and then overcame damage late in the race to drive from 16th to fifth in just 13 laps.

And while Newman's stats may not shine in the Lone Star State, Texas is a track where the South Bend, Ind., native has long enjoyed racing thanks to the high speeds and multiple racing grooves.

In 14 starts at the 1.5-mile oval, he has one win, two poles, three top-five finishes and three top-10s. His lone win came back in March 2003, when Newman started third and led 77 laps en route to victory. It was the second win of Newman's Sprint Cup Series career.

For Newman, the goal this weekend is simple -- to live up to sponsor Tornados' slogan written on his No. 39 Chevrolet's bumper: "Bold Is How We Roll."

He knows that now is the time to stop the skid from the past three weeks and get back on the right track. Despite the recent run of bad luck, Newman and his No. 39 team's goals remain the same with three races remaining in the 2010 season -- to win another race before the year's end and to finish 13th in points.

If everything truly is bigger in Texas, perhaps Newman and his No. 39 team will find themselves living large in victory lane come Sunday.

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

After enjoying such a good stretch of races there for seven weeks, your team has had a tough few weeks starting with Charlotte. Has it been difficult for you to keep your focus?

It has not been hard to keep our focus. We've had really good, fast cars. We just haven't gotten the finishes we have deserved, which is disappointing for all of us on the team. We had a really good car at Charlotte and I lost control of it and crashed it, and at Martinsville when we lost that gear. It was kind of a freak deal and we had a really fast car and led some laps and drove it to the front. It was really something that's out of character for us as we haven't had part failures. And then, at Talladega last weekend, we just didn't get a push when we needed it. But, on the bright side, we were able to avoid any trouble, bring home a car in one piece and finish the race, which is something we hadn't done at a restrictor-plate track this year, so that was a good thing for us. Yeah, I'm disappointed at how these last few weeks have gone, but I'm not disappointed in our performance. Just in our finishes.

That's why I think this weekend is a big weekend for this team. There are three more races to go and we really want to get back on track. We're still focused on what we said our goals were after we didn't make the Chase. We want to get top-10s, top-fives, even another win before this season is over with and we know we can do it. While we want to finish 13th in the points, I really think getting another win would be big for our team. I won at Texas back in 2003, and I said then that everything that happens in Texas is big. That was a big win for me back then. And I think a win now would probably be even bigger. A win right now would be huge, not just for getting us back on track at the end of the year and these final three races, but rolling into momentum for next year."

Talk about racing at Texas.

I always look forward to racing at Texas. I love the speed at Texas. It's a fast racetrack and the weather should be cool so, hopefully, we can haul the mail. Texas is actually one of the fastest tracks we go to all year, so you have to be on top of your game because things can happen pretty quickly. It's a track I've always liked, although it doesn't necessarily show in the finishes. It's a smooth, fast racetrack and there are multiple grooves, so it is fun to race there. The asphalt has aged the track to the point it has gotten better and better each time we come back. What I mean is that the track has basically gotten wider. It's gotten a bit more character. A little more bumpy, which is fine. I like it. I think that, in general, the track has gotten wider and racier each time we've come back. It's got less grip, but that is fine. I'd rather slide around a little bit and be in charge of my racecar than be stuck to the racetrack. It's a race we look forward to. Because the asphalt has aged, it's really gotten to be a better race. I love the speed. It's a fast racetrack.

For us, I think this will be a good track. Over the past two years, our mile-and-a-half and two-mile programs have improved dramatically. We didn't have our best race at Texas in the spring, but we finished 11th and we had a shot at a top-10 finish. More recently, we had a good run at mile-and-a-halves like Atlanta and Kansas. We had a great racecar at California. I think our car was just as good, if not better, than Tony's (Stewart) and he won the race. Had we not gotten caught up in some beating and banging on one of the restarts, I would like to think we would have been challenging for the win. And then, just a few weeks ago, we had a superfast racecar at Charlotte. I was so mad at myself after the wreck on lap two. I told the guys I had no warning. The car just jumped sideways. I haven't had a racecar jump sideways that quick, that fast, in a long time. There was just no saving it and I backed it into the fence. I knew we had a fast racecar and we still had a fast racecar when we came back out. It was just damaged. So, I think our program has really improved by leaps and bounds since we were at Texas back in April. I think we're all looking forward to this weekend's race."

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

It's been a frustrating few weeks for the No. 39 Tornados team, especially after having such a good stretch of top-10 finishes. How hard is it to stay focused and not get down on yourselves after something like that?

The important thing is we had good cars -- cars we could have won the races with. Charlotte, we definitely had a car to win with and we made a mistake. Martinsville, our short-track program has been really solid and we had a car that led and we could have won, but we had a failure. And then last week at Talladega, we had a car that could win. We showed that we could run through the pack and lead. We just lost the draft trying to play the conservative deal and it bit us. We go every week to the track and we know our cars are good enough to win, so we've got to be positive. I think that's something we hold in our pocket. We go to the track knowing every week that our cars are competitive and they are good enough to win. We just have to put ourselves in the right situation."

In the spring, the No. 39 team didn't have the best run at Texas but finished 11th. Since then, it seems like the No. 39 team's mile-and-a-half and two-mile programs have really made some improvements with top-10 runs at Charlotte this spring and Atlanta, Kansas and California this fall. Has it, in your opinion? And what are the keys at Texas?

We've definitely been better on that style of racetrack. We're taking the setup we had at Charlotte and California. We're taking it to Texas and, hopefully, it will pay dividends there as it has in the last several mile-and-a-half races. I think we've learned a lot and we've come a long way. We've found some things that Ryan likes and we have made some changes that really seem to fit his driving style. So, we're excited to go back to Texas this weekend and see what we can do. We're taking the California car. We know it's a proven machine and that it's a fast car so, hopefully, we'll go out to Texas and have a shot to win it at the end.

At Texas, obviously track position is huge because it is an aero racetrack. It's so big and fast. The other big thing is the tires. We saw a huge swing in tire temps during the race there in the spring and some guys were chunking tires and having problems. Hopefully, we're not one of those people. We've done our homework on our cooling and that type of thing. I think the setup we've been leaning toward will help that. Hopefully, all those things will go our way."

With three races to go, what are the No. 39 team's goals for the end of the 2010 season? Can you still get to 13th in points, which you have said was your goal all along?

We can, definitely. We closed up our gap on (13th-place) Jamie McMurray last week, so it can definitely happen. We've seen how easy it is to gain or lose points in one race. So, yes, we can still end up 13th in points. But, in my opinion, our biggest goal is to win another race before the end of the year. No matter where the points fall, we want to win another race and just build up and keep our momentum going for next year."

-source: shr

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Ryan Newman , Jamie McMurray
Teams Stewart-Haas Racing