User-agent: * Allow: / CH on Track: April 2011


Monday, April 18, 2011

Ryan Newman: a strong contender at Talladega

Ryan Newman was a contender for the win Sunday at Talladega, AL. That is, until Lady Luck stepped in.

It certainly looked as if Newman would get a good finish at the unpredictable race track where anything can happen and often times does. Newman ran a great race.

The single car, bumper-to-bumper racing at Talladega has been replaced by tandem racing, where two cars line up and run as one, combining horsepower for maximum speed.

Newman described the new style of racing at Tallagadega simply as 'different.' He is far less critical of tandem racing than he was about the bumper-to-bumper draft that used to categorize restrictor-plate racing. Restrictor-plate racing was mandated by NASCAR to slow the cars by reducing using a device to restrict the amount of air that flows into the carburetor.

Dual racing took root this year at Daytona due to changes in the aerodynamics of the cars. It takes some of the control away from drivers, but not nearly as much as the way it used to be, where a driver was completely at the mercy of all the other cars around him. The two-car draft returns control to drivers, even though the control is shared in a type of buddy system where a driver is reliant on whomever he chooses to work. Running together compensates for the subtracted horsepower implemented by the restrictor plate. Newman is among many drivers that dislike restrictor plate racing. Talladega and Daytona are the only two tracks that require it. 

Working with various partners during Sunday's race, depending on who was nearby during restarts, Newman was especially fast, paired with Denny Hamlin. Hamlin pushed Newman to speeds nearing 200 mph. The two easily made their way from the back of the pack toward the front.

That was their intention in the last laps of the race, but with about 20 left to go in the 188-lap race, as Hamlin got to Newman's bumper, Newman got turned around.

At that instant, Newman and everyone watching him, had visions of the November 2009 race when close racing resulted in Newman's car spinning around backwards and lifting off the ground, standing vertical and doing numerous pirouettes as it landed on its hood in the infield. Newman was unhurt in the heart-stopping crash.

This time though, Newman saved it, despite his race car positioned at nearly 90-degrees from the direction he was headed, the car bounced off the tire of Juan Pablo Montoya. Newman righted it, much to the shock of the announcers, spectators, other drivers, and probably Newman himself. No caution was called so he kept on racing, losing suprisingly little time. The impact however, resulted in enough damage to cause his tires to rub. When one of them let go, Newman headed for the wall, but again, he saved it. Check out the video at

Those two saves were epic, even though they caused him to finish a mere 25th.

Despite the lackluster finish Newman remains in 7th place in the points standings, only 42 points behind leader Carl Edwards.

But this was Talladega. Not only did Newman finish the race, but his once mediocre results at super speedway tracks is behind him. Newman was bad fast. He just needs a little better relationship with Lady Luck.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Not quite Top 10

When Ryan Newman doesn't finish a race in the top 10, it takes me a few days to recover enough to write about it. That was the case with Saturday night's race at Texas Motor Speedway. 

Newman finished in 14th place--not far from the top 10--but not quite in it either. Considering the night he had, 14th was a great finish. It was a hot and windy night, which didn't help the lack of grip and mostly tight conditions that led to Newman's unhappy relationship with his race car for the 500-mile race.

Newman and the #39 team struggled to improve the car's balance, probably exacerbated by weather conditions, a mediocre starting spot, and daytime practice for a nighttime race. The team couldn't quite reach the right balance needed to maximize speed, though it isn't because they didn't try. Adjustments were made on the car at every pit stop. Newman said on the radio that it felt like the wheels were traveling in different directions. 

Newman wheeled the car the best he could, bringing praise from Crew Chief Tony Gibson. Following the race, Gibson recognized that Newman got "everything and more" out of the unyielding race car.

Newman's disappointment had to be magnified by the knowledge that his team has made major improvements to its intermediate track program in other recent weeks. Newman fell one point in the standings to seventh in points. He is 233 points out of first place.

Carl Edwards sits precariously in first place just nine points ahead of Kyle Busch. Edwards finished third, which is great considering he was feeling ill. He mentioned after the race that he didn't want to throw his mother under the bus but she cooked something for dinner that didn't agree with him. Ouch! I hope Mom isn't too hard on him for that remark on national TV.

The only other noteworthy event in this week's race were the uncharacteristic mistakes by Tony Stewart. Stewart was caught speeding on pit road. Serving the drive through penalty took him out of contention for what could have been a win. Then on the last lap, he ran out of fuel, causing him to finish a disappointing twelfth. He had been running third.

Overall the race was seemed long and pretty unexciting to watch. 

That is not the case however for Matt Kenseth fans. For them, this must have been nirvana. Kenseth led most of the laps and cruised his way to victory with ease. 

Monday, April 11, 2011

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Monday, April 4, 2011

Ryan Newman soldiers on to finish Sunday's race

It was really hard to watch the latter part of Sunday's NASCAR race at Martinsville, VA. 

Kevin Harvick fans are elated at Harvick's second consecutive win.

Followers of Dale Earnhardt, Jr. can certainly relish his finish, especially after he passed Kyle Busch for second place in a stellar move. In the after-the-race interview, Junior seemed disappointed at not winning the race. Who can blame him; he was oh-so-close? This is the best finish he has posted in a long time, so he shouldn't be as dejected as he appeared. If nothing else, he should be proud of that pass. He could have come in third. 

For those of us who follow the #39 team, our thrills were short-lived. 

It was on lap 328 of the 500-lap race when Newman radioed to his Crew Chief Tony Gibson that he was losing the engine. A short time later, Kevin Harvick got into him cutting Newman's tire, causing him to spin. Lady Luck didn't completely abandon him, as Newman was able to keep the car off the wall.

Numerous pit stops, both under green and yellow racing conditions to diagnose the engine issues and replace tires put Newman into a deficit situation that was impossible to make up without horsepower. He did however, make the most of his bad day, by completing the race and salvaging a top-20 finish.

Despite the early appearance of another great finish and perhaps a trip to victory lane, suddenly all bets were off. Newman's strong competitive nature had to take a back seat to a different kind of skill--to try to coax the ailing race car to complete the final lap.

Newman started the race with high hopes and great expectations. He had a great season so far. In five races, Newman finished all but one in the top 10. He finished three of those in the top-five. He was second in the points' standings. It looked like the trend would continue. He was clocking some of the fastest speeds on the track, hovering in the top ten all day. The crew was on their game as well, since Newman was able to maintain the track position he earned after pit stops. 

Newman seemed to hold a prescription for success going into Sunday's race. A good record at Martinsville, Newman has nine career top-10 finishes; three in the top-5. He started Sunday's race on the front row, qualifying second, just a fraction behind pole-sitter Jamie McMurray. It didn't take Newman long to get out in front to lead laps.

Until his engine mishap, he clocked some of the fastest speeds on the track. He hovered in the top ten all day.

A true champion is measured not by how he handles the wins, but how he deals with adversity. Newman has shown that he knows how to soldier on. 

Newman lost four spots to sixth in the points standings, but only 16 points behind leader, Kyle Busch. 

My thanks to Jerry Connor for the photo