Race Weekend Central

Beyond the Cockpit: Ryan Newman Looking to End RCR’s Dry Streak

Growing up driving Quarter Midgets, Modifieds and USAC, Ryan Newman has been around racing his entire adult life. When he made the move to NASCAR in 2000, he was given the nickname “Rocket Man” for a good reason.

Being paired with racing legends such as Roger Penske, Tony Stewart and Richard Childress, Newman hasn’t disappointed when it comes to qualifying. Arguably, he could go down as one of the top qualifiers in NASCAR history, sitting ninth on the all-time list with 51 starts in the front position. 

Looking for his first victory with Richard Childress Racing, the Indiana native is racing for his life. Getting to the championship race in Homestead just two years ago, Newman is in the final year of his contract with RCR. With team owner Richard Childress’ grandson Ty Dillon on the horizon and looking to move up the NASCAR ladder sooner rather than later, Newman’s status for 2017 is unknown.

Each year, Newman is one of the most consistent drivers in the garage, pointing his way into NASCAR’s version of the playoffs seven out of its 12 years of existence. 

With 17 career victories, 103 top 5s and 218 top-10 finishes, Newman is in a similar situation this season. Currently. the 38-year-old is in the midst of a 100-race stretch without a pole or victory — dating back to the 2014 Brickyard 400 — the longest he has gone in his career. The veteran driver hasn’t had a multi-win season since 2004.

We spoke with Newman at Dover, discussing the low-downforce package, looking to end his winless streak, working with his RCR teammates and the future.

Dustin Albino, Frontstretch: What do you feel about the low-downforce package in general? 

(Photo: Nigel Kinrade / NKP)
Ryan Newman on his 2016 season so far: “We’ve performed better than we’ve finished.” (Photo: Nigel Kinrade / NKP)

Ryan Newman: The aero package is just getting us back to where we were in the past. Yes, it’s all for the better since we’ve changed it back, but the quantity of how well its going to race is more depending on the tire. You can take the splitter off it and the spoiler off of it and it would be the best you could possibly have.

Albino: Has it favored others compared to you?

Newman: I think everyone is pretty well capable of adapting to whatever package we have. We have a lot of good drivers in our series right now.

Albino: Where do you stand on the season thus far, hovering around that Chase cutoff spot?

Newman: We’ve performed better than we’ve finished. We’ve had three tire failures in 11 races, so I think we are probably toward the top of that list, which is unfortunate. Some of it has been self-inflicted, some of it hasn’t, but in the end it’s part of racing and hopefully we got it out of the way.

Albino: Do you think you have the speed in the cars to consistently run in the top 10?

Newman: I think our cars are better than they were at this time last year hand down. You’ve got to put everything together in this series. The competition level is so tight. You can’t afford to have one mistake.

Albino: Austin Dillon is having a solid year thus far. How close do you work with him? What can you learn from him?

Newman: From him, not much. It’s more about the teams working together. We share data. We share drive data. We see what each other is doing and it’s different. If you put your right shoe on first or you put your left shoe on first, does it really matter? You still have to adapt to the conditions and we’ll both do that.

Albino: How closely do the three teams work together?

Newman: I’ve never been a part of an organization that worked more closely together that this. To me it’s as good as it can get. Once we can breed more success, it will get better yet.

Albino: Do you think RCR has lost a step since Kevin Harvick left at the end of 2013? 

Newman: I think it’s been in a rebuilding process. I think our cars have been competitive. I think that at one point in 2014 the engines were our weak link. I think last year we started missing it a little on the car side and I think we are in the process of putting it all back together.

Albino: Could you compare this team to last year’s team, or even the team from two years ago that went to Homestead with a shot at the championship?

Newman: It was really so new then that it’s kind of hard to say. There’s a lot of things that are the same and there’s a lot of things that are different. Three years into it we should be performing better.

Albino: What do you think RCR needs to improve on to start winning races?

Newman: Tying it all together. That’s the toughest part of what our sport is. It takes one bad pit stop, one bad moment, one bad strategy call, one bad move as a driver, one bad restart can take yourself completely out of the game. You have to tie absolutely everything together. There was a time in our sport that I don’t think you had to be the best at everything, but now you need to damn near be the best at everything.

Albino: Since joining the team, what’s impressed you the most?

Newman: The camaraderie. We’re a bunch of good ‘ole boys, but at the same time very technical. A lot of people know their job description and perform well.

Albino: You have one of the longest tenures in the sport. Do you feel like you are respected the way you should be?

Newman: I don’t care.

Albino: Why not?

(Photo: Mike Neff)
Newman: “You can have your team have your back and you can have your team’s back, but in the end you take care of yourself before anybdy else.” (Photo: Mike Neff)

Newman: I can sleep at night. I don’t care what people think about me.

Albino: Have you relished passing it on to the next generation?

Newman: No, because I don’t want them taking my job. Everybody has a sense of caring, but is also very self-centered in what we do because you have to have your own back. You can have your team have your back and you can have your team’s back, but in the end you take of yourself before anybody else.

Albino: You’ve won the 500. You’ve won the Brickyard 400. What else is there to prove?

Newman: Well, obviously the championship.

Albino: You’ve ran extremely well at Charlotte. What about a win in the Coca-Cola 600? 

Newman: Coke 600, Southern 500 are races that I’ve run well at and have finished second in the Southern 500 and  second in the Coke 600.

Albino: Growing up in Indiana, have you ever thought of the Indy 500?

Newman: Not really, no. If they started racing Indy roasters with lay down motors I would definitely think about it.

Albino: Obviously, Tony Stewart is retiring at the end of year. You started just a few years later than him. How long do you want to be doing this? 

Newman: I said last week, as long as they will have drive the racecar and it’s a good racecar and it’s fun to do it then I’ll do it as long as it makes sense.

Albino: Do you know if you will be back with RCR next year?

Newman: I don’t know. I don’t think anybody knows. We are so focused on this year and winning races to get ourselves a Chase berth. There’s a time to talk about it and you always want to get it done sooner rather than later. I just hope it’s not later.

 

About the author

Dustin joined the Frontstretch team at the beginning of the 2016 season. 2020 marks his sixth full-time season covering the sport that he grew up loving. His dream was to one day be a NASCAR journalist, thus why he attended Ithaca College (Class of 2018) to earn a journalism degree. Since the ripe age of four, he knew he wanted to be a storyteller.

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