Newman, Borland Hoping To Re-Engineer Success
MARTINSVILLE, Va. – When Ryan Newman and Matt Borland first appeared on the NASCAR scene more than a decade ago they produced an on-track magic that caused nightmares for their competitors.
In five NASCAR Sprint Cup seasons they totaled 12 victories, 37 poles, 52 top-5s and 83 top-10s. Newman became the second rookie to win the All-Star race and in 2003 he was named Driver of the Year, the first competitor to claim the honor without winning the series championship since Bill Elliott in 1985. That year the then Penske Racing driver earned eight victories, 15 top-5s, 22 top-10s and 11 poles. It was an extension of the success the duo had enjoyed before they moved to the Cup series as they collected five victories and 10 poles in ARCA, Nationwide and Cup 2000-01.
Together they represented a new type of NASCAR team, one where the driver and the crew chief were engineers. Newman obtained his degree from Purdue University. Borland’s came from the General Motors Institute. They each went their separate ways after the 2006 season, but at Martinsville Speedway this weekend they were reunited in their respective roles, hoping to rekindle their racing magic.
“A lot of things fell into place,” Newman said in explaining how the reunion occurred. “From my perspective, it wasn’t something I had thought of. The people at Stewart-Haas brought it to me and said, ‘What about this?’ And I said, ‘Honestly, I had never really thought of that.’ So, we talked about it and then we talked about it some more. Matt actually came up to my farm and we square-bailed some hay and hung out, and we just kind of talked about what the possibilities were going to be.”
Borland, who is Stewart-Haas Racing’s vice president of competition, added crew chief to his duties as a result of
the team restructuring for 2013. With Danica Patrick coming to the team full time next year, Newman’s team, including crew chief Tony Gibson, was shifted to her effort. Newman’s spotter, hauler driver and pit crew remained with him. The rest of the operation – mechanics, engineers and road crew – traded places with the No. 10 team, which had fielded Patrick’s Chevrolets in her limited Cup schedule this year. Stewart-Haas Competition Director Greg Zipadelli has overseen the No. 10 team this year.
Since Newman, 34, and Borland, 41, last worked together both have become fathers. Their racing knowledge has increased and their life experiences have varied. Yet, the trust they have in each other remains; a relationship that’s needed for a successful race team.
“You’ve got to be able to know that what that driver is saying is right,” Borland said. “You’ve got to spend a lot of time talking about what is going on with the car, what he’s feeling. Sometimes you might not get that answer in the first 30 seconds of a conversation. It might be four hours down the road. If that relationship is not good, you don’t have those two-, three-, four-hour conversations. So then when you are making decisions you don’t really have all the information that you need.”
Borland believed it was the two men’s attitude and their work ethic that made them successful the first time they were together.
“Everything was about racing, everything was about winning and everything was about that particular moment in time being the best you can be,” Borland noted. “I think having everybody on that team that was in that mindset the program was able to run very strongly.”
So how have the two men changed?
“I’m not sure yet. We will find out when things get really bad,” Borland said with a laugh.
With Newman’s long-time friend back atop the pit box, the Indiana native qualified 17th Friday at the half-mile Martinsville track. However, in Saturday’s final practice for Sunday’s TUMS Fast Relief 500 Newman was eighth quickest.
“The goal is to make everybody do well and run well and have fun,” Newman said. “Obviously, I have a good rapport with him [Borland] both personally and professionally. Matt was (my) Best Man when I married Krissie, so he’s obviously someone who has been very important to me as a friend. And then we also have this professional relationship, too.
“We have a different chemistry now. In the end, we’re back together and we are back together for a reason. We know we can get the job done. The cars are different, the tires are different, but physics, aerodynamics and grip are all still the same.”
Borland said when he stepped away from the crew chief position it was because he needed a break from the grind.
“I wanted to do some different things in life and at work,” said Borland, a Michigan native who has been overseeing development of the team’s 2013 car. “With Stewart-Haas going to three teams for the first time next year, this is a situation where it’s the right thing for the company. It made sense for the company and for me at this point in my life and for Ryan.
“I can honestly say that I didn’t think I would be a crew chief again. I enjoyed it …, but I thought that chapter of my life was closed. But it’s one of those situations where it made sense at this point for the company to do that.”
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