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Behind the Wheel: Phoenix always a welcome sight for Newman

March 01, 2012, Ryan Newman, Special to NASCAR.COM, NASCAR.com

Ryan Newman says he's honored to have won a Daytona 500, but the actual racing there holds no charm for him. (Autostock)

Newman happy to leave Daytona, happier to have second daughter on the way

To say that I was ready to leave Daytona and head to Phoenix is quite the understatement. In fact, I think I told one of the drivers I was ready to go to Phoenix after the Budweiser Shootout. Racing at Daytona just isn't one of my favorite things to do.

It's an honor to be able to race in the Daytona 500 and even to have won one, but I'm looking forward to getting back to a race track where I have a little more control of the situation than I do in the pack racing at Daytona. Daytona ended up being a disappointment for us.

"That fire was one of the most bizarre things I have ever seen. It was pretty amazing to look up in the stands and see how many race fans were there to see the Daytona 500 in prime time on a Monday night. "

--RYAN NEWMAN

I don't have a lot to say about Daytona except for one thing -- we have the best fans of any sport. Our fans hung in there through two rain postponements and a massive fire and cleanup. And yes, that fire was one of the most bizarre things I have ever seen. It was pretty amazing to look up in the stands and see how many race fans were there to see the Daytona 500 in prime time on a Monday night. Thank you for being fans. And I hope we made even a few more fans along the way.

So, what was the best thing about getting out of Daytona? For me and Krissie, it was getting home in time to find out on Tuesday that we are going to have a baby girl in late July. Brooklyn is really excited to have a little sister.

It's going to be a great year, and we're both very excited to meet our little girl. July will be here before we know it, especially considering all the time we will be on the road before then.

But now, it's on to Phoenix. I'm really looking forward to getting to Phoenix. I've often said I don't feel like our season really gets started until the second race of the season because Daytona is such a crapshoot.

Phoenix, on the other hand, is a driver's race track, and it's probably one of my favorites. It's a unique track that can be pretty challenging because of the design and how the track is different on both ends. Therefore, the crew chief can only get one end perfect, it seems, and the other one the driver has to adapt to. It's not a compromise if your crew chief does a good job setting up the race car because you can do things to try to manipulate those opposite ends of the race track. But, when your car is not working, it's up to the driver to make up what you can of what's left, and that I think separates the men from the boys at Phoenix. The driver really has to drive and hustle the car a little bit more and a little bit differently and still be smooth. It's those aspects that make the track a lot of fun to me.

I really thought Phoenix did a nice job getting the track ready for us last fall. The racing itself was good, and the track, I don't think, is a huge difference. I was pleasantly surprised with how good it was to drive. They worked really hard to put rubber down on the track, and we had two grooves for the better part of the race. The track was probably at its best when the checkered flag fell and, with time, weather and a couple of months of aging, I'm sure it has already improved. I think it will only be better by the time we race this Sunday.

The biggest thing for the No. 39 WIX Filters Chevy this weekend is that we have a good run. We didn't get the finish we wanted in Daytona, so we are in a little bit of hole, which is kind of familiar territory for us. But we need to take advantage of the tracks where we run well and maximize the points we can get. Phoenix is one of those tracks. We have had very strong runs at Phoenix recently, and we want to continue that. We have a good setup for that race track, and we have been able to capitalize on that.

Behind the Wheel with Ryan Newman runs twice a month on NASCAR.COM as he shares his experiences throughout the season, both at and away from the track. Follow him on Twitter at @RyanNewman39 and online at www.ryannewman.org and www.ryannewmanfoundation.org. The opinions expressed are solely those of Newman.