Accomplishing the Mission at New Hampshire – Again

“Mission Accomplished.”

That’s what Ryan Newman and the U.S. Army ROTC Racing team did last July at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon when the team took a dominant racecar from the pole position to victory lane. While it was Newman’s second victory since joining Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) in 2009, it was his first in the U.S. Army Chevy.

Since sliding behind the wheel of the Soldiers’ racecar for the first time at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway in February 2009, Newman had asserted his desire time and again to get the U.S. Army Chevy in victory lane and to win a race for the more than 1 million Soldiers who protect and serve our country.

While Newman had come close to winning in the U.S. Army Chevy on numerous occasions, he had never captured that top spot until last July. But just like the U.S. Army Strong Soldiers that Newman and his team represent, they never quit and refused to give up.

Newman carries a badge of honor in the star of the U.S. Army logo that adorns the chest of his uniform and the hood of his racecar. Each week, he would strap on his helmet with a renewed sense of determination and desire to get the Soldiers to victory lane.

Finally last July, when the checkered flag waved at Loudon, Newman & Company were able to say, “Mission Accomplished.”

After earning the pole position in qualifying, Newman went wire to wire – driving from his No. 1 starting spot to victory lane. The win that day helped secure Newman a spot in last season’s Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship and served notice to his competitors in the garage that he and his No. 39 team were both determined and daring when it came to completing their mission by winning the race.

During that July race, crew chief Tony Gibson made a gutsy call to keep Newman’s superfast No. 39 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, and it was just the fourth time that he had won from the pole position.

The win was all part of a banner weekend for SHR. Newman and his teammate and team owner Tony Stewart 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.

As the Sprint Cup Series makes its first trip of the season to the 1.058-mile New Hampshire oval this weekend, Newman and the No. 39 team find themselves in the midst of a tight battle to earn a berth in the 2012 Chase for the Championship via a wild card spot. Newman is currently 15th in points.

Newman knows that to make the Chase and fight for the championship, the team must carry momentum from last weekend’s fifth-place finish at Daytona and maintain that strength on the racetrack for the next eight races. While his one win earlier this season at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway puts him in contention for one of the two wild card spots, solid performances and a second victory would go a long way to help Newman’s cause.

And perhaps there’s no better racetrack for Newman to get that second win and help him on his way to the Chase than New Hampshire. In 20 starts at the flat, paper-clip shaped track, he has a track-record six poles, three wins (September 2002 and 2005, July 2011), six top-fives and 13 top-10s.

With Newman and his Gibson-led race team in the midst of a hotly contested battle to make the Chase, expect the U.S. Army ROTC Racing team to take a page from its U.S. Army counterparts, where its Soldiers put the mission first and display a never-quit attitude and a refusal to accept defeat.

While the ultimate goal is a spot in the Chase, this weekend’s goal for Newman & Company is a return trip to New Hampshire’s victory lane. Once there, he would love nothing more than to make the simple declaration, “Mission Accomplished.”

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