Ryan Newman ready to clear Darlington hurdle

Ryan Newman, driver of the #39 Tornados Chevrolet, races Juan Pablo Montoya, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series SHOWTIME Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on May 7, 2011 in Darlington, South Carolina. (Photo by Geoff Burke/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Ryan Newman, driver of the #39 Tornados Chevrolet, races Juan Pablo Montoya, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series SHOWTIME Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on May 7, 2011 in Darlington, South Carolina. (Photo by Geoff Burke/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Ryan Newman’s fondness for Darlington Raceway has translated to positive results over the years. A victory has been the only thing lost in translation.

Newman hopes that his luck will change to put him over the hump at NASCAR’s oldest superspeedway in Saturday night’s Bojangles’ Southern 500 (FOX, 7 p.m. ET).

“I’ve always loved Darlington,” Newman said. “When we first went and tested a Nationwide car there back in the day, it just fit me. I’ve always had good cars there, a good feeling and I look forward to another opportunity.”

The opportunities to contend for a win at the historic circuit have been plentiful since Newman joined the Sprint Cup Series full-time in 2002; his Darlington portfolio has an impressive seven top-five finishes in 13 races.

Additionally, Newman — one of the series’ best qualifiers — has five front-row starts and one pole position at the 1.366-mile track. That history could tilt in his favor in Friday’s qualifying as he sits just one pole away from a milestone 50th Coors Light Pole Award.

One thing that hasn’t been on his side is Darlington racing luck.

“We had a dominant race car (in 2003) and they gave me a drink bottle and I hit the kill switch and we never realized it for six laps under green,” said Newman, who led the most laps (120) but finished 23rd in that year’s Southern 500. “Crazy things have happened to us and we’ll just try to go back and try another shot. We used to have two chances and now we only have one, so there’s a lot of pressure on us.”

Another driver who will grab plenty of spotlight at Darlington is Danica Patrick, who appeared with Newman at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Thursday to promote the May 27 Coca-Cola 600. Patrick will be pulling double-duty in the Nationwide and Sprint Cup races this weekend in hopes of gaining as much experience as possible in her first visit to one of the sport’s trickiest tracks.

Patrick plans to enter 10 Sprint Cup races this year; given the choice, she said she’d rather Darlington came later on that 10-race slate.

“I just think that’s not the way the schedule worked out,” said Patrick, whose only other Sprint Cup start was an abbreviated 38th-place finish this year in the Daytona 500. “I mean to be honest, it was going to be Darlington first, so at least I’ve driven the car, at least I’m comfortable with the guys, at least I’m fitting comfortably in the car, and we’ve had time to test. It could’ve been worse, but it’s as good as it can be.”

Greg Biffle, on the heels of his fifth-place finish last weekend at Talladega, remains the Sprint Cup Series leader, heading Roush Fenway Racing teammate Matt Kenseth by seven points in the standings. Biffle is a two-time Southern 500 winner, going back-to-back in 2005 and ’06.


Two drivers that made splashy debuts in the NASCAR Nationwide Series last month at Richmond International Raceway are back for second helpings this weekend.

Action sports star Travis Pastrana and second-generation driver Ryan Blaney will be back on track Friday night (ESPN2, 7 p.m. ET) in the VFW Sports Clips Help a Hero 200 at Darlington Raceway.

Pastrana finished 22nd in his series debut April 27 at Richmond after incurring a late-race penalty for speeding on pit road. Blaney, son of Sprint Cup driver Dave Blaney, dazzled with a solid seventh-place finish in a star-studded field. Both drivers emerged from Richmond with their cars relatively unscathed, but expect Darlington to be less forgiving.

In an effort to pick up advice on getting around the sport’s oldest superspeedway, Pastrana sought out one of the masters — NASCAR Hall of Famer David Pearson, a South Carolina native and 10-time Darlington winner. The two met during a promotional appearance at Greenville-Pickens Speedway, and Pastrana was grateful to learn from a stock-car racing legend.

“It really has been amazing to see the people willing to help me each week,” Pastrana said. “I have received help from Jimmie Johnson, Matt Crafton and Ryan Truex, just to name a few. It’s just amazing all these people are willing to help me when they have to race against me each week. In motocross, you never told another competitor your secrets. It just wasn’t part of the culture.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. enters the event with a head of steam as the new Nationwide Series points leader, five points ahead of Elliott Sadler after last weekend’s third-place effort at Talladega. In the last seven races, Stenhouse — the defending series champ — has two wins and has finished no worse than sixth.


The Race: Bojangles’ Southern 500

The Place: Darlington Raceway

The Date: Saturday, May 12

The Time: 7 p.m. (ET)

TV: FOX, 6:30 p.m. (ET)

Radio: MRN, Sirius XM Ch. 90

Distance: 501.3 miles (367 laps)


The Race: VFW Sport Clips Help a Hero 200

The Place: Darlington Raceway

The Date: Friday, May 11

The Time: 7:15 p.m. (ET)

TV: ESPN2, 6:30 p.m. (ET)

Radio: MRN, Sirius XM Ch. 90

Distance: 200.8 miles (147 laps)

Greg Engle
About Greg Engle 7421 Articles
Greg is a published award winning sportswriter who spent 23 years combined active and active reserve military service, much of that in and around the Special Operations community. Greg is the author of "The Nuts and Bolts of NASCAR: The Definitive Viewers' Guide to Big-Time Stock Car Auto Racing" and has been published in major publications across the country including the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He was also a contributor to Chicken Soup for the NASCAR Soul, published in 2010, and the Christmas edition in 2016. He wrote as the NASCAR, Formula 1, Auto Reviews and National Veterans Affairs Examiner for Examiner.com and has appeared on Fox News. He holds a BS degree in communications, a Masters degree in psychology and is currently a PhD candidate majoring in psychology. He is currently the weekend Motorsports Editor for Autoweek.