Ryan Newman Biography

Professional race car driver

Born December 8, 1977, in South Bend, IN; son of Greg and Diana Newman. Education: Purdue University, bachelor's degree in vehicle structural engineering, 2001.

Addresses: Office —c/o Penske Racing, 136 Knob Hill Rd., Mooresville, NC 28117.


Became a champion midget racer at the age of 17; raced USAC sprint cars and won USAC sprint car Silver Crown championship, 1999; signed to Roger Penske's NASCAR team, 2000.

Awards: Michigan State Midget Championship, 1993; AAMS Midget Series Rookie of the Year, 1993; USAC Midget Rookie of the Year, 1995; USAC Silver Crown; USAC Silver Bullet National Championship, 1999; Winston Cup Rookie of the Year, 2002; Speed Channel Driver of the Year, 2003; Quarter Midget Hall of Fame.


NASCAR driver Ryan Newman started driving when he was four years old and has not stopped since. He is the first driver to win all three USAC divisions and was named Winston Cup Rookie of the Year in 2002.

Newman's interest in driving may have come from his father, Greg, who had wanted to drive race cars but never had the chance to do so. He ran an auto

Ryan Newman
repair business, and encouraged his son to become a race car driver. Newman's mother also loved racing—the couple drove all night after their wedding in order to make it to a race the next day. When Newman was four and a half years old, he drove in his first quarter midget race. The sport filled his childhood; his father told Stephen Cannella in Sports Illustrated that throughout his childhood, Newman "didn't do much of anything else." By the time he was seven years old, his family saw that he did have a talent for driving, and Newman was a champion midget racer by the age of 17. In all, he had more than 100 victories, and was eventually inducted into the Quarter Midget Hall of Fame.

After graduating with honors from South Bend La-Salle High School in 1996, Newman studied engineering at Purdue University but at the same time, continued to race. He raced USAC sprint cars during the 1999 season, and won the USAC Silver Bullet Series title, making him the first driver to win all three USAC divisions (midget, sprint, and Silver Bullet). Although he had previously only competed in open wheel racing, he decided during the 1999 season that he wanted to race in NASCAR on the Winston Cup circuit.

This was not an easy goal to reach, since in order to drive in NASCAR, Newman had to learn to drive stock cars. However, because he had displayed such potential as a driver, he was signed to Roger Penske's team in 2000. In that year, he drove in five ARCA stock car races, winning three of them. At one race, the EasyCare 100, he led every lap after setting an all-time stock-car qualifying mark at Loew's Motor Speedway. In the same year, he also competed in some NASCAR Busch Series and Winston Cup races.

In 2001, Newman continued to drive part-time for Penske. He drove in the ARCA, Busch, and Winston Cup races, winning his first Busch race in Michigan in August of that year. In addition, he won the ARCO 200 at Daytona International Speedway. During this season, he concentrated on gaining experience, improving his driving, and getting a feel for the length of the races and the way the heavier stock cars handled. However, his wins gave him confidence that he was on the right track.

In August of 2001, he graduated from Purdue, having earned a degree in vehicle structural engineering. That next year was Newman's official Winston Cup rookie year; he continued to drive for Penske and was sponsored by Alltel in the No. 12 Ford. The first half of the season was difficult for him, but he did manage to win the New Hampshire 300. He also set a record for the number of poles won in a rookie year, winning at least six. He won the Winston in Charlotte, North Carolina, and was named the Winston Cup Rookie of the Year. According to the NASCAR website, Newman said of this honor, "It was unbelievable. I feel like I have some of the best people you could ask for on my team. No matter what I've done or what mistakes I've made, they've always stood behind me."

In 2003, the Penske team switched from Ford cars to Dodge vehicles, and Newman drove the No. 12 Dodge for Penske. He was not hurt in a rollover crash at Daytona, and did not finish above seventh place until he won the Samsung/Radio Shack 500. He went on to win the MBNA 400, the Tropicana 400, and the GFS Marketplace 400. In all, he won twice as many races as any other driver did that year, and came close to taking the Winston Cup, ending only 311 points behind champion Matt Kenseth.

One thing that sets Newman and his team apart from many other teams is their use of computerized technology. While other teams make mechanical adjustments to their cars and then test them on the track, Newman and his crew chief, Matt Borland, who is a mechanical engineer, use computer simulations, wind tunnel tests, and computer modeling to examine what effect various changes might have on the Dodge. As veteran driver Bobby Labonte told Sports Illustrated 's Cannella, "Nowadays the cars have gotten so much more sophisticated. There are a lot of smart people working on race teams lately. People are looking at all different ways to win." The Penske shop, in Mooresville, North Carolina, has nine engineers on staff.

Perhaps because of this technology, Newman has become known for his amazing fuel economy, which has allowed him to win more races. For example, in the Banquet 400 at Kansas Speedway in October of 2003, Newman ran a poor qualifier and started 11th. However, he raced the last 117 miles on a single tank of gas, allowing him to pass competitors who had to stop for a fill-up. Most teams drive 4 miles per gallon; Newman, by precisely calculating his car's performance, drove 5.3 miles per gallon in that 177-mile stretch.

Newman's crew also praises his down-to-earth ability to work on cars and the fact that unlike some drivers, he does not mind getting his hands dirty. Mechanic Chad Norris told Sports Illustrated 's Cannella, "If he had to, Ryan could work on his own car. He's pretty mechanically inclined."

After his stellar year in 2003, Newman told Monte Dutton in Auto Racing Digest, "I've gained a lot of experience in the past year and a half. I think that has made a big difference for me personally. There are things you learn at one race track that you can carry over to the other, and there are things that are still specific to certain tracks." On June 20, 2004, Newman won the DHL 400 in Brooklyn, Michigan, and on September 26 of that year, he won the MBNA American 400 in Dover, Delaware.

Newman, who does not usually discuss his personal life with the press, told Bob Myers in Circle Track that although he has many female friends, he is not looking for a relationship and no intention of marrying. He would rather focus his attention and energy on racing. And, he commented, "By the time I'm 40, people will be living to 120. So I can get married when I am 60 and have kids when I'm 80." When Newman is not racing, he spends much of his free time tinkering with old cars, including a 1928 Ford Roadster, a 1939 Hudson, and a 1957 Thunderbird.



Auto Racing Digest, December 2003, p. 22.

Circle Track, April 2002, p. 66.

Sporting News, May 19, 2003, p. 42; November 3, 2003, p. 14.

Sports Illustrated, December 17, 2003, p. 74.


Biography Resource Center Online, Gale Group, 2003. "Driver profile," NASCAR.com, http://www.nascar.com/drivers/dps/rnewman00/bio.html (August 3, 2004).

"Newman dominates Dover; Gordon takes lead," Sports Illustrated, http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2004/racing/09/26/bc.car.nascar.dover.ap/index.html (October 11, 2004).

"Newman gets first win of season," Sports Illustrated, http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2004/racing/06/20/bc.car.nascar.michigan.ap/index.html (October 11, 2004).

—Kelly Winters

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