By Cole Cusumano
It’s now been half a year since Ryan Newman’s terrifying wreck in the Daytona 500 and not much has gone well for the 42-year-old.His best finish to date is still ninth in the season opener, and he’s openly admitted to struggling to find speed in his Ford Mustang. The important thing is the driver of the No. 6 feels “100 percent,” and looking to re-create some magic at the sight of his first win — New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Aptly nicknamed “The Magic-Mile,” Newman scored his first NASCAR Cup Series victory in Loudon. Although rain-shortened, this win spawned a relatively successful career at The Granite State for the Indiana-native, who cited the venue as “his worst track” prior to 2002. He’s now tied for second-all-time in lobsters scored with three and most poles with seven, in addition to having 20 top-10s and leading 722 laps in 34 starts.
An impressive resume no doubt, but Newman understands much has changed since his most recent win nine year ago. With 2020 being the ultimate enigma in terms of uncertainty, he knows the task at hand on Sunday presents new challenges.
Heat has been a subject of concern the last few weeks, as it typically is during this time of the year. In vintage Newman-fashion, he compared racing in the heat to his experience in making beef jerky. After marinating and cooking for hours, it comes out dry, crispy and sometimes overdone.
“That’s kind of what your body is going through,” Newman said. “You’re way thicker than that thin slice of meat, but the reality is it’s hot in there and you have to go into that race or any race for that matter prepared for the conditions.”
The other variable which may actually prove to be a welcomed change is the PJ1 traction compound. The flat, one-mile track hales in comparison to Phoenix Raceway and thus far it’s arguably been the only race this year to benefit from the surface application.
“The PJ1 I would say, of all places, probably has the most advantageous at Loudon to be able to have multiple grooves and that change throughout the race,” Newman said. The only difficulty presented with this is that many drivers have expressed concerns about not knowing the specifics of the application process. “From what I’ve seen and what I’ve experienced this year, I don’t know if the people at the racetrack know what they’re doing with it, but the reality is it sometimes and some ways it gets put down and it is what it is for everybody at the racetrack.”
The Roush Fenway Racing driver knows Loudon is a track that relies heavily on the athlete’s ability to “hustle and finesse” the car in order to have a successful day, and he believes the traction compound will aid in this approach. It’s also exactly what he’ll need to do in order to potentially advance his way into the Playoffs.
With only seven races remaining until postseason, Newman knows this may be his best shot at a victory. He’s paid no mind to points as he feels that’s not a probable approach, but he knows it’s very possible.
“I do believe that the map is there to do what we did in 2014,” Newman revealed. “Now, keep in mind, we did that with quite a bit of drama amongst the rest of our peers to get to that point. There was a little bit of laying low and playing it safe that helped progress us to that point where we were in the final four and, at the same time, we barely made that. We made it by one point, one spot. I think that, like I said, it’s still possible. It’s still a reality mathematically, but I would love to be that guy that’s the high point guy going into the last 10.”
After missing the race at Phoenix due to recovering from his crash, Newman will have to rely on notes from Ross Chastain’s run to potentially fall back on for this weekend. He may not have been in the car, but the 42-year-old was at the track and an instrumental part of that weekend for the No. 6 team. That coupled with his ability to navigate around Loudon should prove to be a noteworthy day for ‘The Rocketman’ on Sunday.