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Foxwoods 301: Newman looks to ignite season

By TOM HERZIG
Special to the Union Leader

July 16. 2018 9:51PM
NASCAR Cup Series driver Ryan Newman during practice for the FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway. (Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports)
NASCAR events at NHMS
Friday

9:30 a.m.: Whelen Modified Tour final practice

Noon: Monster Energy Cup Series practice

1:05 p.m.: Xfinity Series practice

2:10 p.m. Modified All-Star Shootout, 2:10 p.m.

3:05 p.m.: Xfinity Series practice

4 p.m.: NASCAR K&N Pro Series East practice

4:45 p.m.: Cup Series qualifying

7:05 p.m.: K&N Pro Series East qualifying

Saturday

9 a.m.: Whelen Modified Tour qualifying

10:05 a.m.: Cup Series practice

11:05 a.m.: Xfinity Series qualifying

12:35 p.m.: Cup Series practice

2 p.m.: Whelen Modified Tour, Eastern Propane & Oil 100

4 p.m.: Xfinity Series, Lakes Region 200

6:45 p.m.: K&N Pro Series East, United Site Services 70

Sunday

2 p.m.: Cup Series, Foxwoods Resort Casino 301



LOUDON — When asked what he’d consider success at New Hampshire Motor Speedway this weekend, Ryan Newman, driver of the Richard Childress Racing No. 31 Chevrolet Camaro, quipped, “two wins.”

Newman was referring to Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Foxwoods Casino & Resort 301 and Saturday’s NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Eastern Propane & Oil 100. Per usual on his trips to NHMS, he will compete in both events.

It wouldn’t be the first time Newman swept both races. In 2011, he won the Cup race from the pole by finishing just ahead of team owner Tony Stewart — a day after winning the Modified event.

Lately, things haven’t been trending all that well for Newman. He finished 21st last weekend in the Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway and he’s in 19th in the standings — 14 points behind teammate Austin Dillon. Not where a talented veteran, who once came within one spot of winning the 2004 Sprint Cup Championship on the last day of the season, wants to be.

Newman has four top-10 finishes in 19 starts this season. Most recently, he had a seventh-place run at Daytona two weeks ago. His last win came at Phoenix International Raceway in 2017.

But three of Newman’s 18 career wins have come at the “Magic Mile,” where he’s also won three Modified races driving the Curb Records No.77 for Kevin Manion and Gary Putnam. He has eight top-fives in his last 13 Modified starts at NHMS and Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway over a four-year span.

“New Hampshire is one of my best tracks and the Modifieds are a lot of fun,” Newman said, “but a Modified win Saturday is no guarantee for Sunday success.”

“We’ve been miserable,” Newman admitted. “Luke (crew chief Lambert) and I are capable of more. This is the ultimate team sport and you’re up against a lot of good competitors. Everybody on our team, including me, has to do a better job. It’s humbling.”

“If the race car is good, it’s up to me to qualify well and stay up there,” Newman said. “There’s a difference between challenging to pass, starting a pass and getting by somebody.”

“New Hampshire is often one of the hottest races of the year temperature-wise,” he added. “You’re using a lot of brake and it’s a summer afternoon race, plus there’s the engine heat.”

Track officials have taken to applying a grip compound known as PJ-1 Trackbite to the racing surface on Cup weekend — something Newman’s not overly fond of, whether in a Cup car or a Modified.

“I’d feel better about it if they sprayed it down in a “never use place” to help you when you end up out there,” he said, “but they put it in the groove and that’s where everybody wants to be.”

Newman also professes not to be a big proponent of NASCAR’s Lucky Dog rule, which allows the first car down a lap on restarts to gain it back at the rear of the field. “I’ve probably won more races after being a “Lucky Dog” than anyone and I’m glad for the wins,” he said, “but I think it’s a sponsor-driven rule that compromises the sport.”

The last two Whelen Modified Tour races at NHMS have been won by Bobby Santos, who, like Newman, has a lot of open-wheel Midget and Sprint Car experience.

“With the power-to-weight ratio and open wheels without much downforce, you learn respect and to take care of your tires,” Newman said.

Early in his NASCAR career, while driving for Penske Racing, Newman said he was fortunate that Penske hired NASCAR Hall-of-Famer Buddy Baker to mentor him.

“I learned a lot,” Newman said. “He was a good man.”

The Whelen Modifieds will be in action Friday at 2:10 p.m. for the 40-lap All-Star Shootout.

Saturday’s schedule includes the Whelen Modified Eastern Propane & Oil 100 (2 p.m.), the NASCAR Xfinity Series Lakes Region 200 (4 p.m.) and the K&N Pro Series East (6:30 p.m.).


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