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Sprint Cup - Newman Race Preview Charlotte

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KANNAPOLIS, Oct. 10, 2012: It could be argued that there’s no track on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series circuit Ryan Newman is better at getting around than Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway.

It was at the 1.5-mile track, largely considered to be the home track for many of NASCAR’s teams, where Newman first made a big splash. And he’s hoping the track will once again prove to be home sweet home for his No. 39 Quicken Loans Racing team, which will play host to Raphael the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle this weekend.

There’s no doubt Newman has made himself right at home in Charlotte since the beginning of his stock car career.

In 2001, in just his third Sprint Cup start while running a partial schedule, Newman shocked the field with a ninja-fast qualifying lap at Charlotte, which earned him the pole position for that year’s Coca-Cola 600. That feat tied Newman with Mark Martin for earliest career Sprint Cup pole.

The following season, Newman once again stunned his competitors when he claimed victory in the 2002 NASCAR All-Star Race in his rookie season. The win was Newman’s first in the Sprint Cup Series, and he won the non-points race in dramatic fashion.

Since Newman didn’t have a Sprint Cup win to his credit at that time, he had to race his No. 12 Penske Racing machine into the main event. Newman transferred into the All-Star Race by winning the 16-lap “No Bull Sprint,” as it was called in 2002.

In the main event, Newman benefited from the inversion of the race field for the final 20 laps. He took the lead two laps into the final segment and never looked back. Although Dale Earnhardt Jr., made a late-race dash, Newman beat him to the finish by .158 of a second to become only the second rookie to win the All-Star Race.

Since that first start at Charlotte back in 2001 when he grabbed the top spot, the South Bend, Ind., native has continued to rack up pole positions at the track. He now has nine poles to his credit at Charlotte – the most of any active Sprint Cup driver. In fact, he is second in all-time poles at the 1.5-mile oval behind the legendary David Pearson, who had 14.

And while he has not recorded a points-paying Sprint Cup win at the racetrack, he does have two wins in addition to his All-Star Race feat – an ARCA victory in 2000 and a NASCAR Nationwide Series victory in 2005.

In 23 Charlotte starts, Newman has four top-five and eight top-10 finishes. In seven starts at Charlotte since joining Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), Newman has five finishes of 14th or better, including his best-ever finish – a second-place effort in May 2009.

It’s obvious that the high-banked, fast racetrack nestled in the heart of NASCAR country is somewhere Newman feels right at home, which is perfect since Quicken Loans, the nation’s largest online retail mortgage lender, adorns the No. 39 Chevy this weekend at Charlotte.

And while the Charlotte racetrack is just like home for Newman, Quicken Loans announced last week that its home for 18 races next season would be the No. 39 SHR Chevrolet.

To celebrate its renewed commitment to Newman and the team, Quicken Loans announced its Skip-a-Year Mortgage Sweepstakes, which fans can enter by visiting Quicken Loans will make a full year of mortgage payments for up to five entrants, making their homes even more enjoyable.

Six races remain in the 2012 season, and Newman continues to strive to be the best of the non-Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship drivers. He’s currently 14th in points, 47 out of 13th. With nine top-10 finishes in the last 13 races, Newman hopes to continue building on that momentum to finish the season on a strong note.

With Raphael the Ninja Turtle at home on the Quicken Loans Chevy this weekend, Newman hopes he can tap into some of the fighting turtle’s strengths to finally celebrate a hometown win and be the “hero-in-a-half-shell” in victory lane at Charlotte.

RYAN NEWMAN, Driver of the No. 39 Quicken Loans Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing:

This weekend, you have both Quicken Loans and Raphael the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle on board your car at Charlotte. Talk about that and how cool it is to be associated with both.

“It’s always fun to do something different, and I appreciate sponsors like Quicken Loans who are willing to have a little fun with the car and make things like this promotion happen. When most people think of a mortgage company, excitement probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. But, I have to tell you, Quicken Loans is a fun company. I’ve been to their headquarters in Detroit a few times and their offices are full of unique things. They hired a graffiti artist to decorate the office, there’s a basketball court right in the middle of a floor, arcade games, and my favorite is ping pong. So it’s cool that they are using this weekend as the perfect way to show fans their fun side – by having a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle on the car. And Raphael is the perfect turtle for me because he has his own rescue pet, a turtle named Spike. That’s pretty cool. Hopefully, I can be the ‘hero in a half-shell’ in victory lane on Saturday night.”

