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Ryan Newman: too tough to pass? Hey, maybe that's just the spirit this sport needs

Ryan Newman: too tough to pass? Hey, maybe that's just the spirit this sport needs

Ryan Newman: taught by old-school Buddy Baker (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern

   DOVER, Del.
   Ryan Newman might have the solution.
   Old school.
   Newman was taught by old-school Buddy Baker...who didn't wait till the final miles of a race to make his presence known.
   Darrell Waltrip says when he was asked recently by Jeff Burton 'What's wrong with our racing?' Waltrip told Burton it was drivers too willing to wave a rival around to pass. Can't afford to make any mistakes these days, not with those valuable playoff points on the line.
   Well no one would accuse Newman of being that easy to pass. If he puts up a hand when you come up to try and pass him, well, he won't be giving a 'But certainly, sir.'
   In fact Newman has the reputation of being the toughest guy on the track to pass.
   It doesn't faze him.
   Maybe action on the track would be better if more drivers adopted Newman's attitude.

    "I guess that's a good award to win," Newman says.
    "Unfortunately I've been passed, so somebody found out."
     Well, maybe. It hasn't been a great season for  Newman; not bad, certainly, with that Martinsville win, but not great. He's led only those 12 laps at Martinsville.
    However he's hanging in there close to top-10, and the eventual playoff cut.
    Regardless, Newman's rep of almost too tough to pass is still strong. Just ask Jimmie Johnson, who was trying to win at Texas a few weeks ago, only to run up on Newman, determined not to lose another lap to the leaders.
    Newman insists he's trying to learn when to give and when not to.
     "I've talked to several different drivers about this," Newman says. "I was never taught to give-and-take; I was always taught to race hard.
     "Going back to quarter-midgets, and especially in stock cars, I was always taught to race hard. Buddy Baker never taught me that."
    Give and take?
     "I don't think that they did that back in the '80's," Newman says.
    "I think that was more of a Mark Martin late-90s and early 2000s thing.
     "I always had fast-enough cars that I never had to give; I could always take. And that came back to haunt me, I guess, for a few years, because I was the one getting turned around, because I wasn't giving it up...and rightfully so, probably, because I didn't know, didn't get taught that.
    "So I'm trying to be better at the give-and-take thing."

   Paul Menard: "Just as bull-headed as I am," Ryan Newman says. But they've made peace. (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   And if a newcomer to the sport were to ask for advice about this 'give-and-take' thing?
   Newman says no one has asked him.
   "Joey Logano has probably been the only guy that's come along that's young that would need that lesson, in my eyes," Newman says.
   "You've got a guy like Trevor Bayne who's got some experience; but he's not really full-time and never really had that run-in.
   "I've had problems with other guys who are just as bull-headed as I am, and I'm not afraid to say it. A guy like Paul Menard is just that: We raced each other hard every time we got around each other. That's just how we did it.
    "And it was frustrating to both of us; but we made good out of it.
     "We never crashed each other, per se; it was just the way we raced.
     "So we don't do that quite so much anymore. We've both learned how to adjust... and be faster, both of us."

  Big Buddy Baker: as tough a drive as ever ran a NASCAR lap. BTW, wonder when he'll get voted into that new Hall of Fame? (Photo: Getty  Images for NASCAR)
    Newman has more on his plate at the moment. His contract with Tony Stewart appears up at the end of the season, and it's renewable time.    
   How that plays out may become clearly over the next few weeks.
    One issue: Danica Patrick. She's probably going to step up to full-time Cup driving next season, and it's not clear if Stewart wants to run a three-car operation.
    Since Patrick has sponsorship and Newman's sponsorship sometimes looks like a jigsaw puzzle, it may be up to Newman to make the plays.
    One item at the top of Newman's agenda, that U.S. Army sponsorship, a part-time deal worth about $7 million a year. That's far less than what Dale Earnhardt Jr. appears to be getting for his National Guard sponsorship.
    And Washington politicians are talking about cutting those deals, as too frivolous.


   Ryan Newman (L) with owner Tony Stewart: will there be room for Newman next season if Danica Patrick goes full-time Cup? (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


    Is Newman going to get out front on the U.S. Army stuff?
    "No, I’ll let Junior do the political work;  I'll do the engineering work when it comes down to it. 
    "I have read some of the things  he has said, and I've read some of the things the senators have talked about.       
    "In the end there is a reason why the Army and National Guard and everybody else is doing what they are doing:  We are raising awareness, we are raising education, we are helping recruitment. 
    "From a financial stand point we can argue until we are blue in the eyes, about the price of gasoline and everything else.  From my stand point I'm proud to represent them.  I'm proud to do what we are doing and have the relationship and to represent the soldiers. 
     "I think Junior feels the same way. 
    "It's special.  It's a special sponsorship for us. 
     "It is a nice outlet for the soldiers, to be able to come and enjoy what we do.  There is a bunch of them that are race fans too.  Obviously, some senators aren't, but that is okay."


  Dale Earnhardt Jr., one of several NASCAR stars sporting U.S. military sponsorship colors (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


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