Birthdate: Dec. 8, 1977
Birthplace: South Bend, Ind.
Hometown: South Bend, Ind.
Residence: Statesville, N.C.
Children: Brooklyn Sage and Ashlyn Olivia
Education: Purdue University – Class of 2001 (A.B. – Vehicle Structure Engineering)
Ryan Newman figures he’ll sing the words of an old, but familiar Peaches and Herb tune – “Reunited, and it feels so good” – when he climbs into his No. 39 Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) Chevrolet with his former crew chief Matt Borland at the helm of his race team for his 12th full season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
Newman and Borland were reunited as a duo during the final four races of the 2012 season for the first time since the end of the 2006 Sprint Cup campaign. The results included four finishes of 12th place or better, including two top-fives. The duo hopes to improve on that trend during the 2013 season and perhaps even recapture the success it enjoyed together in the recent past.
During its first tenure, this unique pairing of engineering majors – Newman a graduate of Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., and Borland a graduate of the General Motors Institute of Technology in Flint, Mich. – was a force on the racetrack.
In their five full seasons together in the Sprint Cup Series from 2002 to 2006, Newman and Borland combined to produced 12 victories, 37 poles, 52 top-five finishes and 83 top-10s. It also generated top-10 finishes in the season-ending points after each of its first four seasons of full-time competition.
There’s no doubt the engineer duo has a technical understanding that sparked and sustained its past success. The two speak a common language, and Newman hopes that will help him return to his pole-winning and race-winning form in his fifth full-season at SHR and his first with the new 2013 Chevrolet.
“Matt was best man when I married Krissie, so he’s obviously someone who has been very important to me as a friend,” Newman said. “And then we also have this professional relationship, too. Although Matt hadn’t been a crew chief for a while, he still remained very much in touch with every part and every aspect of the racecar. He’d done a lot of SHR’s troubleshooting and a lot of our development work. He understands a lot about the racecar. Obviously, he’d not been on the road with us each and every week to see the changes in the tracks. He might have missed some things, but he still remained very involved.
“We think so much alike; we understand the principles of the racecar. But for him, I think it’s more about just adapting the physics of the racecar to my feel based on the comments I make. We’ve always been on the same page when it comes to understanding the racecars. It’s just a matter of us creating that fine-tuning of what we need to do to make them perfect. When we first started, we won our first pole in our third race, and finished in top-five in our fourth race, so I’m pretty sure we can catch up pretty quickly.”
In just his third career Sprint Cup start in May 2001 at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway, Newman shot to the top of the speed charts during qualifying and earned the No. 1 starting spot for the Coca-Cola 600, tying the record for the earliest career Sprint Cup pole.
Since that first pole run, Newman has earned 49 pole positions and he has led the series in poles five times (six in 2002, 11 in 2003, nine in 2004, and three in 2011). He is tied for ninth on NASCAR’s all-time pole list while ranking second in poles among the series’ full-time, active drivers.
Along with his superior qualifying ability, Newman has proven to be an equally adept racer, collecting 16 Sprint Cup wins, including the biggest of them all – the 2008 Daytona 500 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway.
“After that race, I said I could hear my dad’s teardrops over the radio while he spotted for me as I came to the start-finish line to win, and I think that shows the importance of this race to me and my entire family,” Newman said. “I always said that just competing at Daytona was an honor. When I was a kid, my dad would bring me to Daytona for the 500, and we would make fake passes with construction paper and glitter so I could sneak into the garage and meet the drivers. Years later, being part of that was truly amazing.
“Winning the Daytona 500 was a dream come true. I still can’t put into words how amazing it was to win the 50th Daytona 500 considering all the history and fanfare that was a part of that day. Winning that race was a tribute to my dad and everything he had done for me to support and encourage my career. It was for all the people who had given me a shot – people who had given me monetary support, people who had helped pay for my uniforms, people who let me race their cars. That win was for everyone who had played a role in getting me to where I am today.”
Newman always knew he was going to be a racer, and he began dreaming about collecting trophies in NASCAR and winning Sprint Cup’s biggest race – the Daytona 500 – from the first time he climbed behind the wheel of a racecar. For Newman, those dreams started at age 4 when he drove his first quarter midget.
