User-agent: * Allow: / CH on Track: July 2013


Monday, July 29, 2013

First at the start, first at the finish; Ryan Newman wins at the Brickyard

Sweet victory! 

Ryan Newman wins at the Brickyard
Ryan Newman wins at the Brickyard
All members of the media flocked to interview Ryan Newman after his stellar performance Sunday that resulted in a win at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway. They had all but written Newman off for this season, fresh on the news that he was losing his ride at Stewart-Haas Racing next year. They barely even mentioned his name week after week. 

That fact has been bothersome to me, as someone who has watched Newman's career over the last ten years. I've written about it often in CHonTrack. While I will admit that--as Newman alluded to in his post-race statement, the moons have not always been aligned--a lackluster finish isn't always a question of driving prowess. I have never doubted his ability. Newman always gives it his all. He always gets the most out of his race car, but admittedly he doesn't always have a winning car nor does he have the greatest luck. The moons were certainly right on Sunday. 

Newman has a trifecta or sorts

Ryan Newman had a great week that began Wednesday with a really good finish at Eldora Speedway, the Ohio track owned by Tony Stewart, when Newman drove a truck there as NASCAR returned to racing's dirt track roots. Then on Friday, Newman set a new track record at Indianapolis Motor Speedway's 2.5-mile track in 47.992 seconds. That translated to 187.531 mph. He topped Jimmy Johnson's qualifying effort which was also record-breaking by .024 seconds, to put him in the pole position for Sunday's race. Then on Sunday he won the race in spectacular fashion.

Johnson didn't lose the race in the pits; Newman simply beat him

Television pundits couldn't help themselves. More than once, in the same breath that they reported Newman's victory, they attributed it to Jimmy Johnson's final pit stop, a few seconds longer than normal. They audaciously claimed it was just enough to allow Newman to win. 

That certainly isn't my perspective. Not only did Newman drive his heart out, but he bested Johnson's lap times often in those closing laps just as he did in qualifying. Best commentator--Dale Jarrett, who fairly reported on Ryan's run. Not so much for Rusty Wallace, Newman's former teammate who flat out doesn't like Newman. 

To be a Ryan Newman fan

There is no better feeling than watching those moons align. There was something about watching the race Sunday that was magical. It felt just right. Watching Ryan leading laps from the start, getting shuffled back during green-flag pit stops, only to return to the lead, was a thrill. If someone would ask me what else went on during the race, I wouldn't be able to answer. I was completely fixated to the television, as I listened to Ryan's radio, watched his travel times, monitored Twitter, and tuned into Race Buddy to watch Jimmy Johnson's camera feed. Through Johnson's windshield I could watch Ryan motor his Quicken Loans Chevy far ahead of the field. 

Watching those final laps were similar to those at Daytona in 2008 when Ryan won the Daytona 500. 

Ryan's father Greg was spotting for him, just like at Daytona. To hear the excitement in Greg's voice as he told his son, "You've got this," was so exhilarating. 

I've never met Ryan Newman, but as a fan who has followed his career for ten years, I almost feel as if I know him. There is a familiarity that is almost akin to a close friendship or family member. The feelings are similar; they just aren't reciprocated. The empathy is certainly the same. The tears flowed because someone I am fond of, was experiencing a great moment. So, for me, it was a great moment too.

Ryan Newman is a graceful winner. 

Once Ryan was directed to Victory Lane and he emerged from his car, he demonstrated his humility and character. Ryan is well-spoken, respectful, a smile that is so genuine. He has an exceptional sense of humor and knows how to express himself. When asked what those last laps were like, he likened the last ten to his daughter, Brooklyn's learning her numbers. He said counting down from 10 laps to go was so slow and he lost track of which lap he was on. 

It was wonderful to see Ryan, his wife Krissie, their two daughters, Brooklyn and Ashlyn, the reaction from Tony Stewart, congratulations from other drivers, the often elusive media as they followed his every move, the traditional kissing of the bricks. I can only imagine the family celebration that would follow.

Ryan didn't just win a race; he won a race at the Brickyard

Winning his first race of the year was of course memorable. But winning a race at the Brickyard, (Indianapolis Motor Speedway) was a dream come true for Newman. He is an Indiana native, growing up in South Bend, less than 200 miles from the famed race track. The Brickyard is his home track. He attended races there as a boy. It was also Greg's dream to see his son win at Indy. That has to be part of the joy for Newman, to do this for his dad. From all appearances, the Newmans are a close, loving family that sacrificed plenty for their son's racing career. 

