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The Exhaust Circuit

Posted by Michael Vega, Globe Staff  July 17, 2011 09:36 PM

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Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff


Ryan Newman was the class of the field in his No. 39 US Army Chevrolet in Sunday's Lenox Industrial Tools 301

LOUDON, N.H. -- OK, so Ryan Newman wins again at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, capturing the checkered flag in his No. 39 US Army-sponsored Chevrolet in Sunday's Lenox Industrial Tools 301 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event.

Why are we not surprised? The guy owns the place.

In his 19 career Cup starts here, Newman has won three races, including his first career Cup triumph in 2002. He's won two of those races from the pole position. And he's established -- and re-established, as he did during Friday's time trials with a fast lap of 135.232 miles per hour -- the track qualifying record in winning five poles.

And we haven't even broached the subject of his dominance in the last three NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour events at NHMS, which he's won in a row, all from the pole, including Saturday's F.W. Webb 100.

Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff
Ryan Newman hoists the hardware at NHMS.

Funny thing is, Newman has never really found the flat 1.058-mile oval to be to his liking.

Not enough banking, evidently.

So, as Newman happily sat at the dais, flanked by crew chief Tony Gibson and co-car owner Gene Haas, I took the opportunity to ask if NHMS, which he said was never one of his favorite tracks, had finally begun to grow on him.

"You're going to put me on the spot,'' Newman said, smiling. "It's a great racetrack. It's tough racing here. It's really hard racing here compared to other racetracks we go to. Ask any driver in the garage, they'll tell you it's difficult to pass. [It's] probably one of the most difficult racetracks we go to. Track positon is important.

"Maybe I've had success here in the past because of our track position and our qualifying efforts,'' Newman continued. "I've always liked the banked racetracks. It's always going to be in the seat of my pants, that feel.

"Like I said, this is a great facility,'' Newman said. ``A lot of great fans, a lot of great things we've done up here. I enjoy it.''

But ..... it's not banked.

``I've always said that this track, you have to only take what it will give you,'' Newman said. "That's why I like the banked racetracks even more because you can physically push the car in the corner, it will stick. Here it's going to slide into the walls. It's like the wall is a magnet and the racecar is metal.

"You have to be on eggshells with the steering wheel, with the pedals, the things you do,'' he said. "Working around traffic, it's a demanding racetrack from that standpoint.''

As demanding as it has always been, Newman has managed to make his mark at NHMS.

He did so again Sunday finishing ahead of his boss and teammate, Tony Stewart, to deliver Stewart-Haas Racing its first 1-2 finish of the season after sweeping the front row during Friday's pole qualifications.

"It was a perfect day for the organization, for sure,'' Stewart said. "I'm curious to see what the record books show, but I'm sure Ryan is the only guy to get two poles and two wins in a weekend here. To do it in the Modified and in the Cup car today, for the organization to take the front row and get first and second today, you couldn't aks for a better weekend.''

For Ryan, it was made all the better by the fact he was able to take his US Army sponsor to Victory Lane for the first time. Even more special was the fact Army Col. Derik Crotts, who was retiring after 31 years of military service, was in attendance.

''This win is huge for us,'' said Newman, who became the 13th different winner in 19 races this season. ``I mean, it's the biggest thing. Our first one was special. The No. 39 had never been to Victory Lane in the Cup Series. We chose that number because of me.

"If you're ... what's the word ... .'' Newman said, stumbled on the word `superstitious.'

"Superstitious,'' Newman said, chuckling, ``then you've got a lot to fight against.''

Then, taking a self-deprecating jab at himself, Newman cracked, "That's polysyllabic, so it's hard for me.''

Easy for him to say, though.

"We had a lot to work towards for our first victory,'' Newman said. "But to get the US Army in Victory Lane, that was a goal we had way before the season ever started, for the soldiers, our sponsors, our team, our organization.''

But there was one other person to whom Newman dedicated the victory: his friend, Beau Slocumb, who died in April of cancer at age 26.

Newman became choked up when he pulled back the sleeve of his firesuit to show the bracelet he had worn all year in his honor of his late friend.

"I wanted to make sure that bracelet could remind me how tough life can be,'' Newman said. "What it can throw to you, sometimes to the best people you could ever imagine. That was something that's emotional to me. It's hard to talk about it because I know his family. I know his wife. It's tough. He was living with us.

"To see some of the things that he went through, to help him fight that battle, that was really tough for me.''

But, as Gibson was well aware, there was no tougher person, or driver, than Newman.

"Look, there's no neck here,'' Gibson said, pointing toward Newman. "It's connected. He reminds me of Cale Yarborough. He sits in a car, he's like this. He's a physical guy. He gives you 150 percent every lap whether we're five laps down, a lap down, 10th, fifth. He's physically and mentally in the game.

"Like I told him last week, there's nobody I'd rather have in my racecar with 10 to go if he can see the leader, because we have a shot to win it,'' Gibson said. "He went from seventh to fourth in a lap. We know when Ryan Newman is in there we have a shot.''

And if he's at the unbanked track at NHMS, then you can take it to the bank that Ryan Newman will give his team his very best shot at a victory.

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