KANNAPOLIS, N.C. – It shouldn’t be surprising to see Ryan Newman cringe at the mere mention of Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway.
There have been times of feast or famine for the Haas Automation driver at the 2.66-mile superspeedway. In 22 races at the largest track on the Sprint Cup circuit, he has 11 finishes of 16th or better, including four top-fives and eight top-10s. It’s the other 11 finishes that have been less than kind to Newman. Those are the results that have played a part in making his average Talladega finish 22.4, which happens to be his worst of the active tracks on the Sprint Cup Series schedule.
Newman and his Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) team have endured more than their fair share of trials and tribulations at the Alabama racetrack. Over the past few seasons, the No. 39 Chevrolet has been involved in a series of accidents that have left his racecar with everything from minimal damage to complete destruction. It seems, as of late, that wherever Newman finds himself on the racetrack, trouble doesn’t have a hard time chasing him down.
Newman has been involved in some of the most dramatic wrecks in recent Talladega history. He’s been turned end-over-end, and has landed on his roof in the infield grass. He’s found himself involved in the “big one” on more than one occasion. So, it would be no surprise that, when it comes to Talladega Superspeedway, Newman may focus on the negatives rather than the positives.
However, Newman has proven in the past that he can get it done when it comes to superspeedway racing. Case in point, Newman claimed the checkered flag at Talladega’s sister facility, Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, in the 2008 running of the Daytona 500. And, in his first start at Talladega for SHR in April 2009, Newman recorded his best finish there when he crossed the finish line third. But even that wasn’t without incident as it came in dramatic fashion. Carl Edwards’ racecar flipped over Newman’s hood and windshield before slamming into the catchfence that separates the frontstretch from the grandstands as Newman made his way to the checkered flag. Despite not being able to see through the massive front-end damage his car received during the incident, Newman was able to drive his No. 39 Chevrolet across the finish line.
So while the fans will likely be on the edge of their seats lap after lap in anticipation of the “big one,” don’t be surprised if Newman is, as well. Having a good finish will require patience, skill, mental prowess, a fast Haas Automation Chevrolet and, of course, being in the right place at the right time when the white flag waves. And, if he’s to score another top-three finish like he did in 2009, he wouldn’t mind at all if it comes in a less dramatic fashion.
RYAN NEWMAN, Driver of the No. 39 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
What does it take to have a good, clean finish at Talladega? “I wish I knew the answer to that. We’ve been on the short end of the stick at Talladega for the past few years. To be successful at Talladega, you’ve got to keep yourself in the hunt so you can be there at the end. If you have a good car, you can stay toward the front all day. If you don’t, you have to put yourself in a position that will allow you to be in the best possible position at the end. It’s as simple, or as complex, as that.”
You’ve had some bad experiences at Talladega and have been quite vocal about the racing there. So, what are your thoughts on coming to Talladega and how do you approach the weekend? “I wouldn’t say I dread coming to Talladega. It’s not my favorite racetrack, but I don’t say I dread it. I love doing what I do. I love driving a racecar, even at Talladega. I think the difference is there’s more potential to get involved in something not of your making there, and that’s frustrating to me. But that’s not just me. Everyone hopes they can avoid the big crash there. And, to be honest, when you’re up front at Talladega, it’s great. When you’re not, it can be miserable. When you’re the recipient of somebody else’s lack of judgment, then it’s not easy to talk about it. And that’s pretty much it. It’s just that there is way more potential for that than there is at most other racetracks. So, I don’t think I’m any different than anybody else. I’d love to win the race but, when I’m the recipient of somebody else’s misjudgment, that’s even more aggravating to me.”
How mentally demanding is racing at tracks like Talladega and Daytona? “Honestly, you prepare yourself from the moment you get to the track and you know that you’re going to be using your head a lot when it comes to this type of racing. It’s a high-speed chess match. You have to know what you are doing and pay attention to what the people around you are doing. But I go into the race ready for it. It’s really hard on the mind just as far as what’s going to play out, working together and really being on top of things. You have to think one step ahead. It’s definitely a different mindset. I just think you have to be ready for it.”