KANNAPOLIS, N.C. – When one thinks of St. Patrick’s Day, some of the first thoughts that come to mind are those of leprechauns. Revelers clad in copious amounts of green clothing and accessories. Four-leaf clovers. Rainbows with pots of gold at the end of them. And, most certainly, good luck.
So perhaps it wouldn’t be surprising to folks if they learned that Ryan Newman and the No. 39 Haas Automation team spent time this week researching family genealogy in hopes of finding a bit of Irish in them, which ideally would lead them to successfully channel a little good luck for Sunday’s St. Patrick’s Day race at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway.
Through Irish history, there is plenty of misfortune. The Irish have lived on land that was taken from them, occupied by the British, the Vikings and other conquerors. However, they have been able to survive famines, war, starvation, and prejudice.
To imply that the Irish are inherently lucky, and seem to be able to land on their feet when bad circumstances occur, may not necessarily be reality. But whatever has them forever linked to being so lucky in the hearts and minds of the rest of the world is perhaps their desire to succeed even when the odds are stacked against them.
The No. 39 team started the year on a high note, scoring a fifth-place finish in the season-opening Daytona 500, but has been bitten by misfortune at almost every turn since. It isn’t unchartered territory for the Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) bunch, having found themselves in a similar position in 2009 and 2010, when they entered the fourth race of the season 33rd and 32nd in points, respectively.
Fast-forward to this weekend, as Newman heads to Bristol 31st in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points. One can’t blame the No. 39 team if it looks to this weekend’s event at Bristol to help turn its fortunes, as it has in years past.
Perhaps the similarities to those seasons will continue for Newman and his team this weekend. If so, they will turn their fortunes on the back of a strong run, which will be followed by a string of solid efforts in the coming weeks that will move the No. 39 team back toward the top of the standings.
The desire to be successful, to never give up in the early going even if the odds are against them has seen this bunch prevail in the past. However, if you see Newman and crew stopping to pick some four-leaved clovers or sporting some green this weekend, it’s because it couldn’t hurt to be safe than sorry, either.
RYAN NEWMAN, Driver of the No. 39 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
The 2013 schedule kicks off with five very different racetracks. This weekend, it’s the first test for NASCAR’s sixth-generation Sprint Cup car on a short track. Are you looking forward to getting to Bristol? “I really enjoy racing at Bristol Motor Speedway. I enjoy the re-configuration of the track. I hope we’ll have a tire there this weekend that will allow us to use all three or four lanes of the track.”
What do you like so much about Bristol? “It’s just a great racetrack and a great short track. I’ve always liked the banked racetracks, in general, over the flatter racetracks. So, I guess in some ways, you could say I’m more comfortable at Bristol. I think Bristol has always been one of those short tracks that everybody loves. And, obviously, that’s changed with the different surface and the way they’ve changed it a little bit. But, ultimately, it’s still a great short track. I really love the banking and I love the fact it’s concrete and doesn’t seem like it changes a whole lot. Once you get a car right, it’s typically right for 500 laps, which is difficult to get on some of the racetracks. Honestly, there’s just no place like Bristol. I’ve told people before that Bristol is like a baby superspeedway. If something happens in front of you, it may not be your fault, but you can get caught up in somebody else’s wreck in the blink of an eye. You have to really be on your toes at Bristol. Everything happens so fast there. You don’t have time to think or blink. To me, the racing is at an all-time high at Bristol compared to the way it used to be. We can race side-by-side and actually gain spots without having to wreck someone.”
You earned the name “Rocketman” at Bristol because of how quick of a lap you turned in qualifying back in 2003. Why is it so important to qualify well at Bristol? “It’s huge. When you start up front, your emotions are pretty calm because you’ve got a lot of things going your way. You’re starting in a good position, you’ve got good pit selection and all those things. And it’s really pretty cool going into turn one on that first lap.”
What does it take to win at Bristol? “First thing that comes to mind is patience because it can be a track that really challenges your mentality. And, obviously, you have to have a good car, and good pit stops and the things we talk about every week, but here more so than most racetracks. It’s that mental stamina of controlling your emotions and controlling the racecar according to your emotions and making the best of all the situations you are in. Bristol is different every time you come here. It can go a lot of green-flag runs and a lot of single-file racing, or it can be crazy and it can get randomly crazier.”
Since joining SHR, Bristol has been without a doubt one of the No. 39 team’s best racetracks. Why do you guys seem to like Bristol so much and do so well there? “We have a good package when we come to Bristol, and I think that’s easy to see by how we have qualified and run there. We haven’t gotten a win there, yet, but it’s a track where we are very confident. For me, personally, I like the short tracks because I like using the middle pedal (brake). In all seriousness, I think it adds another parameter of a driver’s input when you have to modulate that third pedal. We have to go to places like Las Vegas and you’re using very little brake. When you are using a little bit, it’s hard to screw up. I think our team has done a really good job with the brake package we have. I like the short tracks. I like having the character added to the program of modulating the brake. At places like Bristol, Martinsville, Phoenix and Richmond, we’ve been really strong as a team.”