KANNAPOLIS, N.C. – For Ryan Newman and the crew members who turn wrenches on the No. 39 U.S. Army Chevrolet of Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), this weekend’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway marks the end of an era as it is the final race where Newman and the No. 39 team will be emblazoned in the colors of the U.S. Army.
Since taking the wheel of the Soldiers’ car in 2009 when he joined SHR, Newman has worn the U.S. Army logo that has adorned his uniform and the hood of his racecar with great pride.
Knowing that only the strongest wear the colors of the U.S. Army, Newman is thankful each time he dons the logo on his driver suit for the Soldiers he represents, who possess a mental, emotional and physical strength like no other. And he does everything in his power to assure the U.S. Army Racing Team reflects those strengths.
Over the past four seasons, Newman has had the opportunity to witness first-hand the courage and selfless service of Army Strong Soldiers. He’s had the privilege of meeting Soldiers at many bases across the country and in one-on-one encounters at the racetrack. And with each meeting, he has shaken the hands of the Soldiers and thanked them for their selfless service. He has told them how proud he is to be a part of their team.
Newman has come to understand that the Army is the strength of the Nation, and the Soldiers are the strength of our Army.
Although the U.S. Army announced in July it would be leaving SHR and NASCAR at the end of the season, the lessons Newman has learned and the Soldiers he has met over the years will be something the 11-year Sprint Cup veteran will never forget. He readily admits he once took his freedom for granted, but now he understands the sacrifices made by Soldiers past and present allowed him to drive the Soldiers’ racecar. And he knows his racecar and team represents the Army’s leading-edge technology, teamwork and the powerful, realistic training of its Army Strong Soldiers.
So with one race remaining with the U.S. Army as his sponsor, Newman would like nothing more than to deliver the ultimate “thank you” to the Soldiers this weekend by winning the Ford EcoBoost 400 in their final race together.
In 10 races at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Newman has earned three top-10 finishes. Despite the 1.5-oval not being one of his better racetracks, Newman does have a renewed sense of confidence heading into this weekend’s season finale.
Three weeks ago at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, Newman was reunited with his former crew chief Matt Borland. Since then, Newman has never finished outside the top-12, including a fifth-place finish last Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway. With steady improvement in recent weeks, Newman is looking forward to ending the 2012 season on a high note and giving the U.S. Army a fitting farewell.
One last time, Newman will refer to the many lessons he has learned from his U.S. Army counterparts, where its Soldiers put the mission first and display a never-quit attitude and a refusal to accept defeat. For in his final mission with the U.S. Army, Newman’s goal is what it always has been – to put the Soldiers’ car in victory lane, and he will settle for nothing less than a win.
This is your last race with the U.S. Army on the No. 39 Chevy. Can you talk about what you have learned in your four years with the U.S. Army sponsorship and what it has meant to you? “I’ve always been very proud to represent the U.S. Army and the Soldiers, and I’m very honored to have had that opportunity for the past four seasons. I’ve always said working with the U.S. Army was very different than any other sponsor I’ve ever had because I wasn’t representing or endorsing a product. I was representing people, so it was a very unique union. I learned a lot about the Soldiers. I learned a lot about the education programs we are part of in the recruiting process. I was a proud representative of the name and the people and the colors. I think the greatest thing being associated with the U.S. Army taught me was an appreciation for the Nation that we live in and an appreciation of the Soldiers. I talked about this last weekend on Veterans Day, and I will again in our last race with the Army. But a lot of us – myself included – take for granted the freedoms we have. Just putting into understanding the sacrifices our Soldiers make and what they’ve done for hundreds of years to make sure we’re able to keep these freedoms and live in the safe country we do is something that we all should be grateful for each and every day. While this is our last race representing the U.S. Army, I will always consider myself part of their team, and I will always be proud to represent the more than 1 million Soldiers out there and thank them for what they do for us.”
In the last three races, the reunion with crew chief Matt Borland has generated positive results. Do you feel like that past chemistry is back between the two of you? “Matt and Daniel Knost the engineer – everybody on the team is doing a really good job. I really can’t say enough about how the transition has been the past three races. In three races together, we’ve been 11th at Martinsville, 12th at Texas and fifth at Phoenix. Without all the controversy at Phoenix, we probably wouldn’t have been fifth, but we were a top-10 car. We proved that when we stayed out on old tires there and ran second for so long. We drove it back up to eighth, and then got into fifth there when all the drama started. But I’m just really proud of the guys. For us to be doing what we’re doing and preparing for 2013, it’s been a great effort. And Matt and I do have a history that I think is working to our benefit. I think we speak a similar language and we understand each other on a different level. It’s been a good three races, and I’m really looking forward to this weekend at Homestead and ramping up for the 2013 season.”
Historically, Homestead has not been one of your better racetracks. Talk about racing at Homestead and this weekend’s season finale. “I really look forward to Homestead. It’s a really fun racetrack for all of us. For us to go down there and end the season on a racetrack that is very raceable is something I’m happy about. They really did a great job the third time around on redesigning that racetrack. It’s a great place to have a championship weekend for all three series. For me, it’s kind of bittersweet this weekend. We want to win another race. We’re not in the Chase for the Championship. But each and every race, no matter what, we are there to win. It’s our last race with the U.S. Army as a sponsor. That’s going to be special and a little bit emotional from that standpoint. I’ve not had the best record there, but we’ve been getting better here these last three weeks, so we would like to build on that momentum, end the season on a high note and really go into 2013 with something to be proud of. I just want to have the season end on a good note for everybody.”
You speak very fondly of your experiences with the U.S. Army. Is there any one great takeaway that you have? “Honestly, I’ve enjoyed every experience with them. I’ve gotten to go to bases, visit with Soldiers, fire the weapons, learn about their technology and education. I’ve also had the very difficult visits to Walter Reed Hospital, where I’ve met with wounded warriors and that’s very emotional. There are a lot of first-hand experiences I will never forget and that has given me a great appreciation and understanding of not just the U.S. Army and the Army Strong Soldiers, but of other servicemen and women in other branches of the military. I’m really grateful for all of my experiences and I wish it wasn’t ending, but that’s part of this sport. We will go on thanking and always remembering and paying tribute to the Soldiers for the freedoms we have. And I will say this, there’s not a single Soldier I have met that I wouldn’t consider having as a friend. I can’t say that about people off the street. The U.S. Army does a great job of putting great teams together to fight for our freedom. And I’m honored that I’ve been able to represent them.”