Ryan Newman has backed the #39 Stewart Haas Racing crew to emerge as a strong team in the NASCAR Sprint Cup following the way they bounced back from the problematic week of action at Daytona.
Newman's crew were forced to deal with a blown engine as well as two accidents during Speedweeks which meant that the 2008 Daytona 500 winner was forced to use two back-up cars overt eh course of the week before eventually finishing the opening round of the 2009 campaign in 36th place.
However, despite the disappointing result on track, Newman admitted that he had been thrilled by the way the team had pulled together during Speedweeks and was now looking forward to a better weekend of competition at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana as the team launches its bid to secure a slot in the Chase come the season's end.
“I have so much confidence in this #39 Haas Automation team and in my crew chief Tony Gibson, and what happened with us in Daytona proved that they deserve every bit of my confidence and respect,” he said. “Through everything that happened, I didn't hear anyone complain. They each jumped in and did what they had to do to change the engine or get the backup car ready. And the best part was that they didn't get down, and they didn't let me get down.
“I've been a part of some special teams in my career, and I feel like this #39 Stewart-Haas Racing team is going to be a very solid and good team. Daytona is behind us now, and I'm looking forward to hitting the racetrack in California for a better weekend.
“If you take away the bad luck that we had and look at how and where we were running at the time at Daytona, I think anyone could see that we had a very fast car. We qualified third, and we were third in the Duel when we got wrecked. And before the second wreck on Saturday, we had a great package in our #39 Chevrolet for both power and handling. Our primary and our backup cars both proved to be solid, but we just didn't have racing luck on our side. You take away the bad luck that we had, and I was very happy with my racecar. I think that we will absolutely be competitive throughout the season. I feel we should, without any doubt, have an opportunity to be in the Chase.”
Despite the fact that his record in California 'isn't the best', Newman said he was looking for a strong result and was chasing pole position in a race that will be a 'better gauge' of how the field is shaping up for the year ahead.
“The racetrack can be a lot of fun because it is a very smooth track and it is super fast, but I just haven't done all that well there throughout my career,” he said. “We didn't really do any testing in the off-season with NASCAR's new rules in place. Our team went to Rockingham Speedway and New Smyrna. I couldn't tell a whole lot at those tracks, but I could tell how strong our engines are. I am really looking forward to trying out my Hendrick power-plant at California. Horsepower is key at California, and I have no doubt I will have what I need under the hood for success. The second pole of my career came in California during my rookie season, and I haven't qualified near as well there since that time in 2002. It would be nice to put to rest all the bad luck we had last week and start the weekend with a pole in Fontana.
“Although Daytona is our biggest race, I think that most people will tell you that the season really starts with California just because it seems to be a better gauge in determining what you have compared to other teams. I made the decision to join Stewart Haas Racing because I had a lot of faith in Tony Stewart. I admired him for his ability on the racetrack and what he had done as an owner in other racing series. He has worked really hard with the help of Bobby (Hutchens, director of competition), Darian (Grubb, crew chief, #14 Old Spice/Office Depot Chevrolet) and Tony to put together a competitive organization.
“I feel that Stewart-Haas had a good foundation in the past. Now, we have some additional tools with the key personnel who have come on board. With our affiliation with Hendrick Motorsports and all the work that has gone on in the shop during the off-season, I feel this team has all the parts and pieces, and I would like nothing more than to go out on the track and show just how strong we are. So, we're really looking forward to this weekend.”