Sunday, 20 February, was a day of excitement, thrills, victory and remembrance at Daytona International Speedway. Tribute was also paid to Dale Earnhardt Sr., who ten years ago, on the 18th of February, was involved in a fatal crash at Daytona. Always driving the number three car, fans stood in silence holding up three fingers on the third lap of the Daytona 500 in remembrance of a legend. It was not long after that, that the action on the speedway started, with black flags, car crashes and an unforgettable victory for Trevor Bayne.
The 2011 Daytona 500 was a race that kept everyone busy. Spectators were holding onto their seats as collisions caused restarts and no less than seventy-four lead changes. Clean up crews had their hands full and even Ryan Newman and Dale Earnhardt Jr. were taken out the race due to a crash a mere six laps from the finish. The Daytona 500 was also sent into an overtime period due to another incident four laps from the finish. A mistake made by David Regan on a restart, by changing lanes too soon, saw Trevor Bayne take the lead, and experienced drivers fighting to find a way to outclass the twenty year old rookie.
Trevor Bayne drives for the Wood Brothers racing team, which was established in 1950 by Glen Wood. The team tasted their first success in North Carolina on 16 October 1960. But in the last ten years, the team has not enjoyed one victory, until their well-known red and white Ford crossed that finish line with an elated Bayne behind the wheel.
When asked about the black flag incident that put him in the lead, Bayne commented: “That rule is tough. Do I agree with it? I don’t know what to say because we’re sitting here in victory lane… Neither one of us might have ended up in victory lane had he not gotten black-flagged. I have to thank them for getting us up there because if it wasn’t for them we never would have been in that situation to take the lead.”
An elated Eddie Wood, team owner, commented: “We never did quit. We just kept trying. Bringing back the red and white car with the gold numbers that Pearson drove, that just seemed like it put things back to normal.”
Trevor Bayne also became the youngest driver to win the Daytona 500, in the history of the race.
Ryan Joseph Newman was born in South Bend, Indiana on December 8, 1977 and is currently a driver for NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Newman and the late Alan Kulwicki are one of the few drivers who attained a college degree before racing for NASCAR. Ryan Newman graduated with a B.S. in vehicle structure engineering and Kulwicki with a mechanical engineering degree from Purdue University in 2001.
Ryan Newman has had a fantastic career in motor sports. Amongst his awards have been the following USAC Silver Crown Rookie of the Year (1996), USAC Weld Racing Silver Crown Series Champion (1999), Winston Cup Rookie of the Year (2002), Sprint All-Star Race XVIII winner, 2003 Driver of the Year, and winner of the 2008 Daytona 500. As of the end of 2009, Ryan Newman’s stats were looking impressive: 13 wins and 121 top ten finishes in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series; 7 wins with 27 top tens in the NASCAR Nationwide Series; and 1 win, plus 3 top tens in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
Between 2003 and 2006 Newman was invited specifically to the International Race of Champions three times and came second to Matt Kenseth in 2004.
Ryan Newman and his wife Krissie run the Ryan Newman Foundation. The foundation has no association to racing but focuses primarily on unwanted dogs and cats in pounds and shelters ensuring that they receive adequate care. Newman also helped with the funding of the Catawba Country, North Carolina Humane Society shelter, which was constructed in his home county. Ryan Newman also enjoys spending time working on vintage cars, particularly the 1950’s Chrysler and apart from that enjoys fishing.
The Daytona 500 is known as one of the premier NASCAR events. It has always been a venue of victory, disappointment and thrilling racing, and Sunday was no different. A victory for Roger Penske, fourteen time winner of the Indianapolis 500, and his team at the Daytona 500 had eluded them for twenty four years. But through the determination and teamwork of Penske Dodge drivers, Kurt Busch and Ryan Newman, they took first and second place, with Ryan Newman crossing the finish line first.
It was just another reminder that nothing is cast in stone and that anything is possible in racing, even in the last lap of a race. For most spectators and racing enthusiasts, the Daytona 500 was clear cut. After winning most of the events at the Speed Weeks, it seemed that the battle for the winning position would be between the Hendrick Motorsports’ Chevrolets and the Joe Gibbs’ Toyotas. And for a while, right up until lap 199, it seemed certain that Tony Steward would win, especially after taking the white flag.
But the Penske Dodge drivers were not prepared to give up and stayed right on top of Steward. While Steward was trying to keep both Busch and Newman at bay, Kurt Busch saw an opportunity for his team and led Steward to believe that he was going hard into the inside. As Steward dropped low to block Busch, both Penske drivers overtook him on the top, giving Ryan Newman the chance to take the win for the Penske team.
Both Newman and Busch have put the win down to teamwork and seeing it as a team victory and not as an individual victory. Ryan Newman winning the Daytona 500 could not have been a more memorable day for Roger Penske, as it was not only a fiftieth celebration for the racing event, but a first win of the Daytona 500 for Penske.
Racing has always been an unpredictable sport, and while the Penske team celebrated, others were nursing their loss and looking towards the next race to improve their cars and their strategies. And in true racing spirit, Rick Hendrick ensured that he was the first in Victory Lane to extend a hand of sincere congratulations to Roger Penske.
Ryan Newman may be one of the most exciting (and good looking!) drivers seen in NASCAR racing, but that is not his most endearing trait. He may have a stunning career ahead, having already grabbed a place in the Quarter-Midget Hall of Fame, but that is not the most admirable thing about him. He may have an engineering qualification in a field related to auto racing, but so what? Ryan Newman is a top prospect for NASCAR racing, and has more than a century of feature wins under his muscular frame. However, his humility and concern for fans is what makes him just adorable!
“If you can touch one person’s heart, then you’ve accomplished something.”
We normally expect such statements from members of the clergy, but this one is from Ryan’s heart. It really sums up his character, and shows the mettle behind the metal and exhaust of his exhilarating track performances. Here is a man who relies on inner strength at least as much as on the technology between the wheels. Newman hits NASCAR like a tornado of fresh and fragrant air. Here is the kind of attitude that we all seek: aggression on the job, and all grace off it. Ryan is a rare bird in a world where even lesser men stride around as though they own the world. He is simple, down-to-earth, and loves the NASCAR fans as much as they do him.
It is heartening to see a person of Newman’s scholastic aptitude in NASCAR racing. Engineering is not all about math and construction and whatever in Ryan’s case. He brings his carefully acquired knowledge to bear on his profession, and makes NASCAR racing all the more enjoyable because he knows how to get the best from the Dodge he drives, and how far he can stretch it on the track. Ryan’s a new breed of NASCAR heroes, who have brains to go with the brawn! Everyone who has the pleasure of interacting with him is taken aback by the force of his personality, and how he relates to people around him.
One of Newman’s best trophies is not from NASCAR racing, but from the brilliant field of fine dining! The Ryan Newman Foundation has romped home with a cash prize for an amazing catfish dish that can do the rounds of your palate like his NASCAR stuff! Only ‘Rocket man,’ as NASCAR followers love to call him could have dreamed up the brainwave of using beer as batter for sea food! The end result is certainly worth a taste, and you must try it sometime!