News & Media

Behind the Wheel: Newman looks to reel in 'big fish' in Atlanta

August 30, 2012, Ryan Newman, Special to NASCAR.COM,

Everyone knows how much I love to fish. Well, the biggest fish I've ever caught was at a lake near Atlanta Motor Speedway.

It happened in 2006. I was in the NASCAR Nationwide Series race that night and I probably was in position to win the race, but I blew a right-rear tire with just over 50 laps remaining.

Ryan Newman

Atlanta Results
YearSt.Fin. St.Fin.
2003110 129
200415 117
2005114 123
2006218 1730
2007123 937
20081214 1716
2009*1222 239
2010*717 28
Lead-Lap Fin.1016
Laps Led172437
Avg. Start6.611.1
Avg. Finish17.511.8

The accident ended my day and, after getting checked out in the infield care center, I was ready to get away from the race track. I went back to my motorcoach, grabbed my fishing rods and told my wife, Krissie, that it was time to go.

We went to a friend's place near the race track and, probably after 30 minutes, I had hooked the biggest largemouth bass I've ever caught. It weighed in at 10 pounds, 6 ounces.

You're probably asking why I'm talking about fishing when I'm in such a heated battle for a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. Well, I guess I'm using that as an analogy.

We are in need of a "big fish" in Atlanta this weekend, especially after our disappointing finish at Bristol.

We went into Bristol holding onto a wild-card spot for the Chase. I knew, and I had said, that the battle for that wild-card spot could change each and every lap.

Well, it changed in a big way for us on Lap 189 when we crashed out (watch).

Now, we are third in line for the second wild-card spot behind Kyle Busch and Jeff Gordon. With two races to go, we have some ground to make up.

I guess the good news for us is that this isn't necessarily unfamiliar territory for us. This No. 39 U.S. Army Racing team has proven on more than one occasion just how tough and gritty we can be when it comes to coming from behind and proving ourselves as a team.

I know we can do it again, too, starting this weekend at Atlanta.

Atlanta has been a special race track to me because that's one of the places I used to go testing with Buddy Baker and my Penske Racing team when I was starting out in stock cars.

Buddy was someone I had admired and, when I got to know him, we had a lot in common and really enjoyed each other. Back in the day, Buddy and I would go to race tracks and we would take our rental car out on the tracks at tests and drive around the race tracks forward and backward.

Driving the tracks backward gave me a different perspective of the entry and exit points of each corner. What Buddy did was teach me how to approach those areas on the race track when I was driving the track the right way. Atlanta was a track he helped me with a lot. Back when I tied him for the pole record with my seventh pole there, I think he joked he shouldn't have taught me quite so well.

To be honest, though, Buddy probably helped me more than I realized at the time because he never told me what to do -- he told me what not to do. He would never tell me when I was doing something right, but he always told me what I was doing wrong because he wanted me to learn from my mistakes.

He was an amazing teacher and I count myself very lucky to have Buddy as a friend and mentor. We haven't had a pole, yet, this year, and I really would like to get the pole record at Atlanta.

Of course, right now, we need more than a pole. But that would be a good way for us to put ourselves in position to get the win we need if we're going to get the second wild-card spot in the Chase. We need to start well and finish strong these next two weeks.

I believe this U.S. Army Racing team has what it takes to make the Chase. Now it's time for us to prove it.

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 Newman.