For Ryan Newman, Racing Is A Family Affair

Sal Sigala Jr.Senior Analyst ISeptember 13, 2009

BRISTOL, TN - AUGUST 22:  Ryan Newman (L), driver of the #39 US Army Chevrolet, watches the pre race show with his wife Krissie prior to the start of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sharpie 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 22, 2009 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Ryan Newman enjoys talking about how he got his very first start in auto racing, and who it was that influenced him at such a young age.

“I think everyone has heard the story now," said Newman, the driver of the Stewart Haas Racing No. 39 Army-sponsored Chevy Impala SS. "That when I was born, my dad looked at me and said, ‘We have ourselves a racecar driver.'

My dad got me my first Quarter Midget, and I started racing at four and a half," Newman said as he recalled his childhood years. "But this wasn’t something he pushed me to do. My dad had wanted to be a racecar driver, but he couldn’t.

"Then, when I came along, he let me race. My dad actually tried to take racing away at one point to see if that’s what I really wanted to do, and it was."

Newman, just like most of the big name drivers who race in the cup series, got started at a very young age with a lot of encouragement and support from his family.

Newman talked candidly about his roots.

"I think the easiest way to say it is that I wouldn’t be here racing today without my dad and everything he did to further my racing career," he said.

"My dad, my mom, my sister—they all made sacrifices and everyone chipped in so that I could race."

But Newman’s biggest influence came from his father, Greg Newman. Greg was very instrumental in helping Ryan reach his goal of becoming a Sprint cup driver, while at the same time he taught the younger Newman how to respect a sport that would later make him famous.

“He’s been with me for every step of my career since I was four and a half and just starting to race Quarter Midgets," Newman said.

"He showed me how to hit my marks when I was just a kid by sticking his foot out in the middle of the corner and telling me to turn there," Newman recalls.

Take a moment to stop and think what it would be like to have your dad talking to you during an entire race, telling you which part of the track to race on, and at the same time acting as your second set of eyes.

I know some of us are probably thinking: Just how well would that work out? Were there ever times when they didn’t see eye-to-eye and maybe they got upset with one other?

“I tell everyone that it has been a series of high-fives and arguments ever since he started spotting for me," Newman said.

"We’ve gotten into it on the radio a few times. I will give it to him, but he’ll turn around and give it right back to me.

"My dad understands how I drive and what I need to help me get better on the track. He knows what I need to hear. It’s a very special relationship," said Newman, whose dad is still one of his spotters to this day. "I’m glad that he is able to be at the racetrack with me each weekend.”

Experiences are also part of the package when you begin to think about all the time that they get to spend together during the racing season, and they have had many throughout the years dating back to when the younger Newman first stepped foot in his first race car.

Not only did they have the opportunity to share some of life’s most precious moments together, but the bond that they built throughout those years would later become beneficial in Newman’s Sprint cup career.

“We’ve also had some pretty incredible experiences together. From Quarter Midgets to full-size Midgets to Sprint Cars and, now, stock cars, Dad has served as mechanic, crew chief, pit crew member and spotter."

"Having him at the racetrack is something that is very special to me. In reality, it just makes sense to have him as my spotter because he knows me and my racing style better than anyone else,” Newman also added.

With all this time spent together, the Newman family can always look back at all the memories that they have stored up to cherish.

We can all go back to a time in our lives when we could honestly tell ourselves, “This one I will never forget.”

Newman was also asked to reflect back at the one memory that he and his dad would never forget.

And that was the day that Ryan won his first Daytona 500, just last year.

“Having him spot for me when I won the Daytona 500 last season, hearing the excitement in his voice, listening to him get choked up and then hugging him in victory lane.

"That was something not many people have. That was our dream coming full circle.”

Memories are usually worth their weight in gold, as well as the lifelong lessons that come from them.

Newman was one those sons who not only listened to what his dad had to say, but he also took his dad's words to heart, something some of us fail to do as the years go on.

The words Greg used to speak to Ryan before turning out the light each night went something like this: “Don’t forget to kiss your racecar good night.”

It was a figure of speech, of course.

Ryan wouldn’t really kiss his racecar good night, but it was a lesson that he still carries with him today.

Love your car. Love the sport.

For Newman to love and respect racing, there’s no better way for him to thank his dad, as well as his family for guiding him through life—not to mention traffic

Newman is tied for eighth entering The Chase next week, and if you listen closely enough you can hear his sigh of relief. No doubt, admidst the relief in that sigh, there's also joy. 

Joy because he is giving back to those who have given so much of themselves for him and his career.

Joy because his career in racing has been a family affair.