Here’s a quick true-or-false question: Ryan Newman’s favorite subject in college was calculus. (Read through to find your answer.)
The driver of the No. 39 U.S. Army Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) prides himself not just on his success on the racetrack, but on his accomplishments off the racetrack, as well.
While Newman’s favorite college class wasn’t calculus – perhaps it was algebra instead (true or false)? – there’s no doubt one of his biggest off-track accomplishments came when he earned his college diploma.
In August 2001, Newman graduated from Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., with a bachelor’s degree in vehicle structural engineering. Today, the 11-year NASCAR Sprint Cup Series veteran is the only full-time Sprint Cup driver with a college degree.
For Newman, not going to college was never an option. Although he had long set his sights on a career as a NASCAR driver, his family was insistent he have a backup plan in place just in case his career behind the wheel didn’t pan out. So, he went to college and attended classes, focusing his studies on his passions – racing, cars and engineering.
Newman readily admits the knowledge he gained while in school has proven invaluable to him as a racecar driver. It has also greatly assisted him in his role as a spokesman for the U.S. Army.
The U.S. Army provides millions of dollars in college tuition for Soldiers each year. The Army focuses on education initiatives, as they are vital to the preparedness of the nation’s future workforce and leaders. The strength of the nation is directly dependent on the educational training and achievements of today’s students, which is why the Army strongly supports various education initiatives. Succinctly, the Army is the strength of the Nation, and the Soldier is the strength of the Army.
U.S. Army Soldiers are members of an elite group, for they possess a mental, emotional and physical strength like no other, and the U.S. Army Racing Team reflects those strengths. Newman’s college education embodies this strength and places him in elite company as well, but so do his exploits six races into the 36-race marathon that is the 2012 Sprint Cup season.
Newman has already won a race this year, something perennial race victors Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick, Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch cannot yet say.
Two weeks ago at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, Newman schooled the field and proved to be “Mr. Opportunity,” as he found himself in the right place at the right time to find victory.
In a race that epitomized the attributes of the Army Strong Soldier – putting the mission first, a never-quit attitude and a refusal to accept defeat – Newman won despite falling one lap down early in the race after serving a penalty for speeding on pit road. Throughout that challenge, Newman and his No. 39 team refused to give up, fought for every spot on the racetrack and earned their first victory of the 2012 season.
The triumph put Newman in good position early in the season for a spot in the elite, 12-driver Chase for the Sprint Cup – the 10-race dash to the season-ending championship.
While it was Newman’s first victory since his win from the pole at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon last July, it was the third victory in the past four races for SHR, and the eighth in the past 16 for the organization.
This weekend, Newman and the entire SHR team plan to continue their winning ways at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth.
While Newman and his SHR teammate and team owner Tony Stewart have been dominant over the last 16 races, the 1.5-mile Texas oval hasn’t been kind to the No. 39 team. In six starts since joining SHR in 2009, Newman and the No. 39 team have not earned a top-10 finish at Texas. But, they’ve also never finished worse than 20th.
In 17 career Sprint Cup starts at Texas, Newman has two poles, one win (2003), three top-five and three top-10 finishes. Currently eighth in points, Newman hopes to build on his recent victory at Martinsville and capitalize on his team’s momentum. In the past four races, Newman has posted three top-10 finishes.
Regardless of the outcome in Saturday night’s Samsung Mobile 500, Newman will be keenly aware of the information that can be gleaned from this mid-April at Texas. The series will return to the ultra-fast, D-shaped layout in November for the third to last race of the season, and as someone who obviously knows the value of an education, Newman will be learning during each lap in practice, qualifying and the 334-lap Sprint Cup feature.
So, while “schooling” the competition on-track is always good, expanding his knowledge of a track that will play a pivotal role in the 2012 Chase will be even better for both the driver and crewmembers of the No. 39 U.S. Army team.
Lastly, the answer queried at this story’s opening is “false.” Newman’s favorite subject in college was pottery because, as the avid outdoorsman who enjoys working on the farm and restoring old cars says, “I like to work with my hands.” He even has pieces of pottery on display at his log home, which would augment another hand-crafted piece of hardware – the winning trophy from Saturday night’s Samsung Mobile 500.