The Racing Capital
of the World
Jul 26, 2015
July 30, 2013 | By Bruce Martin
As Ryan Newman and his winning crew were kissing the bricks after Newman’s victory in the Crown Royal Presents the Samuel Deeds 400 at the Brickyard Powered by BigMachineRecords.com on Sunday, Newman’s father stood a few feet away, beaming with pride. Clad in a T-shirt, blue jeans, flip-flops and a sun visor, the smile on Greg Newmans’s face was one of Hoosier Pride as his son became just the second driver born in Indiana to win at the Brickyard.
“You never have dreams that are not too big, but this was another goal in life we wanted to reach and a very desirable race to win, and he did it,” Greg Newman said. “We used to come to the Indianapolis 500 all the time back since I was about 8 years old. The first couple NASCAR races here we weren’t able to come because we were racing open-wheel in USAC. We sat over in Pittsboro in the shop we kept the race cars and listened to it on the radio. Ryan and I didn’t get to come to the Indy 500 that much because we were racing quarter-midgets on Memorial Day somewhere.”
When Greg was growing up in Northern Indiana, his Indianapolis 500 heroes were Jim Hurtubise, A.J. Foyt and Parnelli Jones. He thought the STP Turbine was an awesome car to watch. Greg’s first Indianapolis 500 was in 1964, and he sat on the frontstretch just down from the fourth turn.
What he saw on Lap 2 is something that has stayed with him forever.
“It was the year Eddie Sachs and Dave MacDonald died,” Greg said of the fiery crash that changed the Indianapolis 500 forever. “It happened right in front of me. But I have a lot of different memories of this place.”
None of those memories were bigger than what he experienced Sunday as he watched his son, a native of South Bend, Ind., join team owner Tony Stewart of Columbus, Ind., as the only Indiana-born drivers to win the NASCAR race at the Brickyard.
“Winning the Daytona 500 was big because it’s the roots of NASCAR, but this one is right up there with it,” Greg Newman said. “It’s very big the Newman name is part of the history of this track.”
Team owner and fellow driver Stewart understands what that means. He dreamed of winning the Indianapolis 500 as a youngster but never accomplished that goal. And after a long wait, Stewart was finally able to win the Brickyard 400 in 2005 and again in 2007.
On Sunday, he won it a third time – but this time as a team owner.
“When we were kid, school got over about the 25th of May for us every year,” Stewart said. “Indy used to be the whole month of May. You'd get done with school every day at 3:30. You got on your bike and rode as fast as you could to get home and turn on your TV to watch.
“It's a dream. It's a dream to be where he's standing right now at the end of the race. We know the history of this place. Ryan can tell you more stats about here than I can, but we know, we understand, we appreciate the history of this sport, the great drivers and teams that have raced and won here.
“That's a big deal to us being from here.”
For Newman, adding his name to the rich history of the world’s most famous racetrack is very special.
“That's cool,” Newman said. “I think it’s coincidence that I'm born in Indiana. I would have an appreciation for this racetrack if I were born in Hawaii. I mean, to me I think it helps being born here, it helps growing up close to it, growing up around it and in it, no doubt.
“But I just am a big fan of cars. I'm a big fan of tires. I'm a big fan of making 'em go fast. That's happened here since 1909. I appreciate that.
“My dad, I was counting down from 10 to go, so I started at 12. I was trying to trick myself into getting there quicker. I remember my dad always telling me, he was here when Parnelli broke with four to go. With three to go, we made the past where Parnelli made it. Those are the things that are going through my mind at the same time, trying not to hit the splitter on the rumble strips, hitting the right side of the wall. It's challenging here.”
No one could catch Newman on Sunday because there was no stopping the driver from one of the biggest and most important wins of his career.
Newman started on the pole and led the first 29 laps before making his first pit stop. Then Jimmie Johnson took advantage, earning a faster first stop and taking on Lap 31. Once in front, Johnson pulled away.
So Newman decided the best strategy was to play the patience game.
“I watched Jimmie and kept quiet,” Newman said. “I wanted to see who I was placing. I played the old (David) Pearson role. I knew I had a good car. I didn't want to have a good car and not win the race. Matt's (crew chief Borland) call gave me the track position I needed, taking the two tires. I was just counting down the laps from that point on.
“I knew a lot of guys needed to pit. I didn't know how far back Jimmie was. He said four seconds at that point. I knew I had to manage my race car and my tires. I knew it was so difficult to pass. His car was looking looser and looser as I ran behind him.
