Newman Seeks Second Martinsville Win

Ryan Newman

Newman has his sights set on another victory at Martinsville Speedway, hoping to improve on his current 20th-place standing in points. (Photo: Getty Images)

Since September 2011, selecting favorites to win Sprint Cup Series short-track races has been a roll of the dice.

There have been nine different winners in the nine races run in that time period, including Ryan Newman – who goes back to Martinsville Speedway this week as the defending winner of the STP Gas Booster 500.

The return to the Virginia half-mile comes at a pretty good time for the Stewart-Haas Racing driver, who’s followed a pair of DNFs with top-10 finishes in his last two starts and is looking to maintain that momentum.

"Our two DNFs, at Phoenix and the engine failure from my missed shift at Las Vegas, put us in a hole," said Ryan, currently 20th in the Cup Series standings.  "The two top 10s definitely helped.  I look forward to Martinsville.  I’m not worried about being 20th as much as I am in making sure we keep this top-10 streak going and moving forward."

This week’s return to short-track competition means drivers and teams are preparing for close-quarters, full-contact racing that you don’t get on superspeedways.  Following the March 24 Auto Club 400, Tony Stewart – one of Newman’s Stewart-Haas Racing teammates – squawked long and loudly about Joey Logano’s blocking tactics late in that race that hindered his advance to the front.

Newman believes the concept should be reserved for football and other forms of racing – not NASCAR.

"I think blocking is a chicken way to drive and it’s something I don’t do," he said during this week's NASCAR media teleconference.  "If you’ve got a run on me, take it.  If I can get through a corner better than you, then we’ll race.  But it seems like blocking is an IndyCar, Formula One or open-wheel type of move.

"To me, it’s not very respectful for the guys around you.  You’re there to race, you’re not there to block."

And Newman says your guess is as good as his as to whether or not the ruffled feathers from Fontana will fly again at Martinsville.

"I don’t know what’s going to happen," he said.  "I don’t know if there will be retaliation.  I don’t know if they’ll talk.  Who knows?  Good question."

Newman is certain about what it’ll take to win again on Martinsville’s flat oval come Sunday.

"The biggest, toughest part is managing your brakes and keeping your fenders clean," he said.  "We’ve all grown up racing short tracks, half-mile or less.  You need to manage your brakes and manage your car to put yourself in position for the end of the race."

Newman did just that in last year’s event, putting his No. 39 Chevrolet in the right place at the right time.

Jeff Gordon was leading in what appeared to be the closing laps before late-race contact from Clint Bowyer sent Gordon sliding into teammate Jimmie Johnson, opening the door for Newman to drive past the scene of the accident and claim his 16th career victory.

The fireworks began on the first of two overtime restarts.  With Gordon and Johnson running first and second, Bowyer dove underneath the Hendrick pair and went three-wide into the first turn.  He tagged Gordon, who then slid into Johnson … leaving Newman to drive past on the low side of the track.

"I got a run off Clint, he went to block me and they went three-wide," Newman recalled.  "I think Bowyer hit the curb just a little bit and Jimmie (Johnson) pinched them down."

That brought out the seventh, and final, caution of the day.  Newman then drove away from AJ Allmendinger on the subsequent restart to post his first Martinsville win.  With the two attempts at a green-white-checkered finish, the race went 15 laps over its original distance of 500 circuits.

"We put ourselves in position to take advantage of that situation then led the last couple laps under green to get that first grandfather clock," Newman said.  "It was an awesome finish for me, a tough one for some other guys.  But it was great short-track racing."

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams will open practice at Martinsville Speedway on Friday at 12 p.m. (ET) with qualifying later in the day.  Motor Racing Network – “The Voice of NASCAR” – will have live coverage of Sunday’s STP Gas Booster 500 beginning at 12 p.m. with live streaming at MotorRacingNetwork.com.

Related Topics:

NASCAR Sprint Cup, Ryan Newman

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