Ryan Newman: 'I Don't Need to Be a Crash Test Dummy'
The race at the 1.366-mile Darlington Raceway on May 14 will mark the longest speedway on which Ryan Newman competes for Rick Ware Racing in NASCAR’s current Cup Series car.
Newman agreed to compete at the short tracks for RWR because of the slower speeds.
To be eligible for the NASCAR All-Star Open at North Wilkesboro Speedway later this month, Newman had to compete in Darlington’s Goodyear 400 due to his inactivity in the series since the 2021 season’s conclusion.
Other races on the Newman-RWR agenda are Richmond, Bristol, and Martinsville.
Darlington Raceway marked Ryan Newman’s return to NASCAR Cup racing in 2020 following his terrifying crash in that year’s Daytona 500 and the 73-year-old track will once again host the Indiana native’s return to the series.
However, at 1.366-miles, the historic track and the race at Darlington on May 14 will mark the longest speedway on which Newman competes for Rick Ware Racing in NASCAR’s current Cup Series car.
The one simple reason Newman refuses to race on a track any longer—safety.
“I don’t think the (Cup) car is as safe as it should be or as safe as they say it is on the big tracks,” Newman said. “I don’t need to be a crash test dummy. I’ve already got two bars named after me. I don’t need a third.”
A violent multi-car crash involving Newman at Talladega in 2009 resulted in a bar, now known as the Newman bar, being the secondary cage bar that’s in the driver’s forehead area. In that crash, Newman’s car went airborne after being hit from behind in the race’s closing stages. The back half of his car slammed into the hood of Kevin Harvick’s car, then twirled and barrel rolled several times before stopping upside down. Once the car was turned onto its wheels, the roof had to be cut so he could exit because the roll cage collapsed and blocked him from exiting through the window.
In 2020 on the final lap of the Daytona 500, he appeared headed for his second victory in that race when a few hundred feet from the checkered flag a push from Ryan Blaney went terribly wrong. His car turned sideways, hit the wall, lifted off the ground, flipped sideways and an oncoming Corey LaJoie slammed into its roof. NASCAR now requires teams to use two additional roll bar support pieces in the area where Newman’s car was hit in its roof.
Newman agreed to compete at the short tracks for RWR because of the slower speeds. However, to be eligible for the NASCAR All-Star Open at North Wilkesboro Speedway later this month, he had to compete in Darlington’s Goodyear 400 due to his inactivity in the series since the 2021 season’s conclusion. Other races on the Newman-RWR agenda are Richmond, Bristol, and Martinsville. However, Newman emphasized he’s taking his re-entry into Cup racing “one step at a time.”
“I told them I was only going to do this if we can have fun,” says Newman, whose daughter Brooklyn is racing Box Stock Outlaw Karts. “If it isn’t fun, it’s not worth me doing. Somebody else can do it. I think they feel the same way.
“I know I’m not jumping into a Hendrick car. I know I’m not jumping into a JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing) car. But ultimately, with the way the rules are there’s no reason that it can’t be a competitive or somewhat competitive car. From what I understand, the pit stops, the pit crew, is a little bit of a concern. I’m not trying to single them out, but with the way the rules are with the car, I think more emphasis gets put on the potential of your pit crew than the potential of a nut-and-bolt kit that NASCAR gives you.
“So, with that in mind, it’s just a matter of putting everything together. I’m hoping I can bring some energy to their team, their pit crew, their everything to make them step up their game. In saying that, I’m hoping I’m not the one that’s the weak link.”
Since the 45-year-old Newman has been racing Modifieds and working on his farm, he doesn’t believe he’s “out-of-shape or unfit.” He believes his biggest weakness will be his unfamiliarity with the current Cup car and the shifting that accompanies it.
“The biggest adjustment I’ll have to make is the fact the guys are shifting per lap and the shifting mechanism itself,” Newman said. “Outside of that it’s a steering wheel and pedals.”
Newman, who’s competing in about 14 Modified races this year, was scheduled to spend time in Ford’s simulator in Concord, North Carolina, before heading to Darlington, South Carolina, later this week.
Newman and RWR began talking in April after he texted Tommy Baldwin, the team’s competition director, about a Modified race in New York. Baldwin responded by asking Newman if he wanted to drive the team’s Ford at Martinsville last month.
RWR needed a driver for that short-track race due to Rick Ware’s son Cody being suspended indefinitely by NASCAR after assault charges were filed against him in North Carolina. Newman declined citing a conflict and RWR retained NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion Zane Smith for that event.
The team circled back to Newman after Ford apparently became involved in the situation.