Newman Is Back In A Cup Car This Weekend in Darlington

| , RacinToday.com Saturday, May 13 2023

Ryan Newman is back in Cup – for one weekend, at least. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Andrew Coppley)


It’s only been a year and a little bit since Ryan Newman last drove a NASCAR Cup Series car in anger. But the changes in the sport since he lost his ride at the end of the 2021 season have been much more than just a little bit.

The biggest change involves the Cup cars themselves as the Next Gen vehicles are gen now – be that good or bad.

Some racers will cop to the explanation that a car is a car. But the new car is, basically all new.

When Newman takes to the track for Rick Ware Racing on Sunday at Darlington, he will do so in a foreign environment.

On Saturday, Newman, a winner of 18 Cup races during his 22 seasons in the series but none since 2017, met with the media at Darlington. He did so after qualifying 26th in his No. 51 Ford.

In his opening statement, the Indiana native said, “It’s fun to be back and at my favorite racetrack. I will say that the practice and qualifying session was less dynamic than I thought it was gonna be. The changes from the old car, the shifting and all that stuff, I felt like I adapted to all that stuff rather quickly, but the track is still my favorite, so that made it a lot easier. It’s easier to dance with a girl that knows how to dance.”

During the rest of his presser he answer a number of questions;

WHAT INTRIGUED YOU ABOUT THIS OPPORTUNITY? “Just the opportunity, really. Ultimately, I’m a week on, week off with my kids and just the way the schedule worked out my daughter is not racing. Obviously, there was a change in the driver lineup with the 51 car and gave me the opportunity to come and do this. I literally started this conversation prior to Martinsville and it was by accident when I texted Tommy Baldwin asking him about an opportunity to race a modified. He asked me if I wanted to go to Martinsville and I said, ‘In a modified?’ And he goes, ‘No, in a Cup car.’ And it all worked out for us to put all this together and do this, so thanks to Jacob Companies and Biohaven and Rick Ware Racing to give us the opportunity to, I say, play, but ultimately I feel like we’ve got a pretty competitive car that we just have to execute and see if we can move up from where we start.”


WHAT ARE YOUR IMPRESSIONS OF THIS CAR? “It drives pretty good. I mean, it’s totally different with the steering and transmission, shifting and all that stuff. It’s the first time I’ve ever shifted here at Darlington on a competitive lap, so the steering was probably the biggest change. The second biggest change was the way you drive the car and the fact that you can’t afford to get it sideways. I did a couple times just crossing seams and things like that, but it felt like we had a good practice session. I just wanted to get some laps under my belt, take some time and really kind of impress myself, I would say, in my qualifying lap to pick up a second from where we practiced and know that we’re still not top 10 on the speed charts, but, ultimately, it was a good, competitive lap.”

WHAT DOES A SUCCESSFUL SUNDAY LOOK LIKE? “I’ll let you know on Monday. Realistically, I feel like today has been successful and I feel like if we can just progress from where we are today and our competitive level, then Sunday will hopefully take care of itself. I don’t come here expecting to win or lead the most laps or anything like that. I’m realistic in those thoughts, but, ultimately, if we have the opportunity to just keep moving forward in the field and have good execution.”

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE SAFETY ASPECT OF THIS CAR? “I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t feel like I was putting myself at a significant risk. I mean, we’re always at some kind of risk, but based off the last 14-18 months proved myself right with some of the injuries and situations that we’ve had and talked about in the Cup garage. Ultimately, I know NASCAR is doing their job to make the cars better as they always have and this has been an entirely new beast that I think has surprised them in some of the aspects that they thought weren’t going to be an issue. Ultimately, I’m here because I feel comfortable and if we do something else, it’ll be at a comfortable place.”

WHAT’S IN YOUR HEART ABOUT BEING BACK AND RACING AGAIN? “I’ve paid attention to everything in respect to the car’s development, driver’s comments, safety, roll bars and crashes and data and things like that. I’ve been in tune, so it’s not like I’ve just been out on the farm making hay. I feel like it’s fun to be back and it’s fun to have the opportunity and I look forward to tomorrow.”

DOES IT GIVE YOU MORE CONFIDENCE TO BE AT THIS PLACE WHERE THE DRIVER MAKES A DIFFERENCE? “It’s definitely nice to have the driver be more a part of the equation as long as you feel like you’re a good driver. If you feel like you’ve got a good car at Daytona, Talladega, Atlanta, whatever you want to call it, then it’s more about the car. I feel like we have a great combination to work towards progress and that’s where we’re starting here. Today is a starting point. I don’t know where the ending point is, but we’ll take it one step at a time.”

DO YOU WANT TO DO MORE? “I told them when I did it. I said, ‘The only way I’m gonna do this and continue to do this is if it’s fun,’ and today was fun, so we’ll see.”

HAVE YOU THOUGHT ABOUT WANTING TO BE A CUP DRIVER AGAIN DURING THIS PERIOD? “I always said if the opportunity came and it was right, then I would do that. Obviously, the Hendrick lineup and the Gibbs lineup and the Penske lineup and what-not are fairly full and intact. I don’t see any changes there. This is an opportunity, especially with this car that’s somewhat equalized the field and the competition. When you tell the guys that they have to put this nut, this washer, this bolt, this whatever and have all these tolerances, then you’re taking a lot of the team characterization out of performance. Obviously, when I left Gibbs was stout. Hendrick was stout and there was obvious advantages per chassis that got grandfathered in. Who had the best nose and things like that, so I think it’s a good opportunity for me to sample where the series is right now.”


| , RacinToday.com Saturday, May 13 2023
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