KANNAPOLIS, N.C. – There’s perhaps no place where Ryan Newman feels more at home than behind the wheel of his racecar. Since the age of 4, Newman has been putting on a helmet and going in circles. And while the types of racecars have changed and the racetracks have gotten bigger through the years, there’s no doubt the South Bend, Ind., native is most comfortable strapped into the driver’s seat.
As Newman embarks on his 12 th full season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and his fifth with Stewart-Haas Racing, he has another reason to feel right at home as the driver of the No. 39 Quicken Loans Chevrolet SS. This season, the crew chief Newman started his stock car racing career with in 2000 – Matt Borland – will once again be calling the shots from atop his pit box. The pairing of engineering majors – Newman a graduate of Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., and Borland a graduate of the General Motors Institute of Technology in Flint, Mich. – were reunited for the final four races of the 2012 season, and together they quickly produced positive results. In fact, Newman and Borland seemingly picked up right where they left off in 2006. In their five full Sprint Cup seasons together from 2002 to 2006, the Newman-Borland combination produced 12 victories, 37 poles, 52 top-five finishes and 83 top-10s. It also finished in the top-10 in the point standings in each of its first four seasons of full-time competition. In the final four races of 2012, the duo earned four top-12 finishes, including two top-fives.
With the uncertainty that surrounds NASCAR’s new sixth-generation (Gen-6) Sprint Cup car as it takes the track for the first time in 2013, feeling “at home” behind the wheel will be more important than ever for Newman and his fellow competitors. It all begins with the first race of the season on the high banks of Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway – the 55 th running of the Daytona 500. Luckily, Newman has Quicken Loans, the nation’s largest online retail mortgage lender, adorning his No. 39 Chevy. He also knows what it takes to get to the sport’s most famous victory lane – no matter the type or generation of racecar – as Newman has celebrated at Daytona on three different occasions in three different series. Before joining the Sprint Cup ranks full-time, Newman earned his first win at Daytona in the ARCA Series in 2001. It was his first-ever outing at the high-banked superspeedway, and Newman started 11 th , led the final 12 laps of the 80-lap race and won by more than two-tenths of a second.
Three years later, in 2004, Newman scored his only IROC victory at Daytona. And five years ago, in 2008, Newman celebrated the greatest moment of his racing career at the historic racetrack. On that February evening, Newman achieved a lifelong dream when he stole the lead on the backstretch on the final lap of the sport’s biggest race. He never looked back, winning the 50 th Daytona 500. As the Sprint Cup Series rolls into Daytona to kick off the 2013 season, Newman hopes the combination of he and Borland can continue to improve upon their successes from the end of last season. And perhaps their engineering backgrounds can aid them in quickly learning the intricacies of the new Gen-6 racecar, which will, in turn, help them to conquer the competition. For while the No. 39 Quicken Loans team wants to score as many top-10s and top-fives as possible, the ultimate goal is to bring home the 2013 Sprint Cup championship. That quest begins in earnest next weekend with the first step being a victory in the Daytona 500.
RYAN NEWMAN, Driver of the No. 39 Quicken Loans Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
With a new Gen-6 car making its racing debut at Daytona, there are undoubtedly a lot of uncertainties surrounding the car, what it will do, and what to expect in the Daytona 500. What did you learn in testing, and what are your thoughts on the new car? “I think there are definitely a lot of unknowns as far as the new Gen-6 cars for Daytona and for the whole season. We participated in the test but focused on single-car runs. We didn’t participate in the draft, which turned out to be the right thing to do when that big wreck took out a bunch of cars. I’m not in the Sprint Unlimited, so I won’t have any drafting practice until Wednesday, and then we’ll race the Duel the next day. That will be my first experience drafting with the new Quicken Loans Chevrolet SS, so it’s definitely fair to say we don’t know what to expect. It’s going to be a challenge, for sure.”
You’ve had a couple of opportunities to test. What was the biggest surprise and what are your thoughts going into the season? “First of all, I think Chevrolet did a great job with this racecar. We’ve had the experience with the car at the two different racetracks and two different aero packages, and the car has a lot less downforce on it at a faster racetrack, which is kind of untypical. We’ll be learning things throughout the entire season, even when we go back to the same racetrack a second time. For me, just getting a chance to work with Matt (Borland) again, the first real test we’ve had with a non‑fiberglass-bodied car was a lot of fun, and getting things set up with our team to not just go fast in the test but, more importantly, come back and have a good start to the season. It’s going to be interesting, as well, just getting some more time and more experience so we can keep evolving this new Gen‑6 Chevrolet.”
Talk about kicking off a new season with Matt Borland back on top of the pit box. What does that mean to you? “I’m really excited to have Matt back as a crew chief. Most people don’t realize he was the best man at my wedding. So we have that personal connection, and we all have that performance connection. It has a lot to do with our personalities, our engineering minds and the way we apply our minds to the racecars. We know where we succeeded and we know where we failed. Overcoming those failures, I think, is what makes you even stronger. We’re all adapting to this new racecar, and we know we can do it again together. I think we’re both looking forward to the opportunity to rekindle what we had before. We proved in our four races together at the end of last season that we could succeed again. Our average finish was 7.9, which is pretty good. That’s championship-caliber, so I think we’re both excited to have a shot at it together, again.”
How much does racing and winning at Daytona have to do with luck versus skill? “I’ve always said there is luck in racing. You create the destiny of your own luck. That luck can be good or bad. You have to prepare yourself to get out of the bad luck and into the good luck. When I won the Daytona 500, part of it was lucky, part of it was the timing of things, part of it was (then-teammate) Kurt (Busch) driving his tail off to get behind me coming off turn two. That was skill, and for me it was luck. It’s all a matter of opinion. You can ask the 42 other guys out there, and they might have thought I got lucky when I won. For me, I thought it was skill.”
Five years ago, you won the 50th Daytona 500. What did that win mean to you, personally? “It’s hard to believe that it has been five years ago. Honestly, it seems like yesterday. My win there in the 50th Daytona 500 was nothing short of a dream come true. I had always said that just to race at Daytona was an honor, and to win at the track during the historic 50 th running was something very special to me. And to do it the way we did – with my teammate pushing me and to hear my dad (Greg) call me across the start-finish line to take the checkered flag and win the biggest race of my career was a moment I will never forget. I always say I could hear my dad’s teardrops on the radio that evening, and I could. I still don’t know exactly what to say when people ask me about the Daytona 500 win. It was, by far, the biggest day in my career. It was the culmination of everything that my family and I had sacrificed for all those years of building my racing career and getting me to that moment.”
-Stewart-Haas Racing PR