Newman looks to tame the “Monster Mile” once again
Posted: 11 May 2011 08:37 AM PDT
Photo by Jerry Markland - Getty Images for NASCAR
KANNAPOLIS, N.C. – “Adversity does not build character…it reveals it.” – James Lee Allen
For Ryan Newman and his No. 39 Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) team, actions speak louder than words.
After being embroiled in a week of controversy both on and off the track, it would have been easy, maybe even expected, for Newman and his No. 39 SHR team to be negatively affected by all the distractions. Instead, Newman & Company showed just how strong they were during last weekend’s Showtime Southern 500 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway.
The team unloaded as the quickest car in the garage, qualified on the outside pole and, despite battling an array of handling issues, fought its way to a fifth-place finish.
It was Newman’s fourth top-five finish of the season, which already ties the number of top-fives he had during the entire 2010 season.
Now, the team heads to Dover (Del.) International Speedway. Like Darlington, the high-banked, one-mile concrete oval is a favorite of the South Bend, Ind., native. It’s also the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series track where Newman boasts his best average finish – 10.3.
In 18 starts at Dover, Newman has four poles (spring 2003, fall 2005, spring 2006 and spring 2007), three wins – Newman swept the 2003 season at Dover and also won the September race at the oval in 2004 – six top-fives and 11 top-10 finishes. Newman also has a NASCAR Nationwide Series win at the track (2005).
Back in September 2004, Newman showed no mercy to his other Sprint Cup competitors at Dover and turned in one of his most dominant performances to date.
Newman qualified on the outside pole for the 400-lap race but, by the end of lap one, he was posted as the leader. And it wasn’t very often during the day that Newman gave up the point position on the track.
Newman led an astounding 325 of 400 laps, and that wasn’t all. Over the final 134 laps of the race, he built a commanding eight-second lead on his way to winning his third Sprint Cup race at Dover and claiming the first ever “Monster Trophy.”
This weekend, Newman looks to tame the “Monster Mile” once again and claim his first victory of the 2011 season. He has a proven record at the track and, this weekend, the No. 39 Haas Automation Chevrolet that he will pilot is a proven chassis.
The car has seen action on 10 occasions since Newman joined Stewart-Haas Racing – and at all four of the team’s previous starts at Dover. In those 10 starts, the chassis has finished outside of the top-10 only twice, and three of Newman’s top-10 finishes have come at the concrete oval.
With 10 races in the books in the 2011 season, Newman sits sixth in the Sprint Cup point standings, 61 behind leader Carl Edwards. He has posted four top-five and five top-10 finishes while leading laps in seven of the 10 races.
Despite being off to the best start after 10 races in his 10-year Sprint Cup career, one thing is missing for Newman and the No. 39 team – a victory.
If the true strength of a team can be measured by how it responds to adversity, then the No. 39 team has proven time and again that staying focused on the task at hand, not buckling under the weight of distractions, and maintaining unity will deliver the ultimate payoff – winning races and championships. There is no batter track than Dover for Newman and the team to show the competition just how strong they are. And there is no better time than this Sunday.
RYAN NEWMAN, Driver of the No. 39 Haas Automation Chevrolet Impala for Stewart-Haas Racing:
You and your team had a pretty tough week last week. Despite all the conflict and distraction, you were able to finish in the top-five at Darlington. What does that say about this team’s character?
“Honestly, that’s how this team has been since our first season together. When the odds are stacked against us, I think we show how strong we are. We dig deep, we come together and we fight like heck to prove ourselves. And we did do that again this past weekend in Darlington. I’ve always said that this team doesn’t quit, and it doesn’t. I’m proud to have every one of those guys on this team. It wasn’t an easy week, and it wasn’t an easy race last weekend. We really struggled with our racecar and, at one point, we were all sort of scratching our heads. But we pedaled through it and we got a good finish. It was a good rebound for us, especially considering everything that was going on around us during the week, and I really think what we did shows how strong this team is.”
Last week, you said Darlington was one of your favorite tracks. This week, we head to Dover, which you have said is another one of your favorite tracks. What is it that you like about Dover?
“Dover is another one of my favorite racetracks. This little swing here we have here – Richmond, Darlington, Dover, Charlotte – it’s been kind of similar in the last few years, and it’s a string of races that I really enjoy. I think it’s one of those stretches that we circle on the calendar because it’s a stretch where we feel we have the opportunity to get top-fives and win each and every week. At Dover, I like the banking. I like the elevation changes. The concrete provides a different type of racing for us because the track doesn’t change a whole lot. Once you get your car right, you can keep it right for the rest of the race. And for me, for whatever reason, I’ve always adapted well to racing on concrete. To me, the characteristics of the track make it both demanding and fun. It’s really unique how you drop off into the corners and then climb up the hills onto the straightaways. At Dover, the entry into the corners is the toughest part. If you don’t get a good entry, you’re not going to have a good middle or a good exit. You have narrow straightaways and then the track opens a lot in the corners, so there is a good bit of give-and-take. To me as a driver, it’s just a track that’s a lot of fun. It’s a challenge. If you don’t like a challenge, you don’t like Dover. I really look forward to racing there. It’s fast, it’s demanding. I like the banked racetracks, and it’s one of those.”
How physically demanding is Dover for the drivers?
“It’s definitely pretty physically tough. It’s not as physical as the road courses – I think they are the most physically demanding – but with the banking and 400 laps, you are just constantly maneuvering the racecar. You get just a short distance on the straightaways to take a quick breath and get ready to go back at it in the next corner. We talk about what it takes to be ‘Army Strong,’ and it’s mental, emotional and physical. To me, this is one of the most physical racetracks that we go to. Mentally, because it’s so physically tough you have to stay in shape and stay on top of things. When you hit, you hit hard there, so, emotionally, you have to be ready for a lot of things. I’ve always enjoyed it. I’ve always enjoyed the speed, banking and everything else there.”
Ten races into the 2011 season and you are the highest in points you have ever been in your career. You started the season really hot with a great run in Daytona, which you followed up with four top-10 finishes. There was a little lull for four races, and then, last weekend, you got another top-five finish to bring your total to four on the season. How would you evaluate your team?
“I’m really proud of this team and our accomplishments so far this season, but we can’t rest on a strong start. Tony Gibson and I worked really hard in the offseason and at the start of the season to communicate better, and I think that has shown every week. This is our third season together and, with each season, I think we have improved. We had a lot of momentum at the end of last year, and we carried that over into this season. We led the most laps at Daytona. Leading the most laps at a restrictor-plate track is something that I had never done, personally, and it was the first time we had led the most laps as a team so that was a big deal for us. We’ve led laps in over half the races this season, and even when we haven’t finished in the top-five or top-10, I think we have had a strong car. This past weekend at Darlington, we were able to get back on track with another top-five finish, which is what we needed. We’re not where we want to be, points-wise, finishing-wise. We feel like we have a really good package at certain racetracks, and there are certain racetracks we go back to that we had a good package but we struggled. I think, overall, we’re close, and that’s something we are proud of. But we want to be in the top-five and contending for wins each and every week.”