If winning poles translated to winning races, Ryan Newman would be so far ahead of the pack in the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series it would be laughable.
In a still young career in stock car racing’s big leagues, Newman, driver of the ALLTEL Dodge, has won 31 poles in his Cup career, four of those this year alone.
The key now is to do well enough to be involved in the Chase for the Championship that is run over the season’s final 10 races.
“I still have the same kind of mixed feelings that I’ve always had [about the Chase],” Newman says. “I’ve always said that from a competitor’s standpoint, I don’t think it’s the ideal points system. From a marketing standpoint, I said you can draw your own conclusions because that’s not what I get paid to do.
“It’s definitely equal for everybody. Everybody has an equal opportunity up until the last 10 races. You know, if you get into the Chase, then that’s great. We hope to do that. I really haven’t changed my outlook on it at all, other than the fact that that’s the points system we have to work with. That’s what we have to deal with, and that’s fine with me.”
One problem all drivers have been forced to deal with so far in 2005 is a seemingly inordinate number of wrecks. Newman has been caught up in several of them himself.
“The racing I think in general is maybe the same, maybe just a tick worse than what we’ve seen in the past from a side-by-side car-being-able-to-pass-another-car perspective,” he says. “We obviously saw a ton of spins [at Charlotte]. I didn’t see a lot of them. I was involved in one of the bigger crashes of the night, accidentally getting into the back of Terry Labonte. I think there was a lot of one-car spins, just cars on the edge, misbalanced, drivers spinning out. That’s something we don’t see at every racetrack.
“I don’t have a distinct answer if it was related to the surface, if it was related to what was going on or if it was just a 600-mile race and guys were missing the setup. I’m not real sure. But we did see some acts of violence or not thinking – aggravation in guys spinning out and getting involved in accidents. So it’s really tough to say.”
Can anything be done about the situation, especially at larger tracks such as Charlotte?
“I think that it needs a little homework done to it in cleaning up some of the things that were going on down in turn one,” he says. “I mean, obviously we don’t want to have a 600-mile race and have a guy stopped out in the middle of the racetrack to start trimming up some of the racetrack, the rubber filler they use in the racetrack during the race.
“I think they’ll address that situation and hopefully we won’t have it again. I won’t say it was ideal racing conditions.”
Thanks to SAFER barriers, however, crashes aren’t as dangerous as they’ve been in the past. Recently Dover installed the “soft wall” technology.
“The SAFER barrier has been a blessing for every race car driver that gets to race against the wall that has that,” Newman says. “I am extremely grateful for the design of it, for the process and how things are. Like all things, no things are perfect, but it’s definitely a huge step in the right direction.
“I was right behind Kenseth when he blew a right front and right behind Nemechek when he blew a right front a couple years ago. There’s no other word for it than ugly. It’s definitely a good thing to have the SAFER barriers, and we’ll appreciate it and hopefully not use it.”
But back to pole qualifying, which has helped Newman earn the title “King of Fridays.” Newman likes the title, and would like to be the king of Saturdays and Sundays as well.
“There’s several different ways of looking at that,” Newman says. “We’ve got 31 poles and 11 wins now. I’m not going to even try to pat myself on the back, that’s not the point. But we’ve done our share of winning on Fridays, and we’ve done our share of winning on Sundays or Saturday nights.
“It doesn’t make me big-headed or anything else if someone calls me the King of Fridays. I think if I can be the king of anything, that’s great. Some guys never get to be a King of Happy Hour, a King of Fridays or a King of Sundays. And that’s cool to me. But I don’t think that makes us lack at all in any other respect throughout the weekend as far as if we’re good or not good.”
Newman has also been helped by the fact that he is a college graduate – with an engineering degree from Purdue.
“I think when I’m sitting in the car after we make a run and talking to the guys, I think I have a different way of describing what’s happening to the car, in a way that as a team we can get farther forward,” Newman says. “I’ve always said the engineering degree has helped mostly with the language that I’ve learned to understand from a physics standpoint to describe what’s happening in the car. Obviously, it helps to understand the car itself. My college degree didn’t necessarily help with that, but it helped to understand what was happening and why.
“I can take any race car apart and put it back together by myself without a doubt. But to be able to understand what’s happening when you’re driving around the racetrack is one of the harder things. Describing that to the team in order for them to make the car go faster, because I don’t make those decisions, is what makes the difference.”
Cities Vie to Build NASCAR Hall of Fame
Proposals to fund and construct a NASCAR Hall of Fame were received in late May by NASCAR from five cities – Atlanta, Ga., Charlotte, N.C., Daytona Beach, Fla., Kansas City, Kan., and Richmond, Va. The proposals will be reviewed by NASCAR, with site visits scheduled for later this summer. NASCAR says it would like to have a final decision by the end of the year on where to build the sport’s first official Hall of Fame.
“NASCAR is honored to receive proposals from these five cities that all play an important role in hosting NASCAR Nextel Cup events each year,” says Mark Dyer, NASCAR vice president of licensing. “These five cities are all winners and are to be congratulated for their diligence and dedication to the Hall of Fame project. We now will get to work and study each of these proposals carefully and completely.
“Later this summer, we will schedule site visits to each of the five cities. We are excited about the prospect of partnering with one of these cities to produce a world-class facility that will enshrine the legends of NASCAR and give our millions of loyal fans a touchstone of the sport they love.”
NASCAR has enlisted the services of OnSport as a consultant during the evaluation process. OnSport previously worked on the development of the Basketball Hall of Fame and the World Golf Hall of Fame projects.
NASCAR announced last January its plan to develop a new Hall of Fame. Request for proposals were then sent to groups in Atlanta, Birmingham/Talladega, Ala., Charlotte, Daytona Beach, Kansas City, Richmond and the state of Michigan. Since that time, Birmingham/Talladega and the state of Michigan opted not to participate in the proposal process.