The NASCAR season has crossed over the lip of racing in and is now racing on to the Sprint Cup. The CHASE has been set following the checkered flag at Richmond and is ready to be set loose on the first race at Chicagoland.
Between Richmond and Chicago, the drivers who made The CHASE were busy with strategy and planning and cars and teams and chasing themselves across America and the towns they will be racing in. Dale Jr. was in California, Johnson was in New York and in between were all the others including Ryan Newman who was put through some paces in Martinsville.
At Martinsville High School on Wednesday, September 10th, Newman drove the #31 Caterpillar RCR Chevy around the running track that circles the football field. He drove a wheeled robot designed and built by the students. He stepped with the cheerleaders… sort of. He threw a football. He kicked a football… sort of. He fed a bulldog (the school mascot) a microphone… sort of.
The party with the MHS Bulldogs was a showcase of the pride of the school and, like Martinsville Speedway, a history with the town. Newman also spoke to the current class from the Speedway stage brought in next to the field he had previously driven around. He has an engineering degree and not only knows how to drive the car but also knows how it works. He stressed the importance of school and finding the interests within and seeking the drive to pursue goals and dreams. He talked about racing from an early age and being lucky enough and driven enough to be able to pursue that love and turn it over to a career. Newman is not loud or particularly animated when speaking yet he held the students’ attention with knowledgeable authority. He spoke from experience and it came through.
Following the track, field and cheers at the high school the mood changed to the business of racing as the venue changed to Martinsville Speedway. Here, in more familiar surroundings, Newman elaborated on The CHASE and how Martinsville plays into the strategy. The history of racing there, the fact it is the only short track in The CHASE and the challenge of racing there all come together to make Martinsville a focal point of the post season. So much so that Hendrick’s teams have already tested there. Several more, including Newman and RCR, are planning on Martinsville tests before October race day.
Newman already has one grandfather clock (the traditional trophy of winning at Martinsville) and would like nothing better than another on the way to a possible championship. The chips, realistically, are not stacked in his favor. Although an accomplishment to make The CHASE with his first season at RCR the points, position and strength of other teams Newman will be up against is huge. The possibility is there and, listening to Newman speak, so is the determination. The reality of getting there may be the thing as there is so much that would have to fall into place with good runs of the #31 and a little bad luck falling to competitors.
As Ryan Newman said, The CHASE is a series of races and overall strategy is good but week to week focus is key. Looking ahead to Martinsville on the weekend of October 26th is several races away. To capitalize on a good run at the historic speedway some momentum needs to be brought into the Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500.
As the engines set ready for the drivers’ “start” command at Chicago, time is turning like the hands on a grandfather clock towards Martinsville. In time, we’ll see how Ryan Newman and the others in The CHASE are stacked as the engines start again in Virginia.
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