News & Media

Behind the Wheel: Bristol holds soft spot for Newman

March 15, 2012, Ryan Newman, Special to NASCAR.COM,

Bristol return always brings Newman a smile; he's also excited about fan contest

When people think about me and Bristol, I'm pretty sure the first question I get is about qualifying there. After all, Bristol is where I got the nickname "Rocketman."

Someone actually asked me about it the other day. I got the nickname from one of the FOX announcers on TV after I ran my lap -- they said that I "rocketed off the corners" -- and it has just kind of stuck since that day.

"If you win the contest, just be ready for a good time. We like to joke around and laugh a lot."


It's funny, I don't think about that a lot when I'm at Bristol. But I do occasionally remember that day and it's still pretty cool to think about it. It's still cool that I have the track record at Bristol. And, believe me, I remember the number -- 14.90 seconds. But Bristol has changed a lot since then.

It's a different race track, a different race car, a different tire compound, so it's a completely different scenario than it was back in 2003 when I turned that quick lap in qualifying. But it's still a pretty cool story.

Going into Bristol this weekend, our No. 39 Quicken Loans Chevrolet team is more focused and determined than ever. After our first top-five finish in Las Vegas last weekend, I feel like our No. 39 team has the ball rolling in the right direction. Now, we just have to keep the momentum going with a good run at Bristol this weekend.

Bristol has been a favorite track for me, Tony Gibson and the No. 39 guys. We've run really well there. We've won a pole, we've finished in the top 10, but we haven't gotten that win. I'm hoping we can change that this weekend.

There's just something about Gibson's setup and my driving style that really seems to jive and has made us successful at Bristol.

We had a debrief at the race shop this week and Gibson and I were going over our notes. He gave me some stat, like, in the past 2,000 laps at Bristol, we've run in sixth place in like 1,500 of those laps. I can't remember the exact stats, but I do remember one race where we honestly ran in sixth place for 450 laps. So, I told Gibson that I wanted to get away from the number six, and at least get a top-five there this go-around at Bristol.

So what's a debrief? Well, it's a meeting we hold where the drivers and the crew chiefs and engineers sit down and discuss each race, what worked, what didn't, and our overall thoughts on the race itself. We have a debrief during the weekend at the track, and we typically have one each week at the shop.

My new sponsor Quicken Loans is giving one lucky fan a chance to go behind the scenes with our race team in their "You're the Boss" sweepstakes. It's actually a pretty cool promotion where one lucky fan will have the chance to be my boss for one weekend.

By entering at at, fans have a chance to win a once-in-a-lifetime experience as a "co-owner" of Stewart-Haas Racing. One winner will be flown to SHR headquarters in Kannapolis, N.C., from Oct. 11-13. Over the three days, the "Boss" will receive tours of the SHR race shop; a complete clothing makeover, including SHR caps, clothes and team jackets; meals with both Tony Stewart and I; a race weekend experience with the team at an upcoming Sprint Cup race; and a prize pack that includes a race-worn firesuit and $10,000 in cash. Fans can enter until April 30.

So, right before Daytona, we shot a commercial for the Quicken Loans sweepstakes, and I'm not going to lie -- it's pretty funny. I hope you get a chance to see it because it features me, Tony and a lot of the No. 39 team guys. We shot the commercial at the race shop on the Friday before we left for Daytona, so it was a little crazy in the shop that day, but we had a lot of fun.

If you win the contest, just be ready for a good time. We like to joke around and laugh a lot. There won't be a dull moment for you that weekend, and I predict there won't be a dull moment at Bristol this weekend, either.

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 and The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.