Originally written on Start 'N' Park Blog  |  Last updated 9/2/14
KANNAPOLIS, N.C. – The Fourth of July may fall on Thursday, but the annual celebration at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway will last throughout the weekend. For Ryan Newman, driver of the No. 39 Outback Steakhouse Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), he’d like nothing more than to cap off that celebration by scoring his first “Bloomin’” win of the 2013 season at Daytona. Until recently, there hasn’t been much to celebrate for Newman and the No. 39 team at the 2.5-mile superspeedway. In fact, it’s been a series of wrong-place, wrong-time incidents that have either put Newman out of the race for good or have caused so much damage to his racecar that he could do little more than limp to the checkered flag. Since joining Stewart-Haas Racing in 2009 – the season after Newman celebrated the greatest moment of his racing career at the historic racetrack by winning the 50th running of the Daytona 500 – Newman’s best finish at Daytona was 20th in the July 2009 Coke Zero 400, and he’d endured three finishes of 34th or worse. But, his Daytona fortunes seemed to change for Newman beginning with this race last year. On that night, Newman was able to overcome a pit-road incident that resulted in a heavily damaged racecar and survived a mad dash and a rash of wrecks in the closing laps to earn a hard-fought fifth-place finish. And in the 2013 season-opening Daytona 500, Newman overcame starting at the back of the field and aerodynamic issues to record another fifth-place finish at the “World Center of Racing.” This Saturday night would be the perfect time for Newman to return to his winning ways at Daytona, as it would undoubtedly help the No. 39 team’s chances as they hope to earn for a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship. With nine races to go before the 12-driver, 10-race Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup begins Sept. 15 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill., Newman is 18th in points. Only the top-10 in points are locked into the Chase. Positions 11 and 12 in the Chase are wild cards, awarded to the two drivers between 11th and 20th in points with the most wins. Although he enters Daytona just 31 points behind the 10th and final guaranteed spot, earning a victory would help the No. 39 Outback Steakhouse team’s chances in securing at least one of the two wild-card berths into the Chase if it is unable to crack the top-10. With Outback Steakhouse making the second of three 2013 appearances as primary sponsor of Newman’s No. 39 Chevrolet this weekend at Daytona, memories are evoked of his most recent win at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway in April 2012. When he pulled into victory lane, he did so with the Tampa, Fla.-based steakhouse’s logo across the hood of his racecar. Outback Steakhouse has been celebrating Newman’s top-10 finishes since last season with a free Bloomin’ Onion® for its customers on Mondays. Come Saturday night, Newman would like nothing more than to relive last year’s April success at Martinsville – by scoring his first “Bloomin’” win of the 2013 season at Daytona. RYAN NEWMAN, Driver of the No. 39 Outback Steakhouse Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing: Daytona is such an unpredictable racetrack. Given that you’ve scored consecutive fifth-place finishes in your last two starts there, does that give you confidence heading into this weekend? “We definitely had speed in all three of the Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolets when we unloaded at Daytona in February, there’s no doubt about that. But, it doesn’t mean that we’ll be just as fast when we unload there this weekend. The other teams have likely done their homework to make their cars faster, just as we’ve done. I was really proud of the team’s effort throughout Speedweeks in February, and I hope we’ll be able to capitalize on what we accomplished in February, apply what we’ve learned about these cars since then, and have that same edge this weekend. As a driver, you have to put yourself in position, and this isn’t different than any other racetrack. It just seems that you can get caught up in someone else’s mistakes that much easier at Daytona.” We’re heading to Daytona with a different left-side tire than we had in February. Do you anticipate that changing what we’ll see this weekend versus what we saw in February? “I think that they’re bringing the ‘green’ version of the tire this time around, which is the more environmentally friendly version of the tire. That’s obviously very important for the direction of the sport, but it is a tire change, and that brings about the possibility of change in the way that we race, and the byproduct of how hard we’ll push the tire. That remains to be seen. We don’t practice much there, typically. So, we’ll really learn more about it during the race.” You won the 50th running of the Daytona 500. What did that win mean to you, personally? “I guess once you’ve won the race (Daytona 500), it is always special to come back and be a part of the sport that you love. I think it’s something I always think about when I go back, and it’s something that definitely brings a smile to my face. My win there in the 50th Daytona 500 was nothing short of a dream come true. I had always said that just to race at Daytona was an honor, and to win at the track during the historic 50th running was something very special to me. And to do it the way we did – with my teammate pushing me and to hear my dad (Greg Newman) call me across the start-finish line to take the checkered flag and win the biggest race of my career was a moment I will never forget. I always say I could hear my dad’s teardrops on the radio that evening, and I could. I still don’t know exactly what to say when people ask me about the Daytona 500 win. It was by far the biggest day in my career. It was the culmination of everything my family and I had sacrificed for all those years of building my racing career and getting me to that moment.”  How much of racing and winning at Daytona is luck versus skill? “I’ve always said there is luck in racing. You create the destiny of your own luck. That luck can be good or bad. You have to prepare yourself to get out of the bad luck and into the good luck. When I won, part of it was lucky, part of it was the timing of things, part of it was Kurt (Busch) driving his tail off to get behind me coming off turn two. That was skill and, for me, it was luck. It’s all a matter of opinion. You can ask the 42 other guys out there, and they might have thought I got lucky when I won. For me, I thought it was skill.” -TrueSpeed Communications
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