The Indiana native is quiet, introspective and analytical; qualities typical of a man with an engineering degree from Purdue University. While many of his colleagues rely on a heavy right foot and an overabundant supply of testosterone, Newman views NASCAR racing as a complex column of figures to be tallied, an analytical theorem that –when properly solved -- leads straight to Victory Lane. He is an enigma; at once a bookish bean-counter and a “take no prisoners” wheelman, fully worthy of the nickname “Rocketman.”
This week, just a few days after being told that he will not return to Stewart Haas Racing in 2014, Newman sharpened his competitive pencil on home turf at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He claimed his 50th career pole – the first in nearly two years – by bouncing runaway point leader Jimmie Johnson from the top spot, setting a new track record as the final man to qualify. He then capitalized on a race Johnson late-race miscue to claim his 16th career Sprint Cup Series win and his first since Martinsville in the spring of 2012.
When an errant lug nut pushed Johnson’s final pit stop into the 17-second range Sunday, Newman and crew chief Matt Borland saw their chance to capitalize. Borland called for a two-tire change and his Quicken Loans team delivered, sending Newman back to the race track with an eight-second lead that he easily held to the finish.
"If you're going to win races and win championships, you have to go toe to toe with them," bottom-lined Borland afterward.
“I just wanted it to stay green," admitted a beaming Newman, showing more emotion than you might expect from a man versed in the use of a slide rule. "Matt made an amazing call, and boy, what an ending. I can't wait to get over there to kiss those bricks.”
In short order, he did just that, joining wife Krissie and his two young daughters in one of the happiest “Yard of Bricks” photo ops in Indy’s two-decade NASCAR history. Year-old Ashlyn politely declined to pucker up for the cameras. Big-sister Brooklyn went through the motions, then enveloped her father in a bear hug sweet enough to make observers laugh out loud.
"I don't show a lot of emotion,” said Newman. “I think everybody knows that. (But) this is a dream come true. If (the impact of winning) hits you all at once, it's not right. This will probably take a week.”
And despite the positive impact Sunday’s win will almost certainly have on his future employment prospects, Newman insisted on looking backward instead of ahead; tallying a column filled with former benefactors who helped him make it to the grandest stage any racer with Hoosier blood in his veins can imagine.
“Everybody that has been a part of my racing career -- the people that bought my racing uniform, bought me a right rear tire, gave us a credit card to get to some racetrack at some point in my career -- those are the people who helped me get to where I am today," he said.
“It's awesome to be here at Indy. It's awesome because it's my home state. I've raced go karts at every go kart track around here (and) been kicked out of half of them. Those are the things that make it special. I think about those things more than I carry the emotion on my cheeks."
That’s all the emotion you’re gonna get out of Ryan Newman most days.
And on this day, it was more than enough.