Newman hopes to right course at Martinsville
When it mattered a year ago, everything went right for Ryan Newman.
Since then, not much has gone his way.
It looked as if that might be the case for Newman in last spring’s 500-lap race at Martinsville Speedway when he was penalized for pit-road speeding and fell a lap behind. Then the dominoes fell his way.
He worked his way back on the lead lap and was in the top 10 when cars lined up for a late restart. That put him in position to take advantage when Clint Bowyer set off a big wreck trying to take the lead by going inside of side-by-side Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon as they got to Turn 1.
Newman said he gave Bowyer a push, setting up three-abreast racing going into the tight turn, which predictably turned into a recipe for a wreck. Newman shot into the lead as Bowyer, Gordon and Johnson spun and caught other cars. Newman drove away after the ensuing restart and notched his first Martinsville victory.
“We never give up in any situation,” Newman said. “That was just one good example. ... I put ourselves in a bad situation when I was busted for speeding in that position. I didn’t think I could get busted for speeding on pit road because of the way the timing lines were, and I did, so that was my mistake. But to fight back the way we did, we made the car better throughout the race, and it was just great teamwork. The guys did a good job on that last pit stop to put me out fifth, which gave me the opportunity to give Clint a little extra courage going into Turn 1.
“But every weekend we have different challenges, and as a team, every team has different challenges, but for our team we never give up, and I am sure every team says that, it’s just a matter of who fights through it the best. We had a great Sunday a year ago.”
All of the Saturdays and Sundays with races since then haven’t been so great for Newman. He comes back to Martinsville trying to break a 36-race losing streak in which his best finish has been a third at Homestead in last year’s finale.
He hasn’t gotten off to great start this season. He sits 20th in points after five races thanks to 40th and 38th place finishes that offset top-10 finishes in the other three events.
“Our two DNFs at really put us in a hole, so the two races definitely helped out to know that we can be competitive at a place like Bristol where we ran seventh, California we ran 10th,” Newman said, “And Daytona, we ran fifth. To look at the differences in the racetracks, that kind of gives us a little bit of perspective for the season to know that we’re versatile to go to different racetracks and we can be competitive as a driver, as a team and within the organization.
“I look forward to Martinsville, but I just — those two DNFs really hurt us in the points. I’m not so much worried about being 20th or wherever we’re at as much as I am making sure that we keep the top 10 streak going and moving forward, and I think we can do that at Martinsville.”
Newman is working with a new crew this season at Stewart-Haas Racing, the result ofr his team headed by Tony Gibson moving over to Danica Patrick’s car. Newman’s crew is head by Matt Borland, who was Newman’s crew chief at Penske Racing.
“I’m proud of what Matt Borland has put together as a team, and we’ve got three top 10s in five races, albeit two DNFs, but our ultimate goal I would say would be to have zero DNFs for the next 31 because it’s going to take zero DNFs in the last 10 to be a champion,” Newman said.
Caraway Speeedway will be in action on Saturday night, with a Late Model Stock race as the feature.
Dan Moore won the Late Model feature last Saturday, with Gene Kepley second and Dean Fogleman third. Justin Newlin was the Limited Sportsman winner as Josh Lowder finished second with Paul Wark third.
Austin Thompson of High Point repeated as the Southern Modified Lite winner as Josh Lowder finished second with Jimmy Wallace third. Jason Stanley won the opener in a 10-race series of 40-lap Street Stock races. Other winners included Mark Baker (Mini-Stock), Ed Collier (Hornet), Riley Halverson (Legends Cars) and Brad Martin (U-Cars).
AROUND THE REGION
Forecast for rain prompted Piedmont Dragway officials to move the season-opening Big Dog Shootout scheduled for tonight to April 11. But, racing scheduled this weekend is still on. ... 311 Speedway in Madison, about 20 miles south of Martinsville, will play host to the Carolina Clash series for dirt late models on Saturday night. Races for the track’s weekly divisions are also on the docket. ... The first of three open practice sessions for all four divisions is slated Saturday at Bowman Gray Stadium. The other practice periods are on April 13 and April 18. The quarter-mile track’s 65th season opens with a 200-lap Modified feature on April 27th.