Senior staff writer
Ryan Newman is among rare Midwest drivers competing in the NASCAR Cup Series.
The South Bend native is the only driver with Indiana roots after the retirement by Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon. Throw in Missouri’s Carl Edwards, who retired suddenly, and that leaves only Newman, Kansas’ Clint Bowyer and Michigan’s Erik Jones from the Midwest. Indiana’s Dakoda Armstrong of New Castle and Chase Briscoe of Mitchell compete in the Xfinity Series.
Newman is not concerned where the competitors come from. “It’s important to have diversity,” he said. “Really it doesn’t matter what area they come from if they are good drivers and put on a good show. “If they’re from the Midwest, open wheel or the South, I just want to know that I’m competing against the best drivers in the world in a stock car.”
The Purdue University grad with an engineering degree also looked at NASCAR’s race format changes. He foresees different strategies in the way drivers race each stage, but the last stage remains the most important.
To create more competition, Newman, 39, believes the key is how well Goodyear and NASCAR combine efforts.
“The big difference is finding the right tire compound,” Newman said. “The biggest challenge lays on the shoulders of Goodyear and NASCAR to put something out there that matches old-school racing.”
He explained that the tire must wear so that handling becomes more of an issue late in each run between pit stops when a driver’s talent rises.
Newman yearns for his next NASCAR win, which would be a first for him with team owner Richard Childress. Newman’s last win was in the 2013 Brickyard 400. He has raced 124 times since without a win but with the notoriety of coming close to the 2014 Cup championship for without winning a race.
Newman was 18th in points last year with a best finish of third at Kentucky Speedway. “It’s tough to work through the mental part of it (not winning),” he said. “We have the right people and the right parts to do it.”