Newman Ready For Rebound
February 18, 2009 | 5:39 P.M. EST
So, how does a Hoosier claim the California track as home? The answer lies in Newman’s affiliation with newly formed Stewart-Haas Racing as the driver of the No. 39 Chevrolet Impala SS. The team is co-owned by two time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Tony Stewart and Oxnard, Calif.-based Haas Automation, the largest CNC tool manufacturer in the western world. The company’s 1 million square-foot facility in Oxnard employs 1,200 people, and is the largest, most modern machine tool manufacturing operation in the United States.
This weekend, Haas Automation will also adorn the hood of Newman’s black No. 39 Chevy. Newman, who has one pole and four top-10 finishes in 12 career Sprint Cup starts at Auto Club Speedway, including a 10th-place effort last February, is hoping to post a solid showing for his co-owner and sponsor in their own backyard.
"Everybody wants to be top dog on their home turf. So, obviously, our team knows how important this race is to our co-owner and our sponsor, Haas Automation," Newman said.
"We want to make everyone involved with the company proud, and I don’t think there is a better way to do that than to have a strong run on Sunday. Haas Automation has been involved in NASCAR for several years, but I think that we have an opportunity to give them something they have not had before and that’s a win in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
"But for me, California is a really important race for another reason. Although Daytona is our biggest race, I think that most people will tell you that the season really starts with California just because it seems to be a better gauge in determining what you have compared to other teams. I made the decision to join Stewart-Haas Racing because I had a lot of faith in Tony (Stewart). I admired him for his ability on the racetrack and what he had done as an owner in other racing series. He has worked really hard with the help of Bobby (Hutchens, director of competition), Darian (Grubb, crew chief, No. 14 Old Spice/Office Depot Chevrolet) and Tony (Gibson, crew chief, No. 39 Haas Automation Chevrolet) to put together a competitive organization.
"I feel that Stewart-Haas had a good foundation in the past. Now, we have some additional tools with the key personnel who have come on board. With our affiliation with Hendrick Motorsports and all the work that has gone on in the shop during the off-season, I feel this team has all the parts and pieces, and I would like nothing more than to go out on the track and show just how strong we are. So, we’re really looking forward to this weekend."
For Newman, the California weekend is also a chance to put the trials and tribulations of Speedweeks at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway behind him. In the course of five days at Daytona, the No. 39 team endured a blown motor and two wrecked racecars. Despite the run of bad luck, the team refused to give up and soldiered on throughout the season-opening weekend.
As the No. 39 team rolls into California, Newman hopes to employ some of the skills that he learned in his basketball-loving home state of Indiana and rebound from the misfortunes that struck him at Daytona.