Racing Beat: Father-son combo

| May 07, 2008

Ryan Newman celebrates winning the 50th running of the Daytona 500.

When the 2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup season began, it was widely assumed that the championship would be settled among the Hendrick Motorsports team of Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Casey Mears. And while that could still be the case, it has become obvious there are other drivers determined to compete.

Enter Ryan Newman, a man largely forgotten in the last few seasons but who made a major statement with a victory in the season-opening Daytona 500.

Not only did he outshine the “superteam” at Hendrick, the driver of Penske Racing’s Alltel-sponsored car also proved that Dodge could be a factor in the era of the Car of Tomorrow.

“I think we definitely had a great show in the 500,” Newman said. “Six of the top eight were Dodges. Some of that is due to racing, some is due to preparation. I think with the [Car of Tomorrow] this year, we have a greater chance of all cars being the same manufacturer-wise. It’s just a matter of the team and how much horsepower you have underneath the hood that can make a difference in any given weekend.”

Newman also got a boost from his spotter as the race wound down. His spotter for the last three years, by the way, is also his father.

“Basically in about three years of spotting, I have grown to listen to his tone, what it means,” Newman says. “So that’s good or bad. But when he changed his tone down the back straightaway, I knew that he knew that we had a great shot.

“To have my dad be there, be part of the team, to hear his vocals over the radio, the enthusiasm, the emphasis that he shared, it proved that it’s a dream come true for him as well.”

When Newman was growing up, his dad owned an auto repair shop called G&D Auto Service, which he has since sold.

Ryan Newman learned from his dad, working on racecars together, he says. “I’m extremely grateful for all the things that he’s taught me.”

To win the most prestigious event in stock car competition, some luck is needed, but Newman didn’t require much. His Dodge was strong wire-to-wire, and he was able to avoid mishaps on the track.

“I’d say it was pretty flawless,” Newman says.

Newman realized the race was his when Tony Stewart started to pull down on the backstretch to get a push from his teammate Kyle Busch. But Newman got his own push. “Obviously Kurt helped,” Newman says, “and I have to be extremely grateful for his push, his ultimate teamwork, lack of selfishness, that gave me the opportunity to get the win.”

In years past winning the Daytona 500 simply meant having the honor of taking the checkered flag in what has come to be known as “The Great American Race.” These days, it also means the winner is a pop culture star.

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