So perhaps it’s understandable that Ryan Newman and the No. 39 Haas Automation team spent part of this week researching family genealogy, in hope of finding enough Irish in them to change their luck in Sunday’s St. Patrick’s Day race at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Through Irish history, there has been plenty of misfortune. The Irish live on land that has frequently been taken from them, by the British, the Vikings and other conquerors. However, they have been able to survive famine, war, starvation and prejudice. Not exactly “lucky” by definition; but certainly determined to succeed, even when the odds are stacked heavily against them.
Newman and the No. 39 team started the season on a high note, scoring a fifth-place finish in the season-opening Daytona 500. Since then, however, they have been bitten by misfortune at almost every turn. Early season struggles are not unchartered territory for Stewart-Haas Racing, who found themselves in similar positions in 2009 and 2010, entering the fourth race of the season 33rd and 32nd in points, respectively.
“I really enjoy racing at Bristol Motor Speedway,” said the comeback-minded Newman. “I enjoy the re-configuration of the track. I hope we’ll have a tire there this weekend that will allow us to use all three or four lanes of the track.
“I have always liked the banked racetracks, in general, over the flatter racetracks. So in some ways, you could say I’m more comfortable at Bristol. Bristol has always been one of those short tracks that everybody loves, and obviously, that has changed with the different surface. Ultimately, it’s still a great short track. I really love the banking and I love the fact it’s concrete and doesn’t seem like it changes a whole lot. Once you get a car right, it’s typically right for 500 laps, which is difficult to get on some of the racetracks.
“I’ve told people before that Bristol is like a baby superspeedway,” he said. “If something happens in front of you, it may not be your fault, but you can get caught up in somebody else’s wreck in the blink of an eye. You have to really be on your toes at Bristol. Everything happens so fast there. You don’t have time to think or blink. To me, the racing is at an all-time high at Bristol, compared to the way it used to be. We can race side-by-side and actually gain spots without having to wreck someone.”
This weekend, Newman heads to Bristol 31st in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points, and one can’t blame the No. 39 team for looking to this weekend’s race to help reverse their fortunes once again. So if you see Newman or his crew picking four-leaf clovers and sporting some green this weekend, it’s because it doesn’t hurt to be safe, rather than sorry.