Father-son bond drives 500 winner
Security was a bit wanting at the Daytona International Speedway garage gate in the early 1990s, or Newman and his son,
On Sunday, the junior Newman stood in the driver's meeting before the 50th running of the Daytona 500. There was Foyt, being recognized with the rest of the legendary living winners.
By Sunday night, Newman was roaring through Turn 4, Penske Racing teammate
And so he did.
Newman had come to his first Daytona 500 at age 15 with his father. They slept on hotel floors, ate Krispy Kreme donuts for breakfast and dinner, "made a good time of it.''
Though twice that age now, an established star with a powerful team, Newman still couldn't comprehend on Monday that he had actually won the Daytona 500.
"[My father] would pick me up from work and pull me out of school. The stipulation was I had to have my schoolwork done,'' he remembered. "We had a logbook for records of which state we could clear the fastest. Four hours South Bend to Kentucky. We had a hot rod Cadillac. It was all good times.
"One of the first things we talked about this weekend, 'Remember pulling into a Cracker Barrel and sleeping?' I remember getting up in the middle of night having to take a leak and it was raining too hard so I just stayed in the car. We've been through a lot of things. True story. So much effort has gone into me sitting here.''
Greg Newman's racing career ended at age 9 -- basically at its inception -- in a parking lot where he and his father one afternoon tested a three-quarter midget they had built. "He was riding on a nerf bar, reached in front of me where I couldn't see and I hit a lightpole,'' Greg Newman recalled. "It put him and I both in the hospital. I was unconscious for a day and my mother said the race car is going away and what started to be my racing career was over the same day.''
It began anew, in effect, 16 years later when Ryan was born, the first of two children and Greg and
By the father's recollection, his son could disassemble and assemble the quarter midgets he was preparing for him by age five and a half. Every night he made Ryan give it a hug and a kiss. Newman had already been racing for a year by then. Every night Ryan could pry his father away from work, he'd win the Daytona 500 on the high-banked slot car track they had erected in the basement.
"I think we were both
The allure and mystique of open wheel racing is strong in Indiana, but Newman decided as a teenager that stock car racing was his path. He initially tested a car with Panther Racing -- which won two Indy Racing League titles with his new Sprint Cup teammate,
Ironically, Diane Newman's recollections of a horrible crash by her son in the 2003 Daytona 500 -- where his No. 12 Dodge shredded and began cartwheeling after its axle dug into the apron grass -- in part prevented her from being at the track on Sunday. She had stayed home to comfort a recently widowed friend, but called her husband around 2:30 p.m. on race day expressing her sadness about not being there.
Another conspicuously absent loved one was former Penske Racing president
"Without Don we would absolutely not be here,'' Greg Newman said.
So as drivers fired their engines on Sunday, Greg called Ryan, keyed his radio microphone and pressed the phone speaker to it.
"Don's favorite saying is, 'Drive it like you stole it, Rain Man','' So he got to do it,'' the father said, tearing up.
Newman's career seemingly began anew with the victory, or at least ended an 81-race winless streak. A one-time prodigy who led NASCAR's highest level with eight wins in his second full season in 2003, he's claimed victory just four times since. A once-brilliant chemistry with crew chief
But the rest was up to Newman. He'd never again need a credential, legitimate or otherwise, in this place if this worked out.
So he fell back on some sage advice: Act like you know what you're doing. And keep going.