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.