A FIRST TIMER: When Ryan Newman climbs into the No. 33 Kevin Harvick Inc. (KHI) Rheem Chevrolet this week at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway, he will be making his first career Nationwide Series start at the track. In fact, Newman has never run a restrictor plate race in the Nationwide Series at either Talladega or Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway.
In the Cup Series, Newman claimed a restictor place victory in 2008 when he won the most prestigious race in NASCAR, the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway. It wasn’t just any Daytona 500, it was the 50th running of NASCAR greatest race.
Newman makes his second career start for KHI in the Nationwide Series, his first being the 2008 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In 2008, Newman won at Atlanta Motor Speedway when he made his first career start for KHI and his first career Truck Series start. The win made Newman the 19th different driver to score a win in all three of NASCAR’s elite series, Cup, Nationwide and Truck Series.
RESTRICTOR PLATE EASE: KHI is no stranger to success at restrictor-plate racing. The company’s first Nationwide Series win came at Daytona International Speedway in 2005 when Tony Stewart won the season opener. The following year Stewart returned to Victory Lane at Daytona to defend his title and teammate Burney Lamar finished second, scoring KHI’s first one-two finish in the Nationwide Series. In 2007, Bobby Labonte scored the third restrictor-plate win for KHI by holding off teammate Stewart to win at Talladega Superspeedway. Stewart finished second, adding another one-two finish for KHI.
BEFORE THE RACE: QUOTES WITH DRIVER RYAN NEWMAN:
Knowing this team is off to a good start this year, does that give you more confidence heading into the race at Talladega? “Absolutely it gives me a lot of confidence. Kevin and DeLana have done a tremendous job putting together not only their Nationwide team, but also their truck program at KHI. I had the opportunity to drive for them a couple of times last year, including at Atlanta in the truck, which we won, and then again at Homestead in the Nationwide car. They truly have a terrific organization that I was really impressed with. I enjoyed working with Ernie Cope and everyone over there. The fact that the No. 33 team has already done so well this season just shows the caliber of equipment and team that they have. To be honest though, I also know that I have a tall order on my plate because this team has done so well. I’m really looking forward to getting behind the wheel of the Rheem Chevrolet and seeing what we can do this weekend. Talladega is really a crap-shoot because anything can happen, but if we can stay out of trouble on the track, I’m confident that we’ll be able to continue their string of solid performances.”
What are your expectations for Saturday’s Nationwide Series race at Talladega? “I think it is hard to have expectations going into a race like Talladega because anything can happen there. I know that the No. 33 team has been strong all season, so I know that I am getting in really good equipment. I think that automatically puts my expectation level high. I’ve never run the Nationwide race at Talladega, but I have watched a lot of them – and just like the Cup race on Sunday, you never know what can happen. The key at Talladega is just to have a fast car. The track is really smooth and handling isn’t nearly as important as it is at Daytona. Typically, the fastest race car is out front. Its wide open and you have to have some teamwork to stay up front. If we have a fast car and have some friends out on the racetrack and if we can stay out of trouble, I think we will have a good day. That’s a lot “ifs” but that’s how Talladega is.”
Does it benefit you to run the race on Saturday to prepare for Sunday? “I have always said that running the race on Saturday helps you prepare for the Cup race on Sunday. When I ran nine Nationwide races back in 2005 (and won six of them), I think looking back, it was a huge help to me the following day. Several of the races where I won, I was able to get top-fives or top-10s in the Cup race the following day. You learn things in the Nationwide races that help you in the Cup races the following day, and I think you build your confidence level if you run well. At Talladega, I’m not sure that the benefits are as big – you’re not learning specific entry points that might help the car turn better or anything like that because Talladega is a different beast. But I still think that it is a good opportunity for me. I like having the extra practice at the track. And if you have a good day on Saturday, I think that only helps to build your confidence on Sunday. I’ve never had a clean sweep at any track – winning the races on both Saturday and Sunday – and I like having an opportunity to do that this weekend.”
CHASSIS HISTORY: Newman will pilot chassis No. 043 this weekend at Talladega Superspeedway. This chassis was last on track with two-time Nationwide Series champion Kevin Harvick at Daytona International Speedway for the 2009 Nationwide Series season opener. Harvick started the race from the pole position and finished the race in 11th.
PREVIOUS RACE RECAP: With the Nationwide Series last on track at Phoenix International Raceway, KHI co-owner Kevin Harvick was behind the wheel of the No. 33 KHI Rheem Tankless Hot Water Heaven Chevrolet. Starting the race from the sixth position, Harvick wasted no time making his presence known by moving into the top three by lap 21 and remained in the top three for most of the night. Battling eventual race winner Greg Biffle for the lead several times, Harvick made it as high as second in the Bashas’ Supermarkets 200. Harvick made his last stop of the night on lap 182 and restarted the race on lap 184 in the eighth position after varying strategies by teams left some with old tires, others with two fresh and a few, including Harvick, with four fresh tires. Following two additional late-race cautions and a green-white-checkered finish, Harvick was able to gain a few more spots to finish the race fifth. The finish marked the fifth top-five finish of the season and moved the No. 33 Chevrolet team to second in the NASCAR Owner’s Points Standings, nine points out of first.
April 25, 2009
Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway
Race length: 117 laps/311.22 miles
Banking: 33-degrees in the turns, 16.5-degrees on the frontstretch, 2-degrees on the backstretch
Track layout: 2.66 mile
First Practice: 4:00 p.m. – 4:45 p.m., ET
Final Practice: 5:00 p.m. – 5:50 p.m., ET
Qualifying: 11:30 p.m., ET
TV: The Aaron’s 312 can be seen live on ABC at 2:30 p.m., ET.
Radio: The Motor Racing Network (MRN) will broadcast the race live at 2:30 p.m., ET.
No. 33 Chevrolet Impala Specs:
Rheem Manufacturing Company is a privately held company with headquarters in Atlanta, Ga. In its 81st year of operation, the company distributes throughout North America and world markets a full-line of eco-friendly, high-quality, technologically advanced residential and commercial heating, cooling, water heating, whole-home standby generators, comfort controls, pool and spa heating, and indoor air purification products as well as commercial boilers. The premium brands of Rheem Manufacturing Company include Ruud, Raypak and Rheem. Rheem Manufacturing Company is the major associate sponsor of Richard Childress Racing and the No. 29 team driven by Kevin Harvick, owner of the 2007 Craftsman Truck Series championship team and 2006 Nationwide Series Champion. Rheem is also the primary sponsor of Kevin Harvick Inc.’s No. 33 Chevrolet car for nine high-profile Nationwide® Series races in 2009.