The fall of Ryan Newman, aka ‘Rocket Man’By Ryan O`Hara
When Ryan Newman first came on to the NASCAR scene in 2002, we all saw Newman as a shining light in the sport. Newman was a kid who had the potential to be a champion in the sport. He was so good at qualifying that we gave him the name ‘Rocket Man’. What has happened to the ‘Rocket Man’? From 2002-2004, Newman had 26 pole starts and 11 of his 16 victories came within those three seasons, including a season-leading high of eight wins in 2003. He has only visited victory lane five times since 2004 and his only victory in 2012 came with the help of wrecking the entire lead pack at Martinsville on a green-white-checkered finish.
His attitude at the race track makes me question if he really wants to be in this sport any longer. We have seen him act out against NASCAR, and other drivers in very disrespectful fashion. In 2010, Newman got in a mini-altercation with Joey Logano at Michigan after an incident entering turn 3. Logano got loose and spun Newman. Newman began to lecture Logano but in a very disrespectful way. When NASCAR officials broke the two apart Newman replied, “I’m just trying to teach this kid how to drive.” Newman did not make any productive comments about better driving. Instead, Mr. Newman took jabs about his driving abilities and suggested that he go back to the Nationwide Series and race there a little longer, then Newman jabbed at Logano because he said the incident took place halfway through the race when the incident indeed took place at Lap 70 of the 200 lap event. “It wasn’t halfway through the race. It was 70 laps. Get your story straight.”
When Logano replied, “Okay. That’s still a long way to go.” Newman replied, “Yeah. No it’s not. No it’s not.” Newman’s behavior was childish and reflects the attitude of his owner, Tony Stewart. Also, Newman said, “I race hard. There is something called a championship.” In other words, you suck Joey and you don’t understand this sport as well as I do. Logano isn’t the only driver Newman has taken childish shots at. Newman has also taken shots at Juan Pablo Montoya.
During the 2006 Ford 400, Montoya made his Sprint Cup Series debut in the No.32 Texaco-Havoline Dodge. Early in the race, Montoya got Newman aero loose and spun off turn 2. Newman then preceded to wreck Montoya on purpose. Was that a good thing to do? No. Newman treats new drivers in this sport like garbage. Who does that remind you of? Tony Stewart. Newman and Montoya had another dust up in 2011 at Richmond when Newman refused to let Montoya go and hooked him into the wall. It’s very ironic given Newman’s staunch policy of give and take racing which is just as laughable as Tony Stewart’s policy on blocking. Montoya got payback and turned him around into the fence. I felt that was well deserved. I applauded what Montoya did. Newman gave an interview and was asked if this incident stemmed from their incident in 2006. Newman responded, “I don’t know if he can even remember back that far.” Newman also said that his retaliation, “Didn’t show much class.” This particular interview was with FOX SPORTS’s Matt Yocum. Newman was heading to the hauler to talk to NASCAR about how to “handle” the Montoya situation.
How about this past Sunday at Dover, everyone? Newman was just irritated by the small-team being in front of him. After all, Newman did graduate from Purdue University with a degree in automotive engineering. I’m higher class than this David Gilliland guy. I’m going to constantly hit him and make him get out of my way. Oh, Mr. Gilliland is refusing to cooperate? I’ll just dump him. I have lost all respect for Newman. All of it. And for his supposed “spokesperson” to come out and say that a “steering failure” caused the crash is just pure BS. Anyone with a brain knows that Newman wrecked Gilliland on purpose. Newman was foolish enough to do it coming off turn 2. Many people have tried doing it and many people have failed miserably at it. Turn 2 is a treacherous place at Dover International Speedway. Does the 2008 Best Buy 400 ring a bell when Gilliland and Elliott Sadler made contact? It’s so hard to slow down coming off turn 2 if there is indeed an accident which is why qualifying is so important at this race track. Newman could have taken out more than just him and Gilliland on Sunday.
His reunited effort with Matt Borland has not met much success so far and it’s not Borland that is the problem. It is Newman. It is his attitude that causes team morale to go so low. During a recession, I certainly wouldn’t want him as my financial adviser. Newman made disparaging comments about NASCAR in my opinion following Talladega. Does Newman really think we can stop cars from turning over? Doesn’t he have an automotive engineering degree? If two cars run into each other at over 195 mph, I’m sorry there is going to be some major problems with that. That is basic physics and how Talladega has been since the track opened in 1969.
Remember when Newman took shots at Auto Club Speedway fans and said that we shouldn’t be racing there because the fans that attend those races aren’t true fans of the sport? Those comments upset the fans. Now, I don’t blame Newman for the bad attendance ratings that came from Auto Club Speedway, but he certainly didn’t help. If NASCAR were consistent with their rulings, they would have fined Newman for actions detrimental to stock car racing in the blink of an eye. Oh, Mr. Newman has a history of stirring up the pot doesn’t he? Newman needs to get back to racing. If he does not change his attitude or get his mind back into racing, it will be too late. Newman will have lost his ride in the No.39 and if he wants to continue to race, he’ll probably get a ride in the No.78 car. With the departure of Kevin Harvick from RCR, I see Kurt Busch getting the No.29 ride over Newman. And Newman does not like it when a guy with less qualifications gets the best of him. He has made that perfectly clear many times that he is willing to risk his reputation for one position on the race track.
Also, there are fans that legitimately go to NASCAR races for crashes. That is a fact. I know people that like NASCAR for wrecks. Newman doesn’t want those fans in the stands. He made that clear after yet another accident at Talladega in 2009. That also did not help the problem with growing attendance problems. Granted, the economy was in bad shape, but the last thing you need to do is add more fuel to the fire. How about adding water to it and start encouraging fans to come to the track? And that doesn’t mean that Kurt Busch goes out to sell hot dogs, or Kasey Kahne goes out go-carting, but make it more affordable. Take out some regulations that lessen the excitement of the sport. Create a poll on nascar.com and actually take those polls seriously and work on the sport accordingly. Newman recently has become notorious for blowing off his fans.
Fans come from all over the country to watch their favorite drivers race, and other fans pay more money for a pre-race pit pass to tour the garage area, take family photos, and get autographs from their favorite drivers. Newman was carrying his child and told a group of fans he would not sign any autographs because he was holding his kid. Now, Mr. Newman has two hands and two arms. NASCAR drivers are trained to sign autographs without even looking at the paper. That was extremely unkind and just unconscionable. It’s become clear that Newman just does not care.
Newman owes Gilliland a sincere apology, his entire Stewart-Haas Racing team, and his remaining fans. While I’m for drivers having more control over their emotions and a “Boys Have At It” approach, I do not condone wrecking people intentionally in these cars. Racing is still a dangerous sport and I hope Newman finally sees the light and begins to focus back on racing.