Senior staff writer
South Bend native Ryan Newman believes he is the only person who has a snowmobile in Iredale County, N.C.
Newman, who grew up in northern Indiana, enjoys the recreational opportunities that arise when it snows, which is rare around Charlotte ... except for this winter. He had one regret about the rare snowfall that covered the Charlotte area in mid-January.
“I couldn’t have picked a worse time to get sick,” Newman said during the NASCAR Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway. “I would have loved to have been out in the snow. I love it.”
Snowfall may be the only thing that Newman misses about Indiana. He and wife Krissie and their two daughters live in Statesville, north of Charlotte. They founded Rescue Ranch for animals and to educate youth and adults about pets and animal care, and he has a collection of vintage cars dating back to 1925.
Newman has acquired several cars during the past six months, including a 1925 Chevrolet, a ’40 Chevrolet pickup, a ’69 Camaro and a ’73 Dodge Charger. His favorite car remains a’49 Buick Roadrunner. Some of the cars were gifts from his wife.
As the ambient temperature warmed in Charlotte, Newman turned his thoughts to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup campaign, which opens Sunday with the Daytona 500. He won the 2008 Daytona 500 with team owner Roger Penske.
The driver of the No. 31 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing is among several Cup competitors who are wheeling the new Camaro ZL 1. He expects the stylish racing body to be strong immediately.
“If we do our homework right, we should be dialed in,” Newman said. “It’s a better car. We don’t expect growing pains with a body spec change.”
He also favors the new Sept. 9 date for the Brickyard 400 and figures it should be 20 degrees cooler than in late July, when the race was previously held.
Newman, 40, is in his 17th season, his fifth with Childress, and is with teammate Austin Dillon. Childress is down to a two-car Cup team and three-car Xfinity Series team.
Last month he was leery of NASCAR’s inspection systems. Newman, who has an engineering degree from Purdue University, said the laser inspection system was so inconsistent that drivers were not able to qualify because their cars flunked pre-qualifying inspections.
He would like to see a backup system to the Hawk-Eye and less expense. “Technical inspection became the source of everyone’s attention because you want to make sure each competitor is within the rules for the fairest competition possible. You’ve got to be realistic about it. I know what the intentions are, but in the end, nobody at this point knows how well it’s going to be.”
Newman was asked if he had discussed his concerns with NASCAR officials, to which he replied, “That costs you money.”
He expanded his Hoosier racing roots by joining Tim Clauson/Richard Marshall Racing as a third owner of the USAC AMSOIL national sprint car team. Clauson is the father of the late Bryan Clauson. CMN Racing makes its season debut at Ocala, Fla. this week.
Newman was the 1999 USAC Silver Crown champion and is a graduate of midget and sprint cars. He has 18 Cup wins, including last year’s triumph at Phoenix, and 51 poles, which is why he is known as “Rocket Man.”