Beginning in 1982 with his first quarter midget race in New Carlisle, Ind., Newman wasted no time making his presence known on the track. Over the next few years, Newman scored more than 100 feature wins, earned six regional quarter midget championships and won another Grand National Quarter Midget championship in the Heavy Mod division in 1988. Newman’s impressive quarter midget stats led to his induction into the Quarter Midget Hall of Fame in 1993.
In May 1993, Newman made his move to a full-size midget car in the All-American Midget Series. He scored one feature win and became the first driver to win both Rookie of the Year honors and the series championship in the same season. Newman, who was named the Michigan State Midget champion, also captured wins in the United Midget Auto Racing Association, the ARCA Midget Series and the Northern Michigan Midget Auto Racing Series.
Newman moved up to the United States Auto Club (USAC) National Midget division in 1995 and scored nine top-10 finishes in 18 starts en route to Rookie of the Year honors. Newman followed that with a Rookie of the Year title in the USAC Silver Crown division in 1996, when he scored four top-10s in 10 starts.
His first major USAC win came in May 1997, when he drove the No. 39 midget car to victory in the 52nd “Night Before the 500” race at Lucas Oil Raceway (then Indianapolis Raceway Park) on the Saturday night before the Indianapolis 500. It was the biggest win of Newman’s young career and one he credits with putting him on the map. The prestigious win helped vault Newman into victory lane two more times that year in USAC Midgets.
Wins continued to accumulate in the USAC ranks for Newman. In 1999, he tackled all three of USAC’s national series – Midget, Silver Crown and Sprint Car. In his Midget car, Newman captured seven wins, nine top-five finishes and 11 top-10s in just 14 starts en route to a second-place points finish. He scored one other win in the Silver Crown car and two runner-up finishes to claim the 1999 Silver Crown championship. Newman also earned one win and seven top-10 finishes in 15 races in the Sprint Car division, where he was named Rookie of the Year. With that honor, Newman became the only driver to have ever won all three USAC National Rookie of the Year honors.
Newman’s success in USAC caught the eye of legendary car owner Roger Penske. Newman joined Penske Racing in 2000. While taking classes at Purdue University, Newman competed in all three USAC series, tested for Penske Racing and began his stock car career with a limited schedule in the ARCA and NASCAR Nationwide Series. Borland was selected to oversee Newman and his development.
That year, Newman scored wins in the USAC National Midget Series and the USAC Sprint Car Series. In just his second ARCA Series start for Penske Racing in July, Newman earned his first stock car victory at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway. Newman followed that with two more ARCA wins, at Charlotte and Kentucky Speedway in Sparta, before he made his Sprint Cup debut in November at Phoenix International Raceway.
In 2001, Newman competed in two ARCA races, 15 Nationwide Series events and seven Sprint Cup races. He won the season-opening ARCA race at Daytona and captured the pole at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City in his only other ARCA start. Newman won his first Nationwide Series race in August at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn and also won six Nationwide Series poles. In the Sprint Cup Series, Newman scored his first career pole at Charlotte in May while also scoring two top-five finishes, including a second-place effort at Kansas.
By 2002, NASCAR observers were expecting big things from Newman. He did not disappoint. Newman set rookie records for the most top-10 finishes (22) and the most poles (six) in one season. He also became only the second rookie to win the series’ non-points NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte.
In September 2002, Newman started from the pole and led 143 of 207 laps en route to his first career Sprint Cup victory in a rain-shortened race at New Hampshire. The win, along with his other impressive rookie stats, led Newman to a sixth-place points finish and resulted in him being named the 2002 Rookie of the Year over Jimmie Johnson in one of the most hotly contested rookie fields in history.
Newman’s sophomore campaign was just as impressive as his first season. He once again led the series in poles with 11 and also led the series in victories with eight. Newman again finished sixth in the final standings. The remarkable accomplishments led to him to be named the 2003 SPEED Driver of the Year, the National Motorsports Press Association Richard Petty Driver of the Year, the Benny Kahn/Daytona Beach News-Journal Driver of the Year, and The Sporting News’ Dale Earnhardt Toughest Driver of the Year.
