Ryan Newman and his No. 39 Stewart-Haas Racing team have one goal over the final 10 races of the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season – to be the best of the rest.
Last Saturday night at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway, Newman and his No. 39 team staged a valiant effort in the final race before the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship, even leading laps for the first time since their win at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway on April 1.
But the solid eighth-place effort wasn’t the win Newman & Company needed to earn a coveted wild-card spot in the Chase, so Newman and his No. 39 Workshops for Warriors/Gene Haas Foundation Chevrolet are relegated to the outside looking in during this year’s battle for the championship.
While Newman and his team don’t have the chance to make a run for the championship, they still have the next 10 weekends to prove they are the best of the rest, starting with Sunday’s Geico 400 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill.
Newman’s team can’t dwell on the “what-ifs.” Instead, they’re focusing on their goals over the final 10 races of the 2012 season. They want to finish 13th in points, making Newman the highest non-Chase driver in the final standings.
In addition to Newman’s eighth-place effort at Richmond, the No. 39 team has earned six finishes of 11th or better in the last eight races. Newman and his team want to build on their top-10 finish at Richmond and their recent efforts. And, more than anything, they want to contend for wins the remainder of this season.
In 10 starts at Chicagoland, Newman has one pole (2002), one win (2003), two top-five and six top-10 finishes. Four of those top-10 finishes came in his last five starts at the 1.5-mile oval. That’s just the kind of performance Newman wants this weekend at Chicagoland in order to make a run at being the best of the rest as the 13th-place driver come season’s end.
Incidentally, that’s a role Chicagoland Speedway has successfully played in Newman’s career once before in 2003. During his sophomore season, Newman entered the Chicago race with two wins, seven top-10 finishes and five DNFs. He was 16th in points.
That weekend, Newman qualified what he termed a disappointing 14th for the 400-mile event, but determination and strategy played into his team’s favor during the race. In the end, Newman led twice for 67 laps, including the final 58, and won the race in near-dominating fashion. He beat now-teammate Tony Stewart to the checkered flag by more than 2.6 seconds.
For Newman, it was his third race win that season but, more importantly, it gave him and his team a burst of momentum for the second half of the Sprint Cup campaign. The win sparked a run in which Newman collected six victories in just 13 races.
In fact, starting with that Chicago race, Newman finished outside the top-10 only four times during the second half of 2003 (a total of 19 races including Chicago).
That’s just the kind of surge Newman is looking for in this season’s final 10 races.
While Newman’s goal is to be the best of the rest, his No. 39 Chevrolet carries a special paint scheme this weekend that recognizes an organization whose goal is to assist veterans in job training and helps them create the best post-military-service life possible. It’s called Workshops for Warriors and it was founded in San Diego, Calif., by U.S. Navy veteran Hernán Luis y Prado, who recognized and acted upon the need to help veterans find jobs after leaving military service.
The Gene Haas Foundation, formed in 1999 by SHR co-owner Gene Haas, has announced a grant of $50,000 to Workshops for Warriors, which assists the transition of veterans and injured veterans into civilian life through mentorship, training, and education.
In addition to the grant, Haas Automation has also entrusted the program with four Haas-CNC machines and made a donation of eight training simulators with a value of $444,000 to Workshops for Warriors. The money and the machines will be used to establish a machinist training program for military veterans.
Workshops for Warriors is a board-governed nonprofit organization that provides vocational training to veterans of the U.S. Armed Services. This hands-on training, as well as classroom education, ranges from hobby-level skills and access to common tools to fabricating commercially viable products on state-of the art machining systems.
Even though there are still 10 races remaining in the season, Newman and the crew chief Tony Gibson-led No. 39 team are looking ahead only as far as the next race. They know that knocking off the best possible finishes one race at a time will ultimately put the team right where it wants to be when the checkered flag flies at the final race at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November.