More than that, Newman is awed by this race track and the drivers that have crossed that same finish line before him--some of his heroes and mentors. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is the oldest race track in the country and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. 

Ryan Newman wins in spectacular fashion as this year marked the 20th anniversary of NASCAR at Indy. The first race was held there in 1994, so Newman won the 20th running at the Brickyard to go with his 50th running of the Daytona 500. 

When Newman was asked in Victory Lane what it felt like to achieve his dream, he said it didn't sink in yet. I just hope he can revel in it as long as possible because in so many ways, I've always known that Ryan Newman is a winner!
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Monday, July 15, 2013

Ryan Newman took plenty of hits this week

Ryan Newman car
It was looking like a good points day for Ryan Newman Sunday at New Hampshire, with the potential to get closer to the cutoff for the Chase for the Championship, just eight races away. That is until Kurt Busch got into him and took him out. Valiant efforts by Newman's team to repair the car were futile, resulting in a 39th place finish, moving him from 16th in points down to a three-way tie for 18th. 

What could have been a top 10 finish and possibly contention for the win, was lost in one brief instant, so close to the end of the day. 

Newman and his team were careful to massage their strategy at the same time adjust on the chassis to get the car to handle. Finally, as they got the WIX #39 car into position for a good finish, it was over. 

If that wasn't disheartening enough, I read this morning the ridiculous remarks by Kyle Busch during a Satellite radio program.

Kyle Busch
"I really hate it that Kurt got tore up and I felt like he had the best car here today," Kyle said to ESPN of his brother, who led a race-high 102 laps. "He was definitely good. He could definitely roll the long runs for sure and I was proud of those guys, but man just stupidity.

"I mean Ryan Newman is the biggest stupid idiot out here. And he's a big ogre and he can do whatever he wants because he can probably kick anybody's butt, so no sense in getting into a fight with him. But glad he is out of a job," Busch said.


I was pleased to read the responses much like my own--responses that indicate Busch has no idea what he is talking about, such as those in this story. Busch obviously opened his mouth before seeing the replay of the incident that clearly indicates it was Kurt Busch that, to borrow a Newman phrase, "ran out of talent."

Despite his disappointment, Newman was interviewed after the incident, where he managed to smile and be a gentleman about it. Newman knows how to take it like a man, which is something the Busch brothers could learn from him.

While I will admit that Kyle Busch has had some spectacular moments on the race track, they have been balanced by some real boneheaded moves as well. He has wrecked--purposely wrecked--more cars than anyone in recent times and has shot off his mouth about nearly everyone around him. He can't even get along with his own brother.

Had the wreck been Newman's fault, perhaps Busch would have had something to gripe about. But that wasn't the case. There is no excuse for his remark about being glad Newman is out of a job. How dare him say such a thing?

Indeed, this was not a good week for Newman, who just learned days before what he probably already knew, that he would not be driving a race car for Stewart-Haas Racing next year. Instead, Tony Stewart, co-owner of Stewart-Haas decided to fire Newman, his friend, in favor of a friend with funding--Kevin Harvick. It is all about the money--one of the things I really hate about NASCAR and one of the things that will probably drive me away altogether one day. Tony's decision to field Danica Patrick and Kevin Harvick next year was strictly about GoDaddy and Budweiser, Danica and Kevin's sponsors respectively. Atilla the Hun could have been the drivers and it wouldn't have mattered. Had Ryan had his own sponsor, the decision might have been different.

I'm not really concerned that Ryan will find a place to go next year. He is a good, competitive, intelligent race car driver and given good equipment, will drive into Victory Lane. 

Clearly, Stewart-Haas dropped the ball on the new Generation 6 car at the same time Stewart-Haas was making changes in personnel in order to accommodate Danica Patrick. 

So, while I am disheartened over the lost potential for Ryan Newman at New Hampshire and concerned about the remainder of his 2013 season, I'm sickened by Stewart's decision to oust Newman in 2014 and really angry at Kyle Busch's ill-thought remarks. Ryan Newman deserves better. Busch owes him an apology, thought I doubt that will ever happen. If he finds himself spinning one day, I doubt there will be many tears shed.

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