In 2004, Newman made the inaugural Chase for the Championship and ended up seventh in points. He had two wins and once again led the series in poles with nine. The following season, Newman earned his second Chase berth and led the series in poles for the fourth consecutive season with eight and scored one win. He also made his return to the Nationwide Series in 2005 for Penske Racing, winning six of the nine races he entered. In addition to his six wins, Newman earned four pole positions.
Newman scored seven more Sprint Cup poles during the 2006 and 2007 seasons and tallied runner-up finishes in four races, but he and his team failed to win a race or make the Chase.
In 2008, Newman returned to the winner’s circle after an 81-race absence with his win in the 50th Daytona 500. In October 2008 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Newman earned his first career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory in his first Truck start.
But contending for race wins every week and challenging for the Sprint Cup championship was what Newman desired. So in August 2008, he announced his move to newly formed SHR – the team co-owned by three-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 at SHR in 2009 as he returned to contending for top-fives and wins in virtually every race. He scored two pole positions, five top-five finishes and 15 top-10s – 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. Newman scored a runner-up finish – his best finish of the season – in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte during that stretch.
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.
While Newman & Company didn’t make the Chase for the Championship in 2010, the team did find its way back to victory lane in April at Phoenix. In addition to the victory, Newman earned his ninth pole position at Charlotte in May and posted four top-five and 14 top-10 finishes in 2010. Although Newman failed to qualify for the Chase in the No. 39 team’s sophomore season, he ended the year on a high note by posting finishes of 11th or better in nine of the season’s final 13 races.
Newman returned to the Chase and finished 10th in points in 2011, thanks in part to a record-setting day at New Hampshire when he and his teammate and team owner Stewart started 1-2 and finished 1-2, respectively. The last time a team started 1-2 and simply finished 1-2, regardless of driver starting and finishing position, was Hendrick Motorsports in the 1989 Daytona 500. But the last time a team started 1-2 and finished 1-2 with the same drivers in the same order was April 7, 1957, at North Wilkesboro (N.C.) Speedway with DePaolo Engineering. There, Fireball Roberts won from the pole while teammate Paul Goldsmith started second and finished second.
“New Hampshire was huge for our team and even bigger for our organization,” Newman said. “I don’t know that I realized how big until the next day when I was doing interviews and someone told me the stat about the last time a team started 1-2 and finished in those exact positions. As much as I study the history of this sport, I was stunned by that stat and was really honored that I was part of something so big.”
But the 2012 season was tough for Newman. Despite scoring a victory in April at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, Newman didn’t score a single pole position, ending an 11-year streak of at least one pole per season. The team also failed to make the Chase for the Championship and finished 14th in points.
Despite the disappointing finish in the standings, Newman came on strong at the end of the season thanks to the addition of Borland. In the final two races of 2012, the pairing earned two top-five finishes and looked to be back in old form, giving Newman renewed hope for the 2013 season.
“For us to be doing what we did in those final four races and preparing for 2013, it’s been a great effort,” Newman said. “Matt and I do have a history that I think is working to our benefit. I think we speak a similar language, and we understand each other on a different level. It was a good four races, and I’m really looking forward to what we can do in 2013.”
When not racing, Newman enjoys fishing, restoring his classic cars and tooling around on his hobby farm. The avid outdoorsman, and his wife, Krissie, play an active role in the Ryan Newman Foundation, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization they founded in 2005. The mission of the Ryan Newman Foundation is three-fold: to educate and encourage people to spay or neuter their pets and to adopt dogs and cats from animal shelters; to educate children and adults about the importance of conservation so the beauty of the great outdoors can be appreciated by future generations; and to provide college scholarship funding through the Rich Vogler Memorial Scholarship Foundation, from which Newman himself was a recipient, to students interested in auto racing careers.
The Newmans reside in Statesville, N.C., with their daughters, Brooklyn Sage and Ashlyn Olivia, and five rescue dogs: Mopar, Harley, Socks, Fred and Dunkin.