Ryan Newman gets back to his open-wheel roots tonight at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Newman, a former USAC Midget champion and current Sprint Cup star, looks to defend his title in the UNOH Perfect Storm 150 for the NASCAR Modified Series.
“I love racing at Bristol, no matter what kind of car I’m in,” he said. “As a racer you always look forward to Bristol. I had won in a Nationwide car and that was pretty cool, but winning that Modified race was something else — and it was a great race for Bristol too.”
The driver of the No. 39 Chevrolet on the Sprint Cup tour has something to prove. He took the checkered flag at a Modified event at New Hampshire in June, but the win was taken away after NASCAR inspectors found the engine intake manifold ports did not seal completely to the cylinder head ports.
For the infraction, team owner Kevin “Bono” Manion was suspended for the remainder of the season.
“Getting back in a modified car has been on my mind ever since getting the win taken away at New Hampshire,” Newman said. “Bono and the guys have never let me down. They build great cars and have proven we have what it takes to run up front and win against the guys that run the series each week.”
Whether it’s in a Cup car where he was runner-up to Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 2004, a Nationwide car where he won in 2005 or a Modified, the 33-year-old driver loves racing around the high banks.
“Bristol is a fun track to race at,” said Newman’s whose 2003 qualifying lap at 128.709 mph is still the Cup Series track record. “Handling is important and you need a strong car from start to finish. It’s not the easiest track to get around, you’re constantly battling traffic and passing is tough. Patience is key for a good finish there.”
That runner-up to Earnhardt is the only top-five finish Newman has in 19 Cup starts at Bristol. However, he is optimistic with 10 top-10 finishes over the first 22 races of the 2011 season.
Included in those numbers is a dominating weekend at Bristol’s sister track in New Hampshire where Newman had the fastest car in practice, sat on the pole and then won the race with teammate and car owner Tony Stewart finishing second.
“It was an awesome weekend in New Hampshire,” he said. “I guess the unexpectedness of us qualifying 1-2, then backing it up on top of that, was amazing. If we never duplicate that again, if we ever do, that would be amazing, but if we never do, we always have something that we could brag about.”
It was the 15th career triumph for the Indiana native, whose victories included a win in the 50th anniversary Daytona 500. With the IRWIN Tools Night Race part of the Bristol Motor Speedway’s 50th anniversary, Newman would love to add another special race to his resume.
“It’s just a great race track and a great short track,” he said. “I’ve always liked the banked race tracks, in general, over the flatter race tracks. I really love the banking and I love the fact it’s concrete and doesn’t seem like it changes a whole lot. Once you get a car right, it’s typically right for 500 laps, which is difficult to get on some of the race tracks.
“Honestly, there’s just no place like Bristol.”
Seventh in the current point standings, a strong run at BMS would go a long way into securing his spot in the Chase for the Cup playoffs
“There’s a lot to look forward to throughout the rest of the season,” he said. “We’ve done a good job up to this point. But by no means are we locked in. I think we have some
room that we need to grow to be more successful and have ourselves a better opportunity at winning the championship.”