Ryan Newman will attempt to put last week’s uncharacteristic finish in his rearview mirror when he debuts Chassis No. 39-719 in Richmond, VA, at the Capital City 400 Saturday. After watching Denny Hamlin move into 5th place in the standings by collecting the checkered flag at Kansas Speedway last week, it’s safe to assume that Ryan is anxious to add to the four top-10 finishes the Stewart-Haas Racing crew has at Richmond.
A lot of folks don’t know what driver comfort means. Basically, I’m in charge of all the safety aspects for the driver – the seat, the seat belts, the helmet. My job is to make sure he has everything he needs.
I’m the guy you see on TV putting the window net up right after you hear the words, “Drivers, start your engines.” I make sure his belts are good, that his HANS device, which protects the head and neck, is properly connected, and that he is safe and ready to go – really, anything associated with him being safely in the seat and comfortable.
I guess the comfort part comes in when you’re talking about the drinking system or his cooling system. I’m in charge of that, too. Both of those are pretty important during the course of the race, especially if it is a long, hot day.
Like everyone on our team, I definitely take pride in what I do.
At the shop, I work on the racecars as a mechanic. I also make sure Newman’s uniforms and helmets are in his locker and ready for the race weekend ahead of us.
Working in racing, was always a dream of mine.
I started working on Late Models at a local racetrack in Naples, Fla., when I was 11 years old. Five years later, I started traveling with the NASCAR All Pro Series, which was a touring series that a lot of folks who are in the sport now used to be part of. In 1995, I moved up to North Carolina and that’s when I started working in NASCAR. I moved up to Sprint Cup Series after spending some time with Nationwide teams.
I’ve worked in the Sprint Cup Series now more than 10 years. For me, I get to do what I love for a living. And there’s nothing better than that.
But it is difficult being gone and not having the regular life that a lot of people do. I’m not only gone the regular Thursday through Sunday for the race weekend, I also travel to every test.
But to me, it’s kind of the price you pay to live your dream.
I have a lot of great memories and favorite moments over the years. I would say one of the best was when I worked with Dale Earnhardt Jr., and we won the Daytona 500 in 2004.
That’s hard to beat, but I am very proud of what I’ve been able to be part of and accomplish at Stewart-Haas Racing. I mean, to think back to the end of 2008 and the fact that a bunch of racers came over here to Stewart-Haas Racing to join with the guys who had been at Haas Racing – just to look back at all the work we did in that offseason and then to get both cars in the Chase that year – that’s something I think I will always look back on and be proud of.
Of course, the first wins for both of our teams were big. But I just think the way everybody came together and how we worked to start and build Stewart-Haas Racing to what it is today, being part of building this team and that first season was pretty awesome.
Looking back on things like that are cool, but I still have things I want to accomplish, too. I’d like to win another championship with Stewart-Haas. Tony won last season and we were all part of that, but I’d like to see us win one on this side.
And there are a couple of racetracks I would still like to win at – Indianapolis being one of them. The Brickyard 400 has always been a race I wanted to win.
Both of our drivers are from Indy, and that makes it special. I grew up watching the Indy 500 and, when stock cars got the opportunity to go to the Speedway, I think it automatically became one of the jewels everyone wanted to win.
You know, horses have the Triple Crown. Well, I think Daytona, Charlotte and Indy would be our Triple Crown. I haven’t been fortunate enough to win at Charlotte or Indy, yet. But I would take Indy over Charlotte any day. It’s so prestigious.
For Indy, everybody puts 150 percent effort into that race. I’d like to be the one kissing the bricks there in a couple of weeks.