Senior staff writer
Hoosier-born NASCAR veteran Ryan Newman has a degree in vehicle structural engineering from Purdue University, but he has mastered the mathematics of making The Chase without a win for the past two years.
The 38-year-old driver has not won a race since the 2013 Brickyard 400 in his last year to race for team owner/driver Tony Stewart.
Nonetheless, Newman has qualified for The Chase two consecutive years for team owner Richard Childress. The South Bend native came within one point of the championship in 2014 and reached the second round of NASCAR’s playoff last year.
Newman qualified for The Chase each year by ranking among the top drivers in points after the first 24 races each season. His best finishes last year were third at Las Vegas and Phoenix and fourth at Chicagoland.
“Close, very close, and closer,” Newman said of his most recent driving history. “We were more successful (2015) but we lost a little grip last year. We led very few laps (20) last year. We’ve got to lead laps, be among the top five and be in position to win.”
Newman is confident that the No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet will be in The Chase for a third straight year. He said he believes NASCAR aero rules with less downforce will help his effort.
“It puts the driving more in our hands and I like that,” said Newman of the rules package similar to races last year at Kentucky Speedway and Darlington. “We will have less on-throttle time, and the tires will have more grip early but then tail off. I’m all about no downforce, not less, like it was many years ago.”
Newman is the oldest and most experienced driver on the Childress team. His teammates include fellow Brickyard 400 winner John Menard and Childress’ grandsons Austin Dillon, who survived unscathed from a horrifying front-stretch crash in last year’s Daytona 500, and NASCAR Xfinity driver Ty Dillon, who will race in five Sprint Cup races this season.
The Indiana driver is in his final year of a three-year contract with Childress.
Newman continues to be among NASCAR’s most underrated drivers. During his 14-year Sprint Cup career, he has won 17 races, 51 poles and $86.9 million with team owners Roger Penske, Stewart-Haas and Childress. His first win was with Penske in 2002 at Loudon, N.H. He is a graduate of the USAC midget, sprint and Silver Crown ranks.
Like fellow USAC grads Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart, Newman contends that the way USAC open-wheel cars slide around and the close-quarters competition helps drivers compete at a high level in the Cup Series.
Newman said he hopes that Stewart enjoys his final season in Cup competition and emphasized, “He’s not done racing, he’s just done racing in Cup. He’s a true racer.”
Newman enjoys hunting and fishing and recently took his 5-year-old daughter, Brooklyn, hunting for the first time. He is a vintage car enthusiast.
He and wife Krissie have formed Rescue Ranch and Ryan Newman Foundation, which promotes humane care for pets and protection and control of domestic animals through education programs and pet camps.