There’s no doubt Ryan Newman is riding on a personal high as he rolls into Indianapolis Motor Speedway for this Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Brickyard 400.
Not only has Newman and his Stewart-Haas Racing team scored two consecutive top-10 finishes, Newman welcomed his second daughter, Ashlyn Olivia, on Monday, July 16 at 12:20 p.m.
After a little more than a week at home with his three girls – wife Krissie and daughters Brooklyn and Ashlyn – Newman is ready to return to the racetrack and take care of business. And the South Bend, Ind., native hopes his own personal bliss can translate into professional elation and success on his home turf at the historic 2.5-mile Indianapolis oval.
For the 11-year Sprint Cup veteran, racing at Indianapolis isn’t significant just because he is a Hoosier. Instead, it’s the history of the 103-year-old Speedway that makes this weekend’s race one of the most important events he competes in each season.
Newman, who prides himself on carefully studying the history of the sport, considers the Indianapolis racetrack to be the cornerstone of the history of auto racing.
So for Newman, it is an honor to simply walk through the Speedway’s Gasoline Alley as he knows he is following in the footsteps of some of his heroes. And he admits he has caught himself thinking about whose tire tracks he could be following as he travels down the long straightaways.
While Newman is fascinated with the history at the Brickyard, his performance at the track has been lackluster.
In his 11 Sprint Cup visits to Indianapolis, Newman has started outside of the top-eight just two times. But while he has made a habit of starting near the front of the Brickyard 400 field, he has not enjoyed the same kind of success when it comes to recording solid finishes in the 160-lap race. Newman has just one top-five at Indianapolis – a fourth-place effort during his 2002 rookie campaign.
Newman wants to turn that stat around. And with his team’s recent top-10 runs, perhaps Newman & Company have the momentum to do just that.
Three weekends ago, Newman finished fifth at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway. It was his first top-10 finish at the superspeedway since his win in the 2008 Daytona 500. More importantly, it was the No. 39 team’s first top-10 in more than three months. The following weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, Newman finished 10th.
Currently 14th in points with one win to his credit this season, Newman is one of several drivers involved in a hotly contested battle for one of two wild card spots for the 12-driver Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship. While top-fives and top-10s are good, what Newman would really like is to engineer another win for his No. 39 Quicken Loans team.
And a win at the Brickyard wouldn’t just give Newman his own page of history at the 2.5-mile track, it would also greatly help his team’s quest to make this season’s Chase. Of course, too, it would be difficult to find a better congratulatory baby gift than a big win for this new, second-time dad.
RYAN NEWMAN, Driver of the No. 39 Quicken Loans Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing:
What is your favorite Brickyard moment?
“My favorite Brickyard moment was probably my first competitive lap that I ever had there back in 2001. Everybody was in qualifying trim in practice – the way we used to do with the schedule. We were quickest out of the box. I wasn’t even a rookie at that point and I was the quickest car in practice. So that was pretty cool. I ended up qualifying fifth because I bounced it off the wall in turn four. But that, to me, was pretty impressive – to be that much of a rookie and be that competitive at a track that is so difficult.”
Talk about racing at Indianapolis.
“It’s a unique racetrack. We all know that. It’s a lot of fun, especially when you’re up front. It seems like the straightaways go on forever and you can just sit there and relax and drive the racecar. The racetrack is really fun to drive. It’s one of the hardest tracks to race, which is why some people love it and some people hate it. It’s really a deal where, if you have a fast racecar, you will have fun. If your car isn’t fast, it’s going to be a miserable day. It is so difficult to pass there. Track position is so important. But for me, I think racing at Indianapolis is just about the history of the track. The history of all auto racing at that facility and around there. Growing up in Indiana and being an open-wheel driver, I got to spend a lot of time around the Speedway and competing there and knowing the history of people like A.J. Foyt, Mel Kenyon and all the greats who have raced there. Just to know my tire tracks are in theirs, that’s cool. That’s what makes it special.”
You talk a lot about how much you love the history of motorsports and that the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is crucial to that history. What do you mean by that?
“Coming to the Brickyard, I’ve always said that it’s special. The history of the sport, the history of motorsports at the Speedway is something I have always appreciated, and I look forward to trying to add my name to that record book. To me, it’s still awesome to either be a fan or a driver at Indianapolis. To come down the front chute and hear the echo of the car, the horsepower, we approach 205 mph or whatever it is. To take a 3,400-pound car that is pretty top-heavy around the corner as fast as we do is really amazing. The cars have changed, the tires have changed, the racetrack has changed just a little bit, but the fans there are amazing. They keep coming back. I’m really appreciative of the opportunity to come to the Brickyard. I’ve always said that I love the history of motorsports and there’s no better place than the Brickyard when it comes to the history of speed.”
Where would a win at Indianapolis, and in your home state, rank for you?
“To me, Indianapolis ranks second to the Daytona 500. Not by much, but it is still second. This race hasn’t been going on as long as the Daytona 500 has, and winning in the 50th running of the Daytona 500 was something that was really special to me because of all the past winners who were on hand in the drivers meeting for that race. I kept thinking of the history of the race and that my name was joining some outstanding drivers as Daytona 500 winners. It was very special. So, the Daytona 500 is number one in my book. But there is more history at Indianapolis, as far as auto racing goes as a whole. Winning a race at Indy would be very special because of the significance of the track in the history of auto racing. And it would be very special to win in my home state. This race holds a lot of weight. But to me, it’s second.”
You are in a position where you could get into the Chase on points, but another win would probably put you in great shape in terms of the wild card race for the Chase. How do you approach these next several races as we move closer to the Chase?
“We are here to win each and every one of them, there is no doubt about that. That second win would be huge from a wild-card standpoint. I just know that winning is important for our sponsors, winning is important for our team and it’s important from a points standpoint. We are here to do that. We would like to be in the top-10 and not have to worry about that, but you look at somebody like Carl Edwards, who is not even in the Chase for the Championship right now whether it’s a wild card or not, and he tied for the championship last year. We are in a really good or bad company, depending on how you look at it, I guess. There are a lot of guys who are very deserving to be in that top-10 or 12 – right around there – so we have to work our tails off.”
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