Newman Receives Flag Flown In Space

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Ryan Newman is part of an elite group of drivers that have won the Daytona 500, NASCAR’s biggest, richest and most prestigious race.

On Tuesday, he earned another distinction as the only person ever to drive NASA’s Astro van, which transports astronauts to the launch pad.

Newman visited the Kennedy Space Center in Titusville as part of Coke Zero 400 Powered By Coca-Cola Media Day. In addition to driving the Astro van, Newman received a tutorial on NASA’s “Crawler,” the vehicle that transports the Space Shuttle from the Vehicle Assembly Building to the launch pad, and received a green flag that flew on board STS-122 Space Shuttle Atlantis earlier this year.

“It’s pretty neat for me to do it,” said Newman of his driving of the Astro van. “I understand now, because it’s never been done before, what an honor it is. Since 1981, nobody else has driven it (but technicians). It’s nice to be the first guy. Obviously there’s a lot of history here. It’s a neat place. I’ve been here before and seen a lot of the things I saw today. But just to be here for this reason and to receive the flag and things like that, it’s special and a great honor.”

The green flag was one of three that flew aboard Space Shuttle Atlantis as Newman won the 50th running of the Daytona 500. NASA, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2008, will also receive a green flag and Daytona 500 Experience General Manager Kim Isemann was in attendance to receive a green flag that will be on display inside the motorsports attraction.

For Newman, who owns a mechanical engineering degree from Purdue University, to have a green flag that flew in space up to 17,500 mph, is a treasured souvenir.

“The flag is neat, almost the neatest thing,” Newman said. “I’ve been here before. I’ve seen the crawler and a lot of things around here but the flag, something that has been in space, not everybody has a piece like that.”

Newman will return to Daytona International Speedway in July for the Coke Zero 400 and try to pull off the Daytona double – winning both the Daytona 500 and the July Sprint Cup event in the same year.

The only four drivers that have been able to pull off the feat are Bobby Allison (1982), LeeRoy Yarbrough (1969), Cale Yarborough (1968) and Fireball Roberts (1962).

‘You took our car so we have to bring back a new race car,” Newman quipped to DIS President Robin Braig about his winning Daytona 500 car which now resides in Daytona 500 Experience. “But I’m confident that we can bring back a good one because we brought a good one to the first race the Daytona 500. We’ve built another one and hopefully the Coke Zero 400 will go as well as the Daytona 500.”

Tickets to the Coke Zero 400 Weekend Powered By Coca-Cola are available online at www.racetickets.com or by calling 1-800-PITSHOP

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