“It was just an exciting day.”
When Newman won the pole on Saturday for the 20th Brickyard 400, he admitted to feeling the emotion. After all, the driver was born and raised in South Bend and graduated from Purdue with a degree in engineering. Entering this weekend, Newman was trying to overcome an uncertain future after it was officially announced that he would not be back at Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014. Kevin Harvick is joining the team next year, and Newman is searching for a ride.
What he accomplished over the weekend has probably made him a hot commodity because the much-needed victory not only gave him a win at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway; it also makes him a contender for a Wild Card position in the “Chase for the Championship.”
“I don't know how you could ask for a better week on our side,” said Stewart, who finished fourth. “The first half of the week was great. Yesterday, Ryan going out, last car out, getting the pole, then being in the race today, watching the battle him and Jimmie had all day, just was impressive to watch.
“We were fortunate enough we were pretty much a top-five car all day. Just weren't good enough to be up there with Jimmie and Ryan.
“Man, I think midway through the race there, we were in a scenario where Jimmie was leading, we were second. When Ryan got to third, like two laps, he caught us. At that point, I knew it was down to him and Jimmie.
“Just was fun to watch, nerve-wracking as a co-owner. The other car owner is out kissing the bricks, I'm proud for Gene Haas, everybody with Stewart-Haas Racing, Mobil 1, Quicken Loans, Bass Pro Shops, everybody involved. For Ryan, a huge day.”
Newman and Stewart remains friends even though the boss made the decision to tell Newman he wouldn’t be back in 2014 and would be replaced by 2003 Brickyard 400 winner Harvick.
“I'm ecstatic,” Stewart said. “Right there is a big reason why, too. Ryan is such a good friend. I didn't think it would feel this good as an owner. Because it's Ryan and a good friend of mine, that's the gratifying part. Seeing Greg, Ryan's mom, Krissie and the kids out there, just knowing we're a part of it with him, that's something that's pretty special to us.
“Even before Ryan came and drove for us, we were friends. So that made that decision and that made that phone call of telling him that much harder. It's not just winning with a driver that drives for us; it's my friend out there that won the race today, too. That's what makes this more gratifying at the same time.”
But they now share a common bond as the only two Hoosiers to win the Brickyard 400 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
“When we were little, this was the place,” Stewart said. “This is where we wanted to be. We knew what Daytona was, but this was the place for us as Hoosiers here. To see him get one, I'm glad our last trip to the Brickyard together as teammates, you know, we're sitting here watching him kiss the bricks today.”
Johnson’s team is normally the best in the business. But a little burp Sunday on the final pit stop cost them some valuable time to the eventual winner.
“What's on my mind, we win as a team, lose as a team,” Johnson said. “There's been some late-race mistakes on my behalf that have taken race wins away from us. Granted not a major event like this. But we win as a team, lose as a team. We still ended up second. We have a lot to be proud of over the course of the weekend. We'll do the best to let it roll off our shoulders by tomorrow afternoon.
“I think we had like a 17-second stop. I don't know what the distance was at the end. I would have been a lot closer to him. Catching them and them passing them is different. I'm not sure what the delta was when I entered the track, how big of a gap I had from the 39 to us. But we definitely had a mistake on our stop. Could have been four seconds closer leaving pit road. Not sure where that would be, like I said.
“Stuff happens. Everybody scans us. When you're the dominant car, they're going to do the opposite of what you do. I think I pitted before them, so it was an easy call for them to do the opposite. The 2 (Brad Keselowski) gave them the track position they needed. With the mistake, they had good track position.
“Traffic was tough to deal with. Tires made a big difference. The biggest example to me, I was on two next to the last stop, and Ryan was on four. He was mired in traffic. He worked his way through, started to track me down.
“I think that led Chad (Knaus) to his decision for four on our last stop. With us pitting before the 39 (Newman), it was easy for them to go two at that point. The 39 was coming hard on us.”
After so much buildup about the prospect of becoming the first five-time winner of the Brickyard, Johnson’s goal was not achieved. But he is certainly not going to sulk. After all, he now has an incredible 75-point lead over Clint Bowyer in the Sprint Cup standings after Bowyer finished 20th.
“Today we were awfully close,” Johnson said. “These things are so hard to win. Having a race-winning car like we did, I hate to let this opportunity slip by. But it's gone, not a lot we can do about it, but we'll come back next year and try to do it again.”