Not since 2008, when Ryan Newman won the 50th running of the Daytona 500, has the South Bend, Ind., native started out a season so strong.
Newman, who led the Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) contingent by taking the checkered flag in the fifth position in last Sunday’s Great American Race, has certainly experienced both the highs and lows of Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway. In his four Daytona 500 start since hoisting the Harley J. Earl trophy in victory lane, Newman has finishes of 36th, 34th, 22nd and 21st, respectively. That trend came to an end this past Sunday, and Newman enters the Fresh Fit 500k NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway fifth in the championship standings, just seven points behind series leader Jimmie Johnson.
Only twice in his 12 full seasons of Sprint Cup competition has Newman started out stronger – in 2006, when he finished third in the season-opening event, and in 2008. For Newman and the No. 39 Quicken Loans Chevrolet SS team, hopes are high that coming out of the box strong will be a sign of things to come.
The combination of Newman and crew chief Matt Borland, who reunited for the final four races of 2012, when they earned two top-five and four top-12 finishes, is clearly firing on all cylinders as it continued the trend of strong performances last weekend. Heading to Phoenix – the strongest track on the tour for Newman over the past two-and-a-half seasons –the 35-year-old driver is looking to again contend for the win.
In his last six starts at Phoenix, Newman has five top-five finishes, including a win in April 2010 and a runner-up finish in November 2010. His only finish outside the top-five came in this race one year ago, where Newman was involved in an accident while running fifth. He placed 21st.
While Newman wants to build on the momentum of his strong Daytona 500 run by scoring another top-five at Phoenix, it’s race fans who will be pushing Newman to “Bring It Home,” thanks to Quicken Loans’ sweepstakes, which got off to a quick start last week.
Newman’s fifth-place finish at Daytona helped kick off the promotion, which pays five people’s mortgages for a month each time Newman finishes among the top-five in a Sprint Cup race.
Consumers can enter the sweepstakes by visiting www.qlracing.com and are encouraged to increase their chances of winning a month-long vacation from their mortgage by entering weekly. Participants also can win additional entries by inviting their friends and family to participate.
Another strong finish early in the season would give both Newman and his fans something to cheer about. Specifically, a top-five finish at Phoenix would help keep Newman near the top of the point standings, and it would mean five more mortgages paid for a month.