Ryan Newman was at a Manhattan 7-Eleven that had been transformed into a Wheat Thins locale as part of a co-branding publicity event Wednesday.
These are the kinds of things NASCAR drivers do for sponsors, and they’re happy to do so as long as they get to do what they love on Sundays.
But for Newman, who has had as many as eight different primary sponsors in a season during his time at Stewart-Haas Racing, the tap-dancing to pay the bills will get a little bit easier when he moves to Richard Childress Racing after 2013. Newman said Wednesday he only had one unsold race on his car’s sponsor inventory for 2014.
“That’s pretty good, after not being sold completely for five years at Stewart-Haas,” said Newman, who has had in-house sponsor Haas Automation on the car for numerous races each year. In 2014 he’ll bring his main Stewart-Haas sponsor, Quicken Loans, to Childress to team with soon-to-be ex-Jeff Burton sponsor Caterpillar.
Newman even grudgingly used the term “warm and fuzzy feeling” about the funding he’ll have at his new job.
“It’s definitely tougher to manage your marketing points,” Newman said of his current situation. “One week you’re this, the next week you’re that, you can’t get the right [sponsor] effectiveness.”
The always-candid Newman was as honest about Stewart-Haas’ funding issues as he was about his current situation in the Sprint Cup Chase playoffs. Newman was shut out of the Chase after the Richmond race, and after getting out of the car was clear in multiple postrace interviews that his crew’s performance on the final pit stop of the race cost him a Chase spot.
Then came the Michael Waltrip Racing debacle in which the team was ruled by NASCAR to have manipulated the race to help Martin Truex Jr. get in. That put Newman back in the Chase. Newman said the team worked through the turmoil but made it clear he didn’t subsequently fall on his sword just to get the support of his team back.
“I think it was tough, but honestly we got beat on pit road,” Newman said. “There’s a performance I have to do in the race, there’s a performance the crew chief has to do mentally.”
Newman now ranks seventh in the Chase standings, 48 points behind leader Matt Kenseth, heading into Sunday’s fourth Chase race at Kansas. With Newman more than one race worth of points behind, his only chance of winning a Cup title may be by coming out on the right side of chaos at Talladega on Oct. 20. But Newman often has been a critic of NASCAR safety at superspeedways. He said regardless of safety advancements of the new Gen-6 car, slowing down the cars from 200 mph speeds should be the focus.
“Ultimately speed is the multiplier,” Newman said. “You knock down the speed, you increase the safety.”
For those who counter that slower speeds bunch car together and compromise safety more, Purdue engineering grad Newman said that’s the “non-engineer” in his counterparts, explaining that if cars bunched together at 30 miles an hours crashed a car would only travel 30 feet -- and not in the air.
Said Newman, “We could put on a heck of a show at 160, 170 miles per hours with much less opportunity for a car going airborne.”