South Bend native could be second back-to-back winner of Brickyard 400
Southsider Voice correspondent
Hoosier-born Ryan Newman would like to become the second back-to-back Brickyard 400 winner Sunday.
Last year’s victory was bittersweet for the South Bend native because team co-owner and fishing friend Tony Stewart already had announced that Newman would not be part of Stewart-Haas Racing after 2013. Stewart brought in Kevin Harvick from Richard Childress Racing, which is where Newman landed.
And therein lays the challenge for Newman, a vehicle structure engineering graduate from Purdue. To win Sunday and to match Jimmie Johnson’s 2008 and ’09 wins, he must do it on his first try at the Brickyard with Childress.
Newman’s results with RCR have been lukewarm, at best, with a top finish of third at Kentucky Speedway after three seventh-place finishes in his first 17 starts.
All Newman wants is a Chevrolet that performs like the one from SHR did in last year’s race.
“I knew what I had last year, and what I have to work on this year to make the race car feel the same,” Newman said. “We had a good qualifying effort and good race position last year. We kept position all race long, never fell back past seventh. It’s always been that way here; track position is a big part of racing here.”
The Brickyard win was his last; he has gone 36 starts without driving into victory lane.
Newman was at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last month for Goodyear tire tests when the air temperature approached 90. Later that day he able to relax in the Hoosier state by playing putt-putt and driving go-karts.
The 36-year-old driver contends that IMS is a special place for him, although track/car conditions change dramatically during the 160-lap race.
“We always talk about the heat here and the transition of the track through the temperature changes,” Newman said. “The track gets better at the end of the day, but you try to adjust to keep up with the changes. You can’t sit back here and put yourself in contention in the last 40 laps like Daytona. You have to keep good track position all day here.”
Newman said he admired Kurt Busch for doing The Double (Indianapolis 500 and NASCAR Coca-Cola 600 in the same day) but has no desire to try it.
Newman is in his 14th Cup season and has career winnings of nearly $80 million while driving for Roger Penske, Stewart and Richard Childress, who has won the 400 three times as an owner. Newman said those owners understand all facets of the sport, adding that Penske knows the business world, and Stewart’s strength is in his racing background.
“Richard has a great combination of both,” Newman said. “He understands what it takes to be competitive in the race car and out. He understands that part of it and the corporate world as well.”
Newman, who has 17 wins and 51 poles during his Sprint Cup career, is a graduate of quarter-midgets, USAC midgets, the Silver Crown Series and ARCA and NASCAR Nationwide stock cars.
He and wife Krissie and their two daughters live in Statesville, N.C., where the couple founded the Ryan Newman Foundation to fund a nonprofit Rescue Ranch, an animal welfare organization.