Ryan Newman brought a unique background and racing experience into NASCAR when he initially joined the sport. First, he brought an engineering degree from Purdue University to the series, sparking memories of Alan Kulwicki. And then he debuted in unusual fashion. He ran select Auto Racing Club of America, Busch (now Nationwide) and Cup series races in 2001. He foreshadowed his future success by winning at least one pole in each series – and six in Nationwide – in that limited run. He debuted full time in 2002 and has continued to rack up both pole positions and wins. Newman, 35, has challenged for the title and become known as a champion for animal welfare and conservation. He spent seven full seasons with Penske Racing in the Cup ranks before opting to join the developing Stewart-Haas Racing in 2009. His career has already been loaded with success in many arenas. Rea White takes a look at 10 of Newman’s top career accomplishments:
One smart cookie
Newman has used his degree, a B.S. in Vehicle Structure Engineering from Purdue University, to his advantage over the years. His understanding of the car has allowed him to adapt quickly to the challenges of developments in the vehicle. It also seems to give him an edge when it comes to working with car chiefs and engineers on his team. Clearly, Newman has combined talent with his degree, but he seems to benefit from a deeper understanding of the car and potential setups.
Newman didn’t use NASCAR’s development program in standard fashion. He never ran a full season in either the Truck or Nationwide series. He never ran a full season in ARCA, either. Instead, team owner Roger Penske put Newman in a diverse but limited field of races in 2001, helping him hone his skills on a variety of types of NASCAR tracks. The lack of racing in the so-called lower ranks did nothing to hamper Newman’s career, though. The driver enjoyed a high level of success from the moment he graced the Cup ranks.
In 2002, the only part of the season that favored a rookie run were the five DNFs that Newman was forced to record. Otherwise, he made a stellar start to his racing career. Newman posted a victory at New Hampshire (where he, of course, won from the pole position), for his first Cup win. He earned 22 top-10 finishes in 36 starts (finishing 61.1 percent of the races in the top 10), with 14 of those being top fives. He earned an average starting position of 9.8 and an average finish of 14.5 to finish sixth in the series standings.
Newman proved his qualifying prowess early in his racing career, establishing a new rookie record with his six pole positions during the 2002 season. His first Cup pole actually came during the 2001 season in which he was running only seven races. He won the pole position for the Coca-Cola 600, his second start of the season and third of his career. In 2002, he posted the top qualifying speed at Auto Club Speedway, Chicagoland Speedway, New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Martinsville Speedway, North Carolina Motor Speedway and Phoenix International Raceway. Most impressively, he won the pole position for three of the season’s final five races.
Winning came fast and early – and often – for Newman. He has a total of 24 career wins, with 16 of those coming in Cup races, seven in the Nationwide Series and one in the Camping World Truck Series. Newman also earned a win against the elite competition in the International Race of Champions Series in 2004, finishing as runner-up that season. He has won on a variety of tracks, showing his adaptability and talent.
Newman enjoyed four consecutive top-10 seasons early in his career, and six in which he was in the battle for the title overall, in his 10 full seasons to date. During the 2002 through 2005 seasons, he was a regular amongst the championship contenders, a role he took on once more in 2009. He has a career-best points finish of sixth, which he earned in the 2002, 2003 and 2004 seasons. He was also seventh overall in 2007, ninth in 2009 and 10th in 2011.
Save the world
Newman (seen working the phones on a NASCAR Day telethon) and his wife, Krissie, not only established the Ryan Newman Foundation but have been active in support of it. They produce an annual book, “NASCAR Pets” to help raise money for animal care, have created a spay and neuter clinic in their home area and actively work to raise awareness both of pet adoption and welfare and conservation issues. Newman has truly embraced his role in charity projects throughout his driving career.
Newman quickly established himself as a qualifying king. He followed his rookie run with seasons in which he led the series in pole positions. In 2003, he started from the front 11 times. In 2004, he earned nine pole positions and in 2005 it was eight more. Overall, Newman has 49 career Cup pole positions as he enters his 12th season of full-time competition (though one of those did come in his limited 2001 run).
Winner, winner, winner
Newman was on top of the world in 2003 – winning on a regular basis in just his second full season of competition. He won a series-leading eight Cup races. He spread his wins over much of the season, though he was hot in the late summer/fall months and won five races in a 10-event stretch. His victories came at Texas Motor Speedway (the season’s seventh race), Dover International Speedway (13th), Chicagoland Speedway (18th), Pocono Raceway (20th), Michigan International Speedway (23rd), Richmond International Raceway (26th), Dover (28th) and Kansas Speedway (30th).
In 2008, Newman conquered NASCAR’s most prestigious race and hoisted the trophy for the Daytona 500. He edged Penske teammate Kurt Busch to give the storied car owner his first victory in the 500. For Newman, it was the ending of a winless streak and brought attention once more to the rebounding Penske organization. To Penske, it was yet another stellar win being brought to him by one of his premier drivers.