Image by Bristol Motor Speedway & Dragway via Flickr
This weekend, at Atlanta, Ryan Newman is reasonably sure of achieving one milestone in his career, and maybe two. On Sunday, Newman will start his 300th NASCAR Sprint Cup Race. And he’s doing so where he has started on the pole more than any other driver in the history of NASCAR, with the exception of Buddy Baker. Of 15 starts at Atlanta, The Rocket, has captured the pole 7 times, and is hoping to be fast enough Friday evening to get his 8th pole at the track.
Newman has faced some pretty rough times over the course of the first three races this season, and is currently 32nd in the Sprint Cup standings, one spot better than he was at this time last year. Ryan was featured in this week’s NASCAR teleconference where he talked about the milestones ahead of him at Atlanta and his struggles so far this season.
Q. Atlanta, this weekend you’re going to possibly set a pole record with the Buddy Baker situation and tiebreak that. Where does that fit in your career? How much do you actually place emphasis on your career on poles or is this something you naturally do well?
RYAN NEWMAN: I think Buddy Baker is one of the 50 greatest NASCAR drivers in the history of our sport. If there was ever a record I could beat him or tie him in, that would be a big reward mentally for me. You know, having the opportunity this week with a car that we ran in California actually, which I feel is a very good car, to go there and have the opportunity to break that record, or to stand alone in that record is pretty cool. If I live out the rest of my career tied with Buddy Baker, I’m still fine with that. But obviously I’d like to beat it, too.
Newman’s success at qualifying has been a major part of his story since the beginning of his career. Hence, the “Rocket Man” nickname that he’s carried since 2002. While he has enjoyed some success as far as wins and making the Chase for the Sprint Cup, consistency has been elusive for Newman. He is confident that his team at Stewart Haas Racing
is improving, and hopes to get things back on track this weekend.
HERB BRANHAM: Off to a little bit of a slow start in terms of the points. You’re coming in 32nd in the standings. Last year at this time you were 33rd. As people well remember, you went on to make the Chase and have a great season. Do you feel pretty confident about a similar sort of comeback this season?
RYAN NEWMAN: I’d like to think so. I mean, I think it’s real early to be talking about a comeback. Based on the numbers I guess you could call it that.
Honestly, I think you’re right, we’ve got ourselves in a hole. I wouldn’t call it a comeback, but we’ve got some work to do to get ourselves in position. We’ve got a long time before that issue becomes pressing.
So I feel confident that we’ve made some big gains with our racecars this year. Vegas, we actually were off a little bit. But California we had a really fast racecar and lost an engine. Daytona we were working our way up through the pack and got crashed. I feel like we’ve been more competitive in general. In saying that, we’ve still got more work to do. We’re not sitting here having won two of the last three races like Jimmie Johnson
Newman also talked about how he thinks the bringing back the spoiler to the cars is going to affect the racing.
Q. I think fans’ expectations of the spoiler coming are pretty darn high. Do you think it’s actually going to change the racing all that much?
RYAN NEWMAN: I believe it will. I think the biggest thing that we’re going to see with this spoiler, this is speculation from my standpoint, is the way the spoiler is designed, there’s going to be a lot more surface area of that spoiler on the quarter panels. I think the side drafting on the straightaway is going to be even bigger than it was with the old style car. I don’t think we have but 50% of that side drafting down the straightaway on the current car with the wing on it.
I think the fans will see more racing, even on the straightaways, if that makes sense. You’ll see more side-by-side, back and forth, nose-to-head, with the competitor down the straightaways, which I think will make places like Michigan and California, some of the tracks that are bigger, notorious for being a little boring through the middle of the race more exciting throughout the entire race.