KANNAPOLIS, N.C. – The month of July was just what Ryan Newman and his No. 39 Stewart-Haas Racing team needed.
After struggling to find the top-10 for three months and free-falling in the point standings, Newman and his No. 39 Haas Automation team finally got things turned around and headed in the right direction by scoring three consecutive top-10 finishes in three July races.
The South Bend, Ind., native kicked off the month with a fifth-place effort at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway July 7. While it was the No. 39 team’s first top-10 since Newman’s win at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway April 1, it also marked the first top-10 for Newman at the 2.5-mile superspeedway since his 2008 Daytona 500 win.
He followed that up with a 10th-place finish at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon July 22.
And then, last Sunday, he finished out the month by earning a hard-fought seventh-place finish in the Brickyard 400 – his first top-10 finish at Indianapolis Motor Speedway since his 2002 rookie NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season.
Now, with the month of August here and the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship just six races away, Newman needs to keep the momentum rolling and turn his string of top-10 finishes into top-fives, and even wins, beginning with Sunday’s Pennsylvania 400 at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway.
Newman, who has one victory, three top-five and six top-10 finishes this season, is 14th in the Sprint Cup standings. And one thing is for certain – it’s going to take at least another victory to secure a wild-card spot to advance to the Chase and enable Newman to fight for the Sprint Cup championship.
Luckily for Newman, this weekend the Sprint Cup Series rolls into one of his favorite tracks – Pocono’s “Tricky Triangle,” where he has a solid performance record, including his first-ever stock car victory in the ARCA Series back in July 2000.
Since that dominating victory, Newman has gone on to build a solid record at the 2.5-mile triangular-shaped track with an average starting spot of 9.8 and an average finish of 12.7. In 21 Sprint Cup starts at Pocono, Newman has finished outside the top-15 just five times. He has two poles, a 2001 win, seven top-five finishes and nine top-10s.
Newman & Company hopes to keep its streak of top-10 finishes alive this weekend and build on its momentum from a strong July. With the ultimate goal of securing a spot in the Chase, the team knows it will need to earn at least another win.
With Haas Automation – the world’s largest CNC machine tool builder in the Western world – behind him and on his racecar’s hood at Pocono, Newman knows he has the “tools” to put his No. 39 Haas Automation Chevy at the front of the field.
RYAN NEWMAN, Driver of the No. 39 Haas Automation Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing:
The race in June was the first since Pocono’s repave. What did you think of the track? And what do you expect as we head back to Pocono this time around?
“I thought they did a really good job of repaving it and keeping the character of the old racetrack, which isn’t an easy task. So, my hat’s definitely off to the entire staff at Pocono. It turned out to be a really good race and we had a shot at the end for a top-five finish, but I got too aggressive on the restart and ended up costing us a top-10. Last race was the first time the race was 400 miles, too. At a place like Pocono, with the long straightaways, it’s nice for the race to be a little bit shorter. I think it was a good change and I think the racing was a little more intense. But the track was great, the racing was great, and I’m looking forward to going back there this weekend. I think we’re going to see another good race at Pocono this weekend. Just like last time, I think track position is going to be key and I think you’re going to see some different strategies play out.”
You are in a battle for the final wild-card spot with several other drivers. With six races to go, how much attention do you pay to what’s going on and what the other drivers are doing around you?
“Obviously, we know we’re locked in a battle to get one of the wild-card spots. We had hoped to be in the top-10 and that we wouldn’t have to fall back on our win at Martinsville, but that unfortunately doesn’t look to be the case right now. I think we all know we need to get another win. But I’m not necessarily doing anything differently. Every time we come to the racetrack, my goal is to win the race. And that’s what my focus is each week. I’m going to the track to win and, hopefully, we can do that and we can get a spot in this Chase. I do what I have to do to try to get the best finish I can and that is each and every week, and I know crew chief Tony Gibson and the guys on the Haas Automation team are doing what they can to make that happen, too.”
You guys made the decision to bring the same car you ran last weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway to Pocono this weekend. That’s a quick turnaround for the guys.
“Yes, the guys in the shop are definitely putting in the hours this week and I really appreciate all their hard work. We tested at Michigan on Monday, and I know they are getting the car turned around to get back on track this weekend. It was a really good car for us at Indy. We had a solid run and got a top-10 finish, and we always talk about how much alike Indianapolis and Pocono are that it really made the most sense for us to make that decision. It’s actually one of the newest cars in the shop for us and we’re really confident in it. Our goal is to go to Pocono with it this weekend and continue our string of top-10s.”
It seems as if drivers either love or hate Pocono Raceway because it is so difficult. What are your thoughts on the “Tricky Triangle?”
“It’s one of my favorite racetracks just because it is so difficult. It’s really fun to drive. I like it because it’s challenging. Each corner is different – different radius, different banking, different bumps. Each straightaway is a different length. It just seems like it’s a driver’s racetrack and a crew chief’s racetrack because he has to get the car to the driver’s liking in all three corners. It’s all about matching up the combination of how the crew chief sets up the car relative to how the driver drives the racecar to make a happy package and have a shot at victory. It’s fun to have unique situations and unique racetracks. We look forward to going to Pocono each and every time.”
RYAN NEWMAN’S POCONO RACEWAY PERFORMANCE PROFILE
|2012||Pocono 400||18||12||Running, 160/160||0||$119,243|
|2011||5-Hour Energy 500||8||9||Running, 200/200||0||$118,750|
|Good Sam RV 500||12||5||Running, 200/200||1||$145,750|
|2010||×Gillette Fusion ProGlide 500||9||14||Running, 204/204||0||$107,177|
|Pennsylvania 500||5||12||Running, 200/200||0||$110,129|
|2009||†Pocono 500||5||5||Running, 200/200||1||$131,429|
|†Pennsylvania 500||7||14||Running, 200/200||0||$102,079|
|2008||Pocono 500||27||18||Running, 200/200||0||$109,350|
|Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500||6||14||Running, 200/200||0||$115,850|
|2007||*Pocono 500||1||2||Running, 106/106||20||$190,375|
|Pennsylvania 500||4||7||Running, 200/200||1||$127,350|
|2006||Pocono 500||14||11||Running, 200/200||1||$114,933|
|Pennsylvania 500||2||18||Running, 200/200||12||$109,483|
|2005||×Pocono 500||17||34||Accident, 194/201||0||$104,766|
|×Pennsylvania 500||4||5||Running, 203/203||1||$133,066|
|2004||Pocono 500||11||30||Accident, 183/200||18||$100,007|
|Pennsylvania 500||30||13||Running, 200/200||0||$103,457|
|2003||Pocono 500||2||5||Running, 200/200||1||$98,700|
|Pennsylvania 500||1||1||Running, 200/200||88||$180,575|
|2002||†Pocono 500||15||32||Running, 174/200||19||$44,440|
|*Pennsylvania 500||8||5||Running, 175/175||0||$85,975|
† Qualifying canceled due to weather, starting position set via car owner points.
* Race cut short due to weather.
× Race length extended due to green-white-checker finish.