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Ryan Newman Is Proving To Be Quite Shifty

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, June 18 2009
The book on Ryan Newman is that he is a heck of a road racer, especially at Infineon Raceway.  (Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images)

The book on Ryan Newman is that he is a heck of a road racer, especially at Infineon Raceway. (Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images)

By Rick Minter | Senior Writer

When you think about the great road racers in NASCAR, a few names come to mind immediately – Jeff Gordon, Juan Pablo Montoya and Tony Stewart for starters. Then there are the ringers like Scott Pruett and Boris Said, and other road-course experts like Robby Gordon and Marcos Ambrose.

But looking at NASCAR’s loop data, those numbers gathered from the sanctioning body’s scoring mechanisms, a surprising name pops up – Ryan Newman.

Statistically speaking, he’s among the top five road racers at Infineon Raceway, where the Cup circuit will run the Toyota/Save Mart 350 on Sunday.

Newman leads all drivers in laps run in the top 15 over the past four races with 379, and his percentage of laps among the top 15 is a league-leading 85.7. But he’s not just good at being in the top 15. In quality passes, those of a driver running in the top 15, he’s tied with Jeff Gordon for second place at 94. Newman’s teammate Tony Stewart leads them all with 127.

And Newman’s results in the old-fashioned statistical categories are good too. His best Infineon finish was second in 2006. In seven career starts, he has two top-five and five top-10 finishes, and he’s never been worse than 20th.

He also has a second-place finish at Watkins Glen, the other road course on the Cup circuit, and it came in his first start there, in 2002. He also won a Nationwide Series race at the Glen in 2005.

Newman said this week that he enjoys turning both left and right and driving uphill and down.

“In all reality, it is another Cup race, but it’s different,” he said of the Sonoma, Calif., event.” It’s the first time we get to run a road course ,and typically there’s a different type of cream that rises to the top there.

 “I enjoy it. I enjoy hustling the race car around the track, and Infineon’s a good road course.  Personally, I enjoy Watkins Glen a bit more, but I enjoy them both and I look forward to racing out there.”
Of course, with it being a road course, there’s a great chance that a third-straight Cup race will be decided by fuel mileage, but Newman is good at that too.

“It’s a big track position race, and fuel mileage has become a big part of the racing there,” he said.

There will be two changes that Newman will have to adapt to this weekend. For starters, he’ll be running a Hendrick Motorsports road racing chassis for the first time, and this will be the first time that NASCAR’s new double-file restart rules will be used on a road course.

He tried out a Hendrick car recently at Virginia International Raceway to get a feel for how the chassis responds to the rigors of road racing and to get used to the transmission’s shift patterns.

“That’s been pretty much it,” he said. “Once we get there, we attack and do our thing.”

“Attack” appears to be the key word when it comes to Newman’s approach to Infineon.

“It’s really a lot of fun to hustle the car around the race track in general, and I really enjoy it,” he said. “Physically it’s very demanding and mentally, as well. Just doing what you can to save fuel on a road course, which is one of the hardest things you can ever do inside a race car, in my opinion.

“I just look forward to coming out there and racing. It’s a big track position game, and if you qualify well, you have a chance to race well. If you don’t, your challenge will be to make a bunch of passes and race hard all day.”

The biggest challenge could come from the new rules.

“The excitement is going to come at the end of the race when we have double-file restarts and the mentality is different,” he said. “We’ve always had double-file restarts at the beginning of the race, but people are careful and want to finish the first lap. 

“I think it’ll be opening a new can of worms when we get to Sonoma for those late-race restarts.  Double-file is going to be interesting.”

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

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, June 18 2009
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