KANNAPOLIS, N.C. – Looking at Ryan Newman’s stats at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway, it’s fairly easy to see why the driver of the No. 39 Outback Steakhouse Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) is looking forward to Saturday night’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.
In 22 Sprint Cup starts at the .75-mile oval, Newman has a pole, a win, five top-five and 13 top-10 finishes, and has led 450 laps. Richmond has been a stout venue for Newman, who recorded consecutive second-place finishes in his first two starts at “The Action Track.” His average finishing position of 11.6 makes Richmond best among all tracks for the 16-time race winner.
For Newman, Richmond couldn’t come soon enough. Needing a breakout performance to quiet skeptics who have written off the SHR teams as contenders in 2013, there’s no better place to prove them wrong.
While the 12-driver Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship field is far from being set, if Newman is to be included in the group come September, wins and strong finishes are what he needs. Just as signs of spring are blossoming around Richmond, it’s time, too, for Newman to do the same in the point standings. Ranked 17th heading into this weekend, it’s time for the No. 39 team to bloom. And there would be no better way than scoring his first “Bloomin’” win of the season this weekend.
With Outback Steakhouse making the first of three 2013 appearances as primary sponsor of Newman’s No. 39 Chevrolet this weekend at Richmond, memories of last year’s spring race at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway evoke memories of that fateful day. Newman scored his only win of the 2012 season at the other Virginia venue, and did so with the Tampa, Fla.-based steakhouse 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 Richmond.
RYAN NEWMAN, Driver of the No. 39 Outback Steakhouse Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
Talk about heading to Richmond this week. “I’m looking forward to heading to Richmond this weekend. It’s a great short track, and it’s unique as far as a short track goes because of its length and shape. We don’t really have another racetrack like it. It’s a racetrack I always look forward to going to. We’ve struggled a little bit with right-front tires at short tracks this season, so I look forward to getting on track and seeing if we’ve got those issues resolved. It’s the first race with Outback Steakhouse as the primary sponsor on our No. 39 Chevrolet and, if you look back to last year, the first time we had them on the car, we won the race at Martinsville.”
What do you need out of your car at Richmond? “The biggest thing at Richmond is it’s pretty high braking, so you have to keep a brake pedal in the car all night. But, like I’ve always said, using that brake pedal is one of the reasons I enjoy short-track racing so much. As a driver, it’s important for me to be smart on the racetrack and keep my head about me. Track position at Richmond is typically pretty important. It’s hard to make up a lot of ground there. You can go from the back to the front, but it takes a lot of the race to do it. It’s also a place where strategy, as far as getting off-sequence on tires, has potential to make a big difference. So this is a big race where not only is it important for the driver to be at his best, but the pit crew has to be on top of it all night. We need to maintain and gain positions in the pits. It all depends on how the yellows fly, too.”
How difficult is it to make passes at Richmond? “I’d say this is not the easiest place or it’s not the hardest place at the same time as far as passing. It is great side-by-side racing at Richmond. I enjoy it. I’ve won there. We did it in 2003, staying out on old tires, and had a good car to be able to do that.”
Talk about your 2013 season. It’s still early but, obviously, the goal is to make the Chase and contend for the championship. “Well, we have two DNF’s (did not finish). We need to not have any more DNF’s if we’re going to make the Chase. We’ve got four top-10s, and those have definitely helped us in points, but those two DNF’s just knock you out of it. It’s like getting three A’s, and two F’s –you wind up with a C-plus average. We need to have an A-minus or B-plus average if we’re going to make the Chase. We need to pull the average up.”