Saturday, May 26, 2007

Indiana's Newman at home in stock cars

CONCORD, N.C. - Sitting on the pole for the Indianapolis 500 is a Brazilian driving for Roger Penske.

Helio Castroneves' roots are a long way from Indiana.

But sitting on the pole for the Coca-Cola 600 is a Hoosier driving for Roger Penske. Ryan Newman's roots are in South Bend, Ind., where he was born, and on dirt tracks across Indiana.

Funny, isn't it, that the native Hoosier is here instead of there?

Not to Newman. The Midwestern dirt tracks wouldn't lead him to Indianapolis, at least not in an open-wheel car. No, his path was always headed toward NASCAR.

Growing up, Newman and his father, Greg, knew NASCAR would be the place to be.

"We used to go downstairs and play slot-cars all the time," Newman said. "I'd say 90 percent of the time, my slot cars were stock cars. We used to always talk about racing doorhandle-to-doorhandle and things like that. That's what I always wanted to do.

"I'm happy to be sitting here where I am, thankful, gracious. I guess there's a little bit of irony involved, but that's fine by me."

Newman has had chances to race in the Indy 500, but he said running at the Brickyard in May would take away from his focus: Nextel Cup racing.

"We kind of joked about it in 2002 and 2003," Newman said. "It never became serious. [Penske] always told me there's a car there if I want it. But I always said I never wanted to take focus away from my efforts in the Cup series. Taking any time practice time away, I didn't feel would be fair for them. It's as much their job and their way of life as it is mine."

And Newman's way of life as taken him to North Carolina, not back home to Indiana.


1 comment:

Racefan57 said...

It gives me a little homesickness as I grew up only a few hours north of Indy and even closer to South Bend. in fact U.S. Highway 31 runs up and down the west coast of Michigan and right down through Indy, the "Circle" of Circle City is U.S.31 and Grand Haven Michigan's main drag is also U.S. 31.

Good luck to Ryan today!!!