Quicken Loans just announced that they would be returning to your team as the primary sponsor for 18 races in 2013. What does that mean to you?

“I’m really glad Quicken Loans has found a home with the No. 39 team and Stewart-Haas Racing. They have been a great partner, and I’ve had the chance to go to Detroit and meet a lot of the people who are part of the company. It’s a great group. Looking back at the 2012 season, we’ve only done five races so far with Quicken Loans, so we have four races left and we’re really excited to represent them some more in 2012 before we even get into 2013. For us right now, the goal is to get them into victory lane in the four races we have left with them this year. We’re also looking forward to giving away a free mortgage for a year through their Skip-A-Year Mortgage Sweepstakes. I told them it would be nice if I could enter, but I’m looking forward to making some race fans happy and giving them a break on their mortgage.”

You have nine poles at Charlotte. You are first among active drivers in pole positions at the track and second behind David Pearson, who has 14. What makes you so good at qualifying at Charlotte, and what does it mean for you to win the pole there?

“In general, I like this racetrack. I like the speed. I like the banking. When I first went there with Buddy Baker, we drove around in a rental car and, after one lap, I told him I was going to like this place. I always have. It’s a place I like. I’ve been fortunate to have good equipment and I’ve been able to take that good equipment and make it fast. It’s just a combination of team effort and, nine times out of 23, we’ve been able to pull it off (winning the pole). Ultimately, what we all strive for is to be the fastest, to be the best, to be the quickest and get to victory lane. It would mean a lot to me. I think David Pearson was an excellent racecar driver. Still is. Ultimately, it’s just a number, but to be where I am and have a shot at it, that’s cool. But I’m still a long way away. It took me this long to get nine. Not that it took me that long, but it’s not easy to win one, and five more is not going to be easy at all. But I know that, when we go to Charlotte, we know we want to have what it takes to have a shot at the pole. I really enjoy the racetrack – the speed, obviously, and the banking. I’ve always said I really enjoy banked racetracks and this is one of the best and fastest banked racetracks out there. I’ve had fast racecars with Penske Racing and now with Stewart-Haas Racing and just have been blessed with fast racecars. I couldn’t do it without fast racecars. I’ve always told my crew chief, whoever it is at the time, ‘If you give me a straight arrow, I’ll shoot it straight. But don’t expect me to shoot a crooked arrow to the pole.’ And they’ve done a very good job for me.”

You said that you knew from the first time you and Buddy Baker took a lap in a rental car around the 1.5-mile Charlotte track that you were going to like it. Explain what you like about Charlotte.

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“It’s the centerfold of racetracks. It’s just sexy. I said that in an interview once to Buddy Baker, and he just laughed at me. But to me, it is. It’s got the banking. It’s different on both ends. It’s fast. There’s a lot of grip. If you’re going to build some criteria for a racetrack, I think that’s what makes a perfect track.”

You have nines poles at Charlotte, but you haven’t been able to turn those poles into wins. Why not? What would a win at Charlotte mean to you?

“Honestly, every time I’ve won the pole there, that seems to be a question that comes up. And in May, I kind of laughed and told the reporters, ‘Seriously, you tell me. You listen to everybody who has come in here after they’ve won and they tell you how they’ve won. So just go ahead and tell me what you know, if you want me to win.’ Honestly, I just don’t know the answer. I’ve had really good racecars there. I’ve had really bad racecars. I’ve had good racecars that have gone bad and bad racecars that have gone good, but I’ve just never been the one to cross the start-finish line first. I won the All-Star Race in 2002, and I’ve been fairly close to winning at Charlotte in a points race before. I’ve had some fast racecars at Charlotte and, at the end of the race, I’ve just fallen short. For me, my All-Star Race win at Charlotte during my rookie season in 2002 was really special because that was the race we weren’t expected to win. I was a rookie. We weren’t even in the race to begin with, but we raced our way in that night. And we beat everybody at the home field on a given night and we did it because of the pride and the money, not because of the points, and there’s a lot to be said about that. So, to me, a win at Charlotte would mean the world.”