KANNAPOLIS, N.C. – Ryan Newman’s 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season got off to a great start at Daytona, where he posted a fifth-place finish. But a pair of tire failures at Phoenix left him with a 40th-place result. Newman enters the Kobalt Tools 400 on March 10 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway 20th in points in the Quicken Loans Chevrolet SS, but it’s not time to hit the panic button just yet.
Newman’s results at Las Vegas since joining Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) have been trending in the right direction. His finishes of 25th, 18th, fifth and fourth, respectively, have Newman putting last week’s disappointing result at Phoenix in the proverbial rearview mirror.
SHR looked strong in this race one year ago, with teammate Tony Stewart claiming the win and Newman finishing fourth, bringing plenty of optimism to the Quicken Loans camp as Newman heads into the race Sunday. And while the field for the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship is far from being determined, strong finishes to start the season can certainly help solidify a team’s chances of earning one of the 12 coveted berths. Scoring early-season wins certainly increases the odds, as well.
Newman and crew chief Matt Borland have looked forward to the 267-lap race at Las Vegas, the first intermediate racetrack of the 2013 season. With a bulk of the 36 races that make up the schedule contested at similar tracks, the No. 39 team is eager to assess its intermediate program with NASCAR’s sixth-generation racecar.
For Newman, Las Vegas Motor Speedway offers up a little bit of everything he likes in a racetrack. From the banking to the bumps, the character of the 1.5-mile oval gets him excited about racing at Las Vegas. While he has yet to make his way to victory lane there, his recent performances make him hard to overlook as a potential winner.
RYAN NEWMAN, Driver of the No. 39 Quicken Loans Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
Talk about racing at Las Vegas. “Personally, for me, I really like Las Vegas. I always say it’s my kind of racetrack because I like the ones that have hills, and this track has some great banking. As far as the track goes, they’ve made some changes to it over the past few years. The track is higher-banked. It has a rougher surface in that there are more bumps. The track has some character to it. Over the past couple of years, the bumps in the track have typically been pretty tricky, but that’s something I like. We have some good notes from what we’ve done there the past few years, and I really hope we can build on those.”
What do you expect we’ll see this weekend at Las Vegas with NASCAR’s sixth-generation (Gen-6) Sprint Cup car? “Las Vegas will be a good gauge for how we’ll be at the intermediate tracks this season. You’re able to get a good idea of who’s got it figured out for tracks like Charlotte Motor Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway by how they perform at Las Vegas. I’m looking forward to the additional practice day we’ll have on Thursday, to let us learn a little more about this Gen-6 car.”
The season started out strong for you and the No. 39 team. You were able to overcome adversity at Daytona to finish fifth. But last week at Phoenix was a different story with a 40th-place finish after two tire failures. “We got off to a great start at Daytona. Obviously, we were disappointed with our race at Phoenix. We have to learn from what happened there, what caused the first tire failure. The second one was a result of the damage done when I hit the wall the first time. We didn’t get the opportunity to make the repairs we needed. But we race at Phoenix again later in the year, with two races to go, and hopefully we’ll have a shot at the championship, so we need to learn from what happened to be sure it doesn’t happen again. But we’ll focus on moving forward and look to rebound this weekend at Las Vegas.”
How tough is the new car to drive? Do you feel like there is still some work to do on the car? “I don’t mind a car that’s hard to drive. I just want a car that’s going to put on a great race for the fans. You heard negativity the first time we ran the Car of Tomorrow at Bristol, but I think it’s a learning process of figuring out what we need to do to make the cars better. Us, as drivers, teams and collectively NASCAR, in general, know there’s an adjustment period when you’re working not only with a new car but with new tires in conjunction with the new car. I don’t think we can really evaluate the new car until after we’ve completed the first five races, which are at very different racetracks.”