If there truly are races Ryan Newman circles on his calendar at the beginning of each season as races where he and his No. 39 Aspen Dental team for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) should be the class of the field, there’s no doubt one of those is this weekend.
After all, New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon has been the site of three (September 2002 and 2005 and July 2010) of Newman’s 16 career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series wins and six of the Aspen Dental driver’s 49 career poles.
In fact, New Hampshire was the site of Newman’s first points-paying Sprint Cup victory during his rookie season in 2002. On that September afternoon, the South Bend, Ind., native started from the pole and dominated the rain-shortened race, leading 143 of 207 laps.
The second victory came three years later in September 2005. Newman, who had narrowly squeaked into the inaugural Chase for the Championship, used pit strategy to gain the lead late in the race after starting 13th. In the closing laps, he dueled with now-team owner and teammate Tony Stewart for the lead. Newman passed Stewart with two laps remaining and held on to take the win, renewing Newman’s hopes for a run at the championship.
Then, in July 2011, Newman went wire to wire – driving from his No. 1 starting spot to victory lane. Late in that July race, crew chief Tony Gibson made a gutsy call to keep Newman’s superfast No. 39 SHR Chevrolet out front rather than pit under caution. Only once during the 301-lap race did Gibson call for a four-tire change. In the end, after Newman pitted for the final time on lap 217, Gibson spent the final 84 laps urging his driver to save fuel at every opportunity.
The bold call paid off and landed Newman in victory lane for the first time in 47 races. Newman led six times for 119 laps in winning from the pole position for just the fourth time in his career.
And the win was all part of a banner weekend for SHR. Newman and Stewart, now his teammate and team owner, started 1-2 and finished 1-2. The last time a team started 1-2 and finished 1-2 was Hendrick Motorsports in the 1989 Daytona 500. However, the last time a team started 1-2 and finished 1-2 with the same drivers in the same order was back on April 7, 1957, at North Wilkesboro (N.C.) Speedway, where DePaolo Engineering’s Fireball Roberts won from the pole while teammate Paul Goldsmith started second and finished second.
So, it makes sense that Newman would circle New Hampshire on his calendar each year. The 1.058-mile flat track commonly known as “The Magic Mile” has been the site of some magical moments and a lot of smiles in Newman’s 11-year Sprint Cup Series career.
And Newman and his No. 39 Aspen Dental Racing team hope to generate some more magic as they roll into New Hampshire for this Sunday’s Sylvania 300. There would be no better time to be smiling and showing off those pearly whites than in victory lane with Aspen Dental. The network of full-service dental practices providing quality, affordable care in 22 states is primary sponsor on the No. 39 Chevy for its second race of the season.
Despite failing to make this year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship, Newman and his team have been on a roll. In the last 10 races, Newman has finished 11th or better eight times.
And after a fifth-place finish at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill., last weekend, Newman & Company are eager to continue building on that momentum and make a run for 13th place in the season-ending points – the best position for a non-Chase driver – in the final nine races of the season.
For Newman, coming “home” to New Hampshire always brings back great memories and big smiles thanks to his previous successes at the track. This weekend, a trip to victory lane in the No. 39 Aspen Dental Chevrolet would be just the ticket to add more memories and more big smiles as he and the team continue their quest to be “Best of the Rest.”