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Newman Keeping It Cool On Hot Atlanta Friday

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, August 30 2013

The Atlanta Motor Speedway weekend is a big one for Ryan Newman and his Stewart-Haas Racing team. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Rusty Jarrett)

By Rick Minter | Senior Writer

(Editor’s note: RacinToday.com’s Rick Minter has been granted full access to driver Ryan Newman and is spending the weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway reporting on the Stewart-Haas Racing driver. The following is the first of a three-part series by Minter on Newman. Click for Part Two and Three)

HAMPTON, Ga. – If Ryan Newman is feeling the pressure of making the cut for the Chase for the Sprint Cup or finding a job for next year, it didn’t show on Friday at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

And if he was overly interested in the big news at his current racing home, Stewart-Haas Racing, he didn’t let it show. After all, it doesn’t much matter whether Kurt Busch comes on board or not if Newman is leaving at year’s end.

Newman’s trip to Atlanta actually began on Thursday evening, when he came into town to participate in a ride-along program at the track sponsored by one of his backers, Coca-Cola.

Then on Friday morning, he took time to take his wife and daughters to Noah’s Ark, a 250-acre animal sanctuary in nearby Locust Grove with a mission much like Newman carries on at his farm north of Charlotte.

“I try to help them when I can,” Newman said of the people and animals at Noah’s Ark. “The two buffalo I have came through them.”

By 12:30 he was back at the track and after a lunch of ham-and-cheese sandwiches it was time to get to work.

There were sessions with Fox Sports 1, NASCAR Media Group and his regular media availability in the track’s infield media center.

He left no doubt that Sunday’s AdvoCare 500 loomed large for him and the crew of his Aspen Dental-sponsored, bright blue No. 39 Chevrolet.

“I think for us the absolute mindset is to focus on the racing part of it and know that these next two

Ryan Newman in the Atlanta garages. The Chase is on the line. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Rusty Jarrett)

races are going to be what proves what we’re capable of in the next 10 if we can get what we need to done in the next two races,” he said. “As [Tony] Stewart said a few years ago, we’d just be taking up a spot in the championship race.

“From our standpoint, it’s our job doing business as usual, doing our best to get the best finishing position we can, no extra risk. Especially here at Atlanta, things get spread out a little bit and you end up with 10 cars on the lead lap, that type of thing.

“Having a good race car here is extremely important – probably more important than Richmond.”

He was asked about juggling the immediate task of racing his way into the Chase with the longer-term project of finding another ride.

“I feel like mentally I’m capable of doing that and have been,” he said. “Basically I’ve been in that situation for the last 12 months. So it really hasn’t changed for me. I think I’ve honed my skills over the last 12 months to be in the right position right now.”

He was asked about Kyle Larson’s quick ascent to the Cup Series, and said the youngster had proven in other non-NASCAR forms of motorsports that he was up to the task.

And he said that his current job search is far different that his first foray into Cup.

“I didn’t have to look [for a ride],” he said. “I came into this garage with a great [Penske Racing] ride, obviously a great organization with great people.

“We proved that, proved that out of the box, winning a pole my second race, a top five in my third race. It came not easy, but it just came.”

With his media duties done, Newman was off to his team hauler to talk to crew chief Matt Borland about his car. When practice started, Newman was near the bottom of the chart, 32nd of the 43 drivers in the field.

“Off the truck we were horrible,” Newman said. “It was bottoming out.

“It took three runs to get it right, but getting three runs behind is not good.”

He pointed out that his team didn’t test at Atlanta, where a new dual-compound right-side tire is being used, but he said the tire wasn’t that much of a factor in his slow start to practice.

“I’ve tested a tire like that before,” he said. “It’s not a rocket-science change from what we usually run.”

He did admit to being a little unsure just what he needed to do on his qualifying lap, whether he should run high or low on the track and just how much grip there would be on the aging AMS surface.

“I’m a little confused about what to do,” he said. “I’m just going to go out and go as fast as I can.”

Newman went out 13th to qualify, not a good sign for anyone who is in any way superstitious. So is he a believer in such things?

“Maybe I’m not superstitious enough,” he said, adding that he wasn’t too optimistic about breaking a tie with his mentor Buddy Baker for most poles at Atlanta. Both have seven.

“I think I will break that tie, but I don’t think it will be tonight,” he said.

And it wasn’t. He turned a lap at 186.579 miles per hour which puts him starting 17th on Sunday night.

With the NASCAR garage closed from Friday night until 1 p.m. on Saturday, one might expect to find Newman at a fishing hole nearby during the down time.

But he said the Atlanta schedule – and local conditions – are keeping him from one of his favorite pastimes.

“It’s too hot to fish,” he said.

– Rick Minter can be reached at rminter@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, August 30 2013