The NASCAR notebook …
BROOKLYN, Mich. ó Ryan Newman is enjoying racing again.
Newman burst onto the NASCAR scene as an almost instant star. In his first four seasons driving for Penske Racing, the Indiana native won 12 races and never finished worse than seventh in the Sprint Cup points.
Then came three miserable years that featured one win and no points finish better than 13th.
“You lose confidence, but that doesn’t necessarily make you question your ability,” said Newman, who found new life this year when Tony Stewart lured him to the new Stewart Haas Racing team.
“There’s two separate things there,” Newman added. “Yes, you have to have confidence in yourself and you have confidence in the people around you. But that doesn’t mean you question your ability as far as the physical sense of being able to drive the car and hold it on that edge and being able to drive it in deep or get to the gas sooner.”
Newman, who heads into Sunday’s LifeLock 400 at Michigan International Speedway, with six straight top-10 finishes, including five top-fives, said the problem at Penske was that the cars he was getting from the team simply weren’t fast enough.
“I could drive the car on the edge, but that edge was three-tenths (of a second) slower than what I needed to be, and that was the difference (between) first and 15th,” he explained. “It’s easy to lose that level of excitement that goes along with that level of confidence when you’re not running well.”
Newman and Stewart, who picked up his first win as an owner-driver last Sunday at Pocono, have been the surprise of the season after reorganizing and rebuilding what was a mid-pack team after Stewart became 50 percent owner of what had been Haas CNC Racing.
Stewart is leading the points and Newman is fourth.
“There’s a lot of good things as far as making the team better,” Newman said. “We’ve been having better pit stops and progressed throughout the season, so it’s nice to see that progression and it’s nice to be a part of it. I look forward to continuing it.”
MORE THAN MONEY: Greg Biffle said he doesn’t think that driving a Ford gives him any advantage over Chevrolets or Dodges, despite the financial problems that have forced both GM and Chrysler to cut back heavily on their NASCAR support.
While Detroit’s Big Three all are struggling, Ford has not had to take federal money and is the only one of the trio that has to be reorganized through Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
But Biffle said that won’t effect on-track competition.
“The reason why is because historically money won’t buy competitiveness or wins on the racetrack,” the Roush Fenway Racing driver said.
“You could take Donald Trump or whoever has a Godzilla amount of money and come in here with no brand,” Biffle added. “I’m going to race my own manufacturer brand. It’s going to be difficult for him to compete with the Hendricks and the Roushes and the Gibbs’.”
Biffle said the Chevrolet and Dodge Cup teams already have a lot of their technology in place.
FUN, FUN, FUN: David Reutimann has his first Sprint Cup victory under his belt and is a solid contender for a spot in the 12-man Chase for the championship.
All that success has meant more attention. But the quiet Reutimann is just trying to take it all in stride.
“Honestly, I’ve always felt like I can always go back to something my dad told me early on: ‘When you walk in the pit gate you should feel like you’re the best guy here, you just don’t necessarily need to let everybody know that.’ That’s still my stance,” the Michael Waltrip Racing driver said.
“I feel like in the right situation we can run in the top 10 and win races, if we get everything right,” Reutimann added. “It’s certainly not something solely that I’m going to be able to do. It’s a total team effort. The reason we’ve run better this year has not been a David Reutimann improvement, it’s been a team improvement all the way across the board.”
Whatever the reason, Reutimann is having a good time.
“Oh yeah, it’s way more fun,” he said. “Last couple years have just (been bad), to be honest with you. We haven’t been very good at all. … There were definitely times last year that I was just in the way. It’s a little different this year and it feels a lot better.”
START YOUR ENGINES: Most of the time, the crowd at NASCAR races waits impatiently for the traditional “Gentlemen, start your engines” announcement that gets things going on track.
This fall at Martinsville Speedway, it will be the fans that get things started at the TUMS Fast Relief 500 Sprint Cup race.
Clay Campbell, president of the Virginia track, and Darren Singer, vice president of marketing for TUMS, said earlier this week that all of the fans who attend the Oct. 25 race will act as Grand Marshal for the event.
“Fans have been our top priority since Martinsville Speedway opened more than 60 years ago,” Campbell said. “Fans have always come first with us and what better way to show that than making them all the Grand Marshal.”
He said the track and the NASCAR community will recognize the fans throughout the prerace ceremonies.
The Martinsville race will be the sixth of the 10 races that make up NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.