Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Ryan Newman

Ryan Joseph Newman, who was born on December 8, 1977 (Which is also the birthday of fellow driver Kevin Harvick), in South Bend, Indiana, is a driver in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. He drives the #39 Chevrolet Impala sponsored by the U.S Army and Haas Automations for Stewart-Haas racing, under crew chief Tony Gibson. Newman graduated from Purdue University in 2001 with a B.S. in vehicle structure engineering, and is only one of 2 drivers to ever race in the cup series with a degree, the second being Alan Kulwicki.

Ryan enjoys driving and working on vintage cars, particularly 1950 Chryslers. Newman's car was featured on the cover of the 2005 EA Sports computer game NASCAR SimRacing, in which he was actively involved in its development.

Newman knew he was going to be a racer, and he began dreaming about collecting trophies in NASCAR and winning the Series biggest race, the famed Daytona 500, from the first time he climbed behind the wheel of a race car. For Newman, those dreams started in 1981 when he was four-and-a-half years old when he drove his first Quarter Midget.

In 1982 with his first Quarter Midget race in New Carlisle, Indiana, Newman wasted no time making his presence known on the racetrack. He was winning races at just five years of age.

By 1986, a nine-year-old Newman had amassed more than 20 wins, won the Kokomo, Indiana Track Championship and captured the title of Eastern Grand National Quarter Midget Champion (Junior Stock Division).

Newman made his professional racing debut in 1993 in the United Midget Auto Racing Association and the All-American Midget Series, winning both Rookie of the Year and the championship. His 100 feature wins and two titles have him in the Quarter Midget Hall of Fame.

Newman moved up to the United States Auto Club (USAC) National Midget division in 1995 and scored nine top-10 finishes in 18 starts while he rounded up the rookie of the year honors. He followed that with a rookie of the year title in the USAC Silver Crown division in 1996, where Newman scored four top-10s in 10 starts.

Newman's successes in the USAC ranks caught the eye of Roger Penske and led him to join forces with Penske Racing South in 2000. While taking classes at Purdue University, Newman competed in all three USAC Series, tested for Penske Racing and began his stock car career with a limited schedule. That year, he scored wins in the USAC National Midget Series and the USAC Sprint Car Series and in July, in just his second ARCA Series start, he won his first stock car race at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pa. Newman followed that up with two more ARCA wins at Charlotte and Kentucky Speedway in Sparta before he made his NASCAR Winston (Sprint) Cup debut in November at Phoenix.

In 2001, Newman competed in an unprecedented triple schedule, which consisted of running two races in the ARCA Series, 15 races in the NASCAR Busch (Nationwide) Series, and seven point races in the Winston (Sprint) Cup series.

In 2002, people were expecting a lot from Newman, and he didn’t disappoint them. Newman won a season-high 6 poles, breaking the record set by Davey Allison. In September, he won his first career Winston (Sprint) Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway after starting from the pole. Newman also became the second rookie since Dale Earnhardt Jr. to win “The Winston”, and beat out future 4 time champ Jimmie Johnson for the Rookie of the Year award on the strength of rookie records in top-fives (14) and top-tens (22).

Newman's sophomore season began with a flip at the 2003 Daytona 500 after contact with Ken Schrader. Though finishing the season with a series-high eight wins and eleven poles, he also suffered seven DNF's, which left him sixth in points. His number of poles during the season led to him being nicknamed "Rocket Man.” His remarkable accomplishments led to Newman being named the 2003 SPEED Driver of the Year; the National Motorsports Press Association Richard Petty Driver of the Year; the Benny Kahn/Daytona Beach News-Journal Driver of the Year; and The Sporting News' Dale Earnhardt Toughest Driver of the Year.

In 2004, Newman qualified for the inaugural Chase for the Cup by finishing seventh in points with two wins and nine poles. He made the 2005 Chase as well, while returning to the Busch (Nationwide) Series after a four-year absence, winning six out of the nine races he entered, including a series-record five straight.

Newman endured his first winless season in 2006, finishing a career-worst 18th in points, while his longtime crew chief, Matt Borland, left for Michael Waltrip Racing. His pole ratio between his rookie year and 2006 was one in every three races, tying him for fifteenth on the all-time poles list.

In 2007, despite a streak of three consecutive poles, Newman again failed to win a race, including a near win at Lowe's Motor Speedway that was spoiled by a blown tire. His winless drought ended after passing Tony Stewart (His future car owner) on the last lap of the 2008 Daytona 500. It was also the first Daytona 500 win for Penske Racing.

On July 15, 2008, Newman announced that he was leaving Penske at the end of the season, and a month later, it was confirmed he was joining newly formed Stewart-Haas Racing in 2009, to drive a Chevrolet Impala, in the number 39, which was his number during his midget-driving years. U.S. Army signed on for a three-year sponsorship deal, though only for 23 races of the 2009 season. One popular believe to why Newman left Penske was because his primary sponsor, Alltel was banned from Sprint cup competition due to Sprint being it’s rival company. Newman made his Craftsman (Camping World) Truck Series debut on October 25, 2008 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, starting 10th in the 33 truck field driving Kevin Harvick's #2 Truck and passed his teammate Ron Hornaday with less than five laps to go to pick up his first truck series win in his first start making him the first driver to get their first Truck win at Atlanta and becoming the 4th driver to win in their first Truck race and joining the list of 19 drivers who have won in all three of NASCAR's top series. He was also one of four drivers who picked up a truck win on their first start.

He joined Dale Earnhardt, Jr's JR Motorsports for the 2009 campaign in the Nationwide series as the driver of the #5 Fastenal Chevy, signing on for four appearances for the year. Despite a slow start, Newman has given his career a boost since the move, including a pole, 5 top fives, and 12 top tens, and an average finish of 14.0, his best since his 8 win season in 2003. On September 12 at Richmond, Newman finished 10th and clinched a spot in the Chase for the first time since 2005. On November 1st, 2009, at the Amp Energy 500 at Talladega Superspeedway, Newman was involved in a heavy crash on the back stretch in which he flipped over on top of Kevin Harvick entering Turn 3. He ended up on his roof, and because the roof was crushed, crews had to use the Jaws of Life to pry the roof off the car after NASCAR officials flipped it back over. Newman was unharmed.

Newman and his wife, Krissie, operate the Ryan Newman Foundation, whose mission is to educate and encourage people to spay or neuter their pets and to adopt dogs and cats from animal shelters; to educate children and adults about the importance of conservation so the beauty of the great outdoors can be appreciated by future generations; and to provide college scholarship funding through the Rich Vogler Scholarship program, of which Newman himself was a recipient, to students interested in auto racing careers. The Newman’s themselves have rescued and now care for five dogs: Digger, Mopar, Harley, Socks and Fred.

Newman has proven time and again that starting in the No. 1 spot is a distinct advantage, as he has scored top-10 finishes in half of the races where he has started from the pole. Along with his immense qualifying ability, Newman has proven to be an equally adept racer, having collected 13 Sprint Cup wins, including the biggest of them all, the 2008 Daytona 500.