Flyin' Ryan looking to land second Kansas Speedway victory
MAY 08, 2014 11:43a ET
When Kansas Speedway first began hosting NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races, Ryan Newman showed early dominance, finishing second in the first two races here in 2001 and '02 and then winning in '03.
Lately, though, the 1.5-mile track has proven to be a tough nut to crack for the Purdue University engineering graduate, who in the last 14 races at the 1.5-mile speedway has just a single top-10 finish, a ninth-place run here in 2010, the last season when the track had just one Cup race date.
A lot's happened since then.
In February 2012, the Hollywood Casino at Kansas Speedway opened outside of Turn 2. Later that year, the track was reconfigured, with variable banking of up to 20 degrees in the corners, and a new infield road course added to accommodate sports car racing.
And this year, Newman is with a new team -- or at least new one for him -- Richard Childress Racing, with a new-to-him crew chief in Luke Lambert. He'll also have new colors this weekend with first-time sponsor Kwikset.
Saturday night's 5-Hour Energy 400 will be the first time the Sprint Cup teams run under the lights at Kansas. Also, Goodyear will bring a new tire combination, the same left-side rubber the teams ran here last October, combined with a new single-zone right-side tire that should alleviate some of the issues teams had with the multi-zone right sides last fall.
All the new elements ought to give Newman an excellent opportunity to build on what so far has been a good first season at RCR. Coming into Saturday night's race, Newman in ninth in the Sprint Cup points standings, with teammates Austin Dillon and Paul Menard 14th and 17th, respectively.
"Everyone enjoys racing under the lights," said Newman. "I certainly do, and I think we can return to Victory Lane there this weekend with the No. 31 Kwikset Chevrolet."
That said, the new variables should make for an interesting weekend.
"It's a different deal now because the track has been repaved and it is so much faster," said Newman. "I think it is going to be an amazing racetrack with progressive banking once it ages out to the point where we can use the entire track. "I really don't know what to expect this weekend after a winter's worth of weather beating up the racetrack a little bit," said Newman.
"I expect our Kwikset Chevrolet to be competitive. When we look at the RCR history at the track, especially scoring the pole and victory back in the fall race, I feel like the entire organization has the potential to bring home a win on Saturday night, and I think we have some added confidence when we pull through the gates this week."
Editor's note: FOXSports.com Digital Content Manager Tom Jensen will join the No. 31 Kwikset/RCR team this weekend and provide exclusive behind-the-scenes coverage from team meetings and practices, as well as from the team's pit box during the race.