KANNAPOLIS, N.C. – In some ways, getting into the Sprint All-Star Race is like getting into an exclusive club. Those not on the VIP list are going to be standing on the other side of the velvet rope without access to the events inside.
The criteria for getting onto the invite list were determined long ago. NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race winners from 2012 and 2013, All-Star Race winners and Sprint Cup Series champions from the last 10 years are all welcomed. There’s some room at the bottom of the list reserved for the top-two finishers in the Sprint Showdown, the 40-lap race that immediately precedes the All-Star Race each year. And, the top Sprint Fan Vote driver – there’s a space for him or her. Beyond that, you’re going to be shut out of the exclusive event.
By virtue of his win at Martinsville Speedway in April 2012, Ryan Newman, driver of the No. 39 Aspen Dental® Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), has earned an invitation to participate in Saturday night’s All-Star Race at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway. Newman certainly knows how to get the job done when it comes to the annual classic, as he claimed the prestigious win in 2002. On that night, Newman wasn’t even qualified to race in the main event at the start of the night but raced his way in by winning what is now known as the Showdown.
After that already amazing feat, Newman and his rookie team had nothing to lose. After all, they weren’t even supposed to be part of the show. The team strategized, Newman drove his race and they all benefited when fans voted to invert the field for the final 20 laps. He took the lead with 17 laps to go and never looked back. With that win, Newman and his team proved that a new kid on the circuit had what it took to come out on top. He became only the second rookie in series history to win the All-Star Race.
The No. 39 team will be joined by another VIP: Tina Johnson is the latest Aspen Dental patient to be included on the rear quarter-panel of Newman’s No. 39 Chevrolet. Continuing on a program that started in 2012, Johnson, a patient of the Aspen Dental office in Waukesha, Wis., was selected to have her photo featured on the No. 39 Chevrolet based on comments she provided regarding her dental treatment on the Aspen Dental Facebook page. Not only will she be along for the ride this weekend, she’ll spend the next three Sprint Cup races riding along with Newman, as well.
For those who will be fortunate enough to be at the track this weekend, there may be no better way to show off their smiles than in victory lane alongside the No. 39 Chevrolet.
The VIP action doesn’t stop at Charlotte. Keep an eye on the Aspen Dental Facebook wall this week for an opportunity that could really make this summer one to remember.
RYAN NEWMAN, Driver of the No. 39 Aspen Dental Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
What makes the All-Star Race so different from any other race? “When push comes to shove in the All-Star Race on Saturday night, you do what you have to do to win. This race is about the glory and the big prize. There are no points on the line so, the way I see it, you want to either win it or bring back just the steering wheel in your hands, knowing you did everything you could to be the best of the best that night.”
What is it about the All-Star Race that you like so much as a driver? “I think one of the coolest things about the All-Star Race for us is that it’s a short race. It’s kind of like the races we all grew up racing. It’s a ‘make-your-move-and-make-it-now’ kind of thing. It’s a unique layout and, to me, that’s what makes it fun. You have the different segments and the rules, and the strategy changes each and every lap. The All-Star Race is huge in our eyes because it’s the All-Star Race and it’s in our backyard – everybody’s backyard. It’s all about bragging rights. We’re all about beating each other at our own game at our home field, I guess you would say. It’s definitely a challenging race but it’s a lot of fun. Everyone wants to come out on top not just for the $1 million, but also for the bragging rights. ”
In 2002, you got your first-ever NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win in the non-points-paying All-Star Race. Talk a little bit about that All-Star win and what it meant to you. “Honestly, until I won the Daytona 500 in 2008, the win in the All-Star Race was my greatest win, I thought, as a driver and as a team. What we did and what we achieved that night, it’s all for the glory. Obviously, there’s some money on the line, but you’re in your own backyard and you’re in everybody’s backyard. When you win on the home field and it’s the race that’s the All-Star Race, it meant a lot to me. We weren’t even expected to be in it and that’s why it was even sweeter, yet, because we had to race our way in. I mean, we raced our way into the race and got the invert and walked away with it for a while, there. It was a close finish at the end, with (Dale) Earnhardt Jr. It was just a great team victory and that’s what we’re here for as a team and as an organization – to put those events together – and it usually doesn’t happen like that. In an All-Star Race, it’s that much more pride.”
What is your favorite moment at Charlotte Motor Speedway? “My All-Star win was really my only one. I won an ARCA race there. We led every lap. And I won a Nationwide race there. That was a lot of fun. But the All-Star Race, when we raced our way into the race and then started last, made the cut, then got the invert and had a fast racecar, that was really cool because nobody expected us to even be in the race. When you race your way in, then beat the best, in my opinion, that was a true All-Star moment.”