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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Critics just don't 'get' Ryan Newman


Why do so many people like to pick on Ryan Newman?
Perhaps it has to do with his easy-going attitude. Or maybe it is because he doesn't quite fit into the same neatly-tied package as other race car drivers on the NASCAR circuit. Or, it is possible that some just don't 'get' Newman's sense of humor or understand the way he thinks.

Personally, I think all of those things are what make Ryan Newman unique. That combined with his skills behind the wheel is why he is my favorite driver. I 'get' Newman, which is why I like to challenge his critics.

The latest unfair rant against Newman was the one this morning from Michael Lowe of the Savannah Morning News at: http://savannahnow.com/share/blog-post/michael-lowe/2010-04-27/ryan-newman-wrong-about-talladega-racing
Lowe said Newman was wrong about Talladega. He criticized Newman's suggestion that races at Talladega should be eliminated from the points standings because what goes on there is not racing. He went on to give a brief history of the track and some of the great racing that has taken place there.

Lowe saying Newman blamed the Talladega track itself for the late-race crash that took him out of the Aaron's 499.

Newman went into the race 16th in the points standings. His momentum was positive, especially after a recent win at Phoenix and a top 12 finish at Texas. Of course Newman was ticked-off when he got booted by Joey Logano one too many times and got turned around.

But I say it is Lowe who got it wrong.

Newman was not criticizing the storied Alabama race track. In fact, Newman is very respectful of all of NASCAR's history. He was criticizing the nature of restrictor plate racing, which continues to undergo changes, seemingly at the whim of the sanctioning body. Newman didn't say the racing was bad at Talladega. In fact, he said quite the opposite, recognizing that it is a fan favorite, filled with excitement rich with on-track action.

Lowe's criticism that Newman blamed the race track for his own misfortune is just flat out wrong. As was stated in Bob Pockrass' column for SceneDaily.com entitled "Plenty of shared blame for multi-car wrecks" at http://nbcsports.msnbc.com/id/36785738/ns/sports-motor_sports/ Newman blamed "restrictor-plate racing in general."

That is more to the point. Look at some of the incidents that have taken place at restrictor-plate tracks in general and at Talladega in particular. Newman could write a book about his own incidents at Talladega. Newman has been involved in some of the most dramatic incidents there, and not of his own doing. But not just Newman, there have been countless other drivers as well. The racing during Sunday's race was spectacular. It was extremely exciting to watch. The Harvick/McMurray finish was stellar.

But I think Newman made that point. He doesn't want to stop racing at Talladega. He recognized that it is a crowd-pleaser. But, winning a championship, which is the ultimate goal of all of the drivers at the track that is based on points, should be under the control of the driver and his team. It should be based on their individual and combined skills. At Talladega, it is, as Dale Earnhardt, Jr. pointed out, "a lottery."

A successful NASCAR career should not be dependent upon a roll of the dice, a crap-shoot, or a lottery. It should be under the drivers' and teams' control.
Newman is right.

Drivers and race teams should be able to control their own destiny in the sport. And that isn't possible during a restrictor-plate race when speeds are manipulated, rules are imposed, and drivers are dependent on the actions of the others around them for which they have no control. Being pushed down the back stretch is not driving. Relying on a push to make your car go faster is not driving. And not driving is not racing.

Newman is a race car driver, not a fast bumper-car pilot.