We’re putting the band back together, but it won’t be going to Bob’s Country Bunker, or even the Palace Hotel Ballroom. Instead, it’ll be making its encore appearance in Martinsville, Va.
That’s where the driver-crew chief duo of Ryan Newman and Matt Borland will be reunited for the first time since the end of the 2006 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season.
When the No. 39 Quicken Loans team hits town for Sunday’s TUMS Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway, the team will have a different look, despite being the most recent Sprint Cup winners at the .526-mile oval.
A crew swap will go into effect this weekend in preparation for the 2013 season, when Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) will field three Sprint Cup teams full-time. As such, Newman, spotter Jimmy Kitchens, hauler driver Rick Hodges and the No. 39’s pit crew are the only remaining members from the winning combination that delivered Newman to victory lane in April at the paperclip-shaped bullring.
The mechanics, engineers and the entire road crew for the Quicken Loans team have changed. But amidst all this change, one very familiar face will be calling the shots for Newman. For the first time in five-plus seasons, Borland will climb atop the pit box as Newman’s crew chief.
Reuniting with Newman will be like a homecoming for Borland, and with Quicken Loans, the nation’s largest online retail mortgage lender, adorning the No. 39 Chevy at Martinsville, the “coming home” theme is even more appropriate.
When Newman joined Penske Racing as a stock-car newbie in 2000, Borland was tabbed to oversee Newman’s race team and his development. They ran four ARCA races in preparation for Sprint Cup, and the duo produced immediately, earning three wins and two pole positions.
The following season, Borland again led Newman’s team as it ran a multi-tiered schedule in ARCA, the NASCAR Nationwide Series and Sprint Cup.
Newman competed in two ARCA races, 15 Nationwide Series races and seven Sprint Cup races. He won the season-opening ARCA event at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, then captured the pole at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kan., in his only other ARCA start. Newman won his first Nationwide Series race in August at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn and also won six Nationwide Series poles. Newman scored his first career Sprint Cup pole at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway in May in just his third Sprint Cup start, while also scoring two top-five finishes, including a second-place effort at Kansas.
In 2002, Newman and Borland entered Sprint Cup full-time. NASCAR observers were expecting big things from the driver-crew chief pairing, and the two did not disappoint.
In their five full seasons together from 2002 to 2006, the Newman-Borland combination produced 12 victories, 37 poles, 52 top-five finishes and 83 top-10s. It also finished in the top-10 in the point standings in each of its first four seasons of full-time competition.
During their tenure, this unique pairing of engineering majors – Newman a graduate of Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., and Borland a graduate of the General Motors Institute of Technology in Flint, Mich. – was a force to be reckoned with on the racetrack.
Now, the tandem is teaming up once again beginning this weekend at Martinsville where, in 10 races together, Newman and Borland have combined for four top-fives, five top-10s and two pole positions.
Newman added to his owns stats at Martinsville back in April when he stole a victory. He was in the right place at the right time during NASCAR’s version of “overtime” when he took advantage of a late-race skirmish for the lead during a green-white-checkered finish. In fifth-place for the race’s final restart, Newman pounced when the drivers in front of him collided in turn one. Their misfortune was Newman’s fortune, as Newman drove through the chaos and into the lead, taking the checkered flag and the famed grandfather clock that comes with winning at the Virginia short track.
While the team is different this weekend, the goal remains the same. Newman wants to finish the season 13th in points – the highest of any driver outside the Chase for the NASAR Sprint Cup. To do that, he knows he has to get solid finishes and, ideally, wins. More than that, though, as Borland enters the picture with four races remaining in the 2012 season, Newman and his new No. 39 Quicken Loans team are getting a jump on next season.
With the band back together, they’ll begin perfecting their harmony this weekend at Martinsville.