KANNAPOLIS, N.C. – He may not be making a lot of noise doing so, but Ryan Newman is starting to gain some ground as the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season heads for the summer stretch.
Since finishing a disappointing 31st at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway April 7, Newman has been closing in on the 10th position in the point standings. With the exception of a DNF (did not finish) at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway, he hasn’t recorded a finish worse than 15th, and has three top-10 finishes in the span of six races. The string of steady performances has Newman sitting 20 markers in arrears to 10th-place Brad Keselowski, the final guaranteed position to lock into NASCAR’s 12-driver Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship.
Heading to Dover, Newman is looking to continue his steady climb. The high-banked, concrete mile oval is a favorite of the South Bend, Ind., native and, with an average finish of 12.1, it’s easy to understand why.
In 22 starts at Dover, Newman has four poles (June 2003 and 2006, September 2005 and 2007), three wins (June and September 2003, September 2004), six top-five finishes and 11 top-10s. Newman also has a NASCAR Nationwide Series win at the track (2005).
Newman’s September 2004 win at Dover was one of his most dominant performances in his 11-year Sprint Cup career.
He qualified on the outside pole for the 400-lap race but, by the end of lap one, he was shown as the leader. He showed no mercy to his other Sprint Cup competitors, leading an amazing 325 of 400 laps. In fact, Newman built a commanding eight-second lead en route to the win and claimed the first-ever “Monster Trophy” given out by the track known as the Monster Mile.
While Newman has had a rough go of it at the concrete oval the last two years, he does have reason to believe this weekend may put an end to that streak as his No. 39 team joined Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) teammates Danica Patrick and Tony Stewart for a two-day test at the facility two weeks ago.
This weekend, Newman hopes his steady climb in the point standings continues, and that another strong run at Dover will help solidify the No. 39 team’s chances of contending for a coveted spot in the Chase.
RYAN NEWMAN, Driver of the No. 39 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
This week, we head to Dover, which you have said is another one of your favorite tracks. What is it you like about Dover? “At Dover, I like the banking. I like the elevation changes. The concrete provides a different type of racing for us because the track doesn’t change a whole lot. Once you get your car right, you can keep it right for the rest of the race. And for me, for whatever reason, I’ve always adapted well to racing on concrete. To me, the characteristics of the track make it both demanding and fun. It’s really unique how you drop off into the corners and then climb up the hills onto the straightaways. At Dover, the entry into the corners is the toughest part. If you don’t get a good entry, you’re not going to have a good middle or a good exit. You have narrow straightaways and then the track opens a lot in the corners, so there’s a good bit of give-and-take. To me as a driver, it’s just a track that’s a lot of fun. It’s a challenge. If you don’t like a challenge, you don’t like Dover. I really look forward to racing there. It’s fast, it’s demanding. I like the banked racetracks and it’s one of those.”
Talk about racing at Dover. “The first thing, the banking allows you to push the car really hard and therefore makes it a little bit easier to save it. On a flat track, it’s like on ice – once you start to lose it, it’s gone. There is some forgiveness in the racetrack because of the banking but it does taunt you a little bit to make you push the racecar. The second part of it is, it’s a miniature Talladega, of sorts, because the speeds are so fast. It’s narrow, it does clean itself to the bottom but it’s a timing event depending on where the crash happens. If it’s the middle of the back straightaway or going into the corner, everybody is going to wash back up across the racetrack and then come back down across it in front of your nose, typically. We’ve seen 20-car pileups there into turn three. We’ve seen cars upside-down and some unexpected things in the past few years there at Dover compared to what it used to be. It also has the potential to be a bit of a laid-back, relaxed, drawn-out race because, if you get the cars single-filed out and everything going good and we don’t have any tire issues, typically it can be one of those that goes by really quickly and not much happens.”
How physically demanding is Dover for the drivers? “It’s definitely pretty physically tough. It’s not as physical as the road courses – I think they are the most physically demanding – but with the banking and 400 laps, you’re just constantly maneuvering the racecar. You get just a short distance on the straightaways to take a quick breath and get ready to go back at it in the next corner.”