As a native of the basketball-loving Hoosier state, Ryan Newman knows the importance of a rebound. When the game is on the line, a key-timed rebound could change the whole complexion of the game and put a team back in contention for the win.
As the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to the home state of the NCAA men’s basketball national-champion Kentucky Wildcats for Saturday night’s Kentucky 400 at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta, it seems appropriate that a rebound should be the name of the game for this Hoosier who grew up both playing hoops and racing.
Newman is 13th in the driver standings, 143 points behind leader Matt Kenseth, and he has one win to his credit at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway on April Fools’ Day. But it has been three months since he had his last top-10 finish in a points-paying race.
In the last 10 races, Newman has had one DNF (did not finish) and five top-15 finishes, but none higher than 12th place.
While Newman admits the recent string of finishes outside the top-10 has been frustrating, he’s also quick to say his team is capable of turning its fortunes around and getting the No. 39 Tornados Chevrolet back into the top-10 on the racetrack and in the standings.
Just like in a basketball game, all the team needs is to huddle up, take a deep breath, refocus and get back to the basics – shoot, score, rebound. Or, in racing terms, qualify well, run up front and contend for the race win.
Saturday night’s race at Kentucky could be just the place for the No. 39 squad to do just that. Newman has a solid history at the 1.5-mile oval in the Bluegrass State.
In August 2000, in just his third stock-car start, Newman scored his first-ever stock-car pole in the ARCA series race at Kentucky. He dominated that event, leading 83 of 134 laps, and won by almost a full second to score his second consecutive ARCA victory.
Then, in last season’s inaugural Sprint Cup race at the Kentucky oval, Newman finished a strong fourth.
While the game – rather, the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship – isn’t on the line just yet for Newman and his No. 39 team, it’s time to get back into the top-10. So, for this Hoosier, the goal for Saturday’s Kentucky race is to summon some of his home state’s basketball-loving skills, rebound from his recent performances and turn the tide back around for the No. 39 Tornados team.