Hoosier Homecoming For Newman
July 26, 2009 | 10:22 A.M. EST
Newman led final practice with a lap of 176.706 mph and the Stewart-Haas Racing driver brings a sense of confidence into Sunday's 16th running of the 400.
"We've been running well with this team the last few months," said Newman, who after a tough start to the season has rebounded and finds himself in the top twelve of the point standings. "We'll see how things go Sunday but the car is good for sure."
Growing up in Indiana, Newman dreamed of racing at the legendary speedway and the opportunity he has now to compete at the track hasn't lost its meaning.
"This place means a lot," Newman said. "From a pure history of auto racing standpoint, that, to me, means the most. I’m a big racing historian. I like the history of the sport, and I’ve always said, to know people like A.J. Foyt, Mario Andretti, Parnelli Jones, Jim Hurtubise and Mel Kenyon, that all those people have been through here at some point, walking the same path out to the pit lane and driving the same line on the racetrack that I am, is something really special. To know that I’m stepping in their footprint as I walk to my racecar, that, to me is what’s special."
But while Indianapolis and NASCAR's annual trek to the speedway remains special to Newman, he believes the race still trails the event that is synonymous with NASCAR racing every February.
“To me, Indianapolis ranks second to the Daytona 500," Newman said. "Not by much, but it is still second. This race hasn’t been going on as long as the Daytona 500 has, and winning in the 50th running of the Daytona 500 was something that was really special to me because of all the past winners who were on hand in the driver’s meeting for that race. I kept thinking of the history of the race and that my name was joining some outstanding drivers as Daytona 500 winners. It was very special."
“So the Daytona 500 is number one in my book. But there is more history here at Indianapolis as far as auto racing as a whole goes and the last 100 years. Winning a race at Indy would be very special because of the significance of the track in the history of auto racing. And it would be very special to win in my home state. This race holds a lot of weight. But to me, it’s second.”
Newman's goal is to finish one position better than second on Sunday, a victory that would surely rank as one of his career highlights.
However he realizes there is a big picture to also keep in mind.
"We’re working our way to kind of solidify ourselves to be in the Chase," he said. "That’s our goal at this point in the season, to make sure that we can lock up that position, or a position."