Ryan Newman is not your ordinary NASCAR driver. A graduate of Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., Newman not only has immense talent behind the wheel, but he also has an in-depth understanding of what a car is designed and built to do on the racetrack. It is that combination that has made Newman one of the most successful and respected figures in modern motorsports.
After graduating from Purdue in 2001 with a degree in vehicle structure engineering, Newman could have easily taken his knowledge and parlayed it into a successful career in any variety of industries.
But instead, the native of South Bend, Ind., followed his heart and his talent to the racetrack and NASCAR’s premiere division – the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. It’s a choice that has paid dividends for the driver who is now entering his 10th full season in the Sprint Cup Series.
Newman has never taken his success for granted. Instead, his focus has been on how to improve his stats with each racing season and achieve his ultimate goal – a Sprint Cup championship.
In 2009, the always-analytical Newman joined Stewart-Haas Racing – the team co-owned by two time Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart and Gene Haas, founder of Haas Automation, the largest CNC machine tool builder in the western world.
Newman found rejuvenation in 2009 as he returned to being a consistent top runner, contending for top-fives and wins in virtually every race. He scored two pole positions, five top-five finishes and 15 top-10 finishes – double the numbers he posted the previous year. Newman and Stewart also led the series in laps completed by running 99.8 percent of the laps available in 2009. And although he didn’t reach victory lane, Newman enjoyed a six-week stretch where he didn’t finish lower than eighth. It was during that stretch that Newman scored a runner-up finish – his best finish of the season – in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway.
But Newman’s biggest achievement of 2009 was reemerging as a weekly contender at the racetrack where he was a threat for the win each and every week. Thanks to the team’s solid performances, Newman returned to the 12-driver Chase for the Championship for the first time since 2005. He finished the season ninth in points.
“Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect our first year. I really just went into it with the mindset of I’m going to do my job, we will focus and work together and just see what happens. I know we surprised a lot of people, and I don’t think anybody expected us to accomplish what we did in our first season,” Newman said.
While Newman & Company didn’t make the Chase for the Championship in 2010, they did find their way back to victory lane in April at Phoenix International Raceway. It was a bold pit call on the final caution of the night that put Newman in position to capture his first win with SHR, as well as crew chief Tony Gibson’s first win at the helm of a Sprint Cup team.
Newman was running in the fifth position when the caution flag waved at lap 372, setting up a green-white-checkered finish. After an animated discussion on the radio between Newman and Gibson as they debated their options, the two decided to pit for right-side tires only while many of the front-runners opted instead for four fresh Goodyears.
Newman returned to the track in second place and restarted beside four-time Sprint Cup champion Jeff Gordon on the inside line. With the drop of the green flag, Newman wasted no time in making his move. He quickly drove past Gordon, took the point and didn’t look back until the checkered flag waved. And while it was Newman’s 14th career Sprint Cup victory, it was his first since winning the 2008 Daytona 500, a span of 77 races.