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Behind the Wheel: Newman 'loves' Charlotte, looks for Victory Lane

October 11, 2012, Ryan Newman, Special to NASCAR.COM, NASCAR.com



Behind the Wheel: Newman 'loves' Charlotte, looks for Victory Lane

A couple of years ago, I was out at Charlotte Motor Speedway doing an event for Coca-Cola to kick off the Coke 600 weekend. I was doing some interviews, and I had a chance to be on the radio with my good friend Buddy Baker.

Buddy was my mentor when I got to Penske Racing and I was running the partial A-B-C schedule (ARCA, the Busch Series, as it was known then, and the Sprint Cup Series). Buddy went to tests with me and he helped me learn how to get around the race tracks.

"I've had good race cars that have gone bad, and bad race cars that have gone good -- but I've just never been the one to cross the start-finish line first [at CMS]."

--RYAN NEWMAN

He was a great teacher because he didn't tell me how to do something or what I should do. He told me what NOT to do. And I think I probably learned a lot more from him because of that. Charlotte was one of the race tracks where Buddy really helped me out. When we first came to Charlotte and drove around the track in a rental car, I looked at Buddy after one lap and said, "I think I'm going to like this track."

And that brings me back to the interview. On the show that day, I said that if a race track could be sexy, then Charlotte was the "Centerfold of Race tracks." The comment drew quite a few chuckles, but I meant it. It's got the banking; it's different on both ends; it's fast; there's a lot of grip. And, in my opinion, if you're going to build some criteria for a race track, I think those are the things that make a perfect track.

That's why I love Charlotte. Yes, it's nice to be home for a week and not on the road. But to me, I love racing at that track. I wish I had more poles and a points-paying win to show for it. I've been fortunate enough to win nine Cup poles, the Sprint All-Star Race, a Nationwide Series race and an ARCA race. It would be nice to finally get that first Cup win at Charlotte this weekend. A Charlotte win would mean the world to me. I mean, let's be honest, I've proven I can get around the race track -- at least in qualifying.

It's kind of funny -- every time I've won the pole there, the question that comes up is, "What does it take to win at Charlotte." And now, I just kind of laugh and tell the reporters, 'Seriously, you tell me.' Those guys listen to everybody who comes in to the media center after they've won and talk about how they've won. So, just go ahead and tell me what you know, if you want me to win. When you get down to it, I just don't know the answer. I've had really good race cars there. I've had really bad race cars. I've had good race cars that have gone bad, and bad race cars that have gone good -- but I've just never been the one to cross the start-finish line first. I've had some fast race cars at Charlotte and, at the end of the race, I've fallen just short.

So, that's been the most difficult part. But, no matter the outcome at Charlotte, there's always a lot of pride on the line to win in our own backyard. And that's another reason I really want to win there. It would be especially cool to win at Charlotte this weekend. Quicken Loans has teamed up with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and I have Raphael the Turtle on my car. In fact, you'll probably see me walking around with the big green guy during the course of the weekend.

I don't know a whole lot about the Turtles because they came on TV right as I was getting out of cartoons, but I do know Raphael is tough and the strongest of all the Turtles. I also know he's a lot like me because he rescued a pet turtle and named him Spike. So, we do have some things in common.

Hopefully, he'll help me in my quest to get that win at Charlotte.

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.