Fitting In: Monster Energy Cup Star Ryan Newman Part Of The Modified Landscape At NHMS

Ryan Newman Friday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway (Photo: Jim DuPont)

LOUDON, N.H. – Over the last two decades at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, plenty of NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series drivers have made token appearances behind the wheel driving Modifieds.

And if they’re not driving them, plenty are talking about them and the breathtaking features the division puts on at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

But one Monster Energy Cup Series driver has made the Whelen Modified Tour a home away from home.

For the last 11 years Monster Energy Cup Series star Ryan Newman has competed regularly with the Whelen Modified Tour when the Cup Series visits New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Newman won the inaugural Whelen All-Star Shootout at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in July 2014.

“I enjoy the series, I enjoy the race tracks,” Newman said. “It’s awful special that they did the All-Star race there because for years they did not. It’s fun to have an All-Star race, which I think is huge for that local community of fans that are from the Northeast that understand the importance of the Modifieds. And for me it’s an honor to be a part of it. We were fortunate enough to win the first All-Star race, it’s a pretty special deal.”

The annual September Cup event that had been held at New Hampshire Motor Speedway since 1997 was moved to Las Vegas for this season. The September Cup weekend in Loudon has been replaced by the first Full Throttle Fall Weekend at the track Sept. 21-22. The event will bring the Whelen Modified Tour together with the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and the Canadian based NASCAR Pinty’s Series Sept. 21-22 in Loudon. The Whelen Modified Tour will run a 250-lap event on Sept. 22. The division has never run more than a scheduled 150-lap event at NHMS.

With the Monster Energy Cup Series competing at Richmond (Va.) Raceway on Sept. 22, Newman will not be able to make to the first Musket 250 at NHMS. But Newman, a South Bend, Ind. native who grew up in Midwest short track racing, isn’t a fan of the idea of the 250-lap Modified event.

“To me a Modified race shouldn’t be 250 laps,” Newman said. “I don’t think that’s good for the competitors … You’re going two and half times the race and only getting paid 50 percent more. The math isn’t that great in my opinion. It’s good for the sport. It’s good for the series to have an event at a venue like that. But I don’t know that 250 laps is the right distance in my opinion. If you’re going to have a short track special weekend so to speak, or a big event, I think keeping it at 100 [laps] is all that’s needed. You’re not going to see a different race. You’re not going to see a better race in 250 laps that you would in 50 or 100 [laps].”

The topic of grassroots short track racing is one Newman takes to heart. Earlier this year Newman’s Monster Energy Cup Series counterpart Kevin Harvick got on his soapbox following an event in Phoenix and extoled the need for those at the top level of the sport to help support short track racing. Harvick sponsors a contingency award at Stafford Motor Speedway in memory of Ted Christopher this year.

“That’s kind of a touchy subject I guess you could say because I haven’t seen Kevin Harvick do anything other than a little sponsorship for grassroots racing,” Newman said “We’re going to run the track at Eldora. We’re going to run the Modified at New Hampshire. We’re going to run the Silver Crown car at IRP. … Grassroots racing is extremely important. It keeps our core NASCAR fan in touch with reality so to speak. Because reality being, we’re not there every weekend as a traveling sanction to be in touch with those fans. They need short track racing to keep them in tune with good racing and for when the big boys come to town. I think it’s always important for us to have banks for short track racing and make sure that short track racing is strong because that keeps our core fans – from a NASCAR sanctioning body standpoint – engaged with our sport, with our drivers, with our sponsors and collectively ties everything together.”

Like the struggles of short track racing across the country, the top levels of NASCAR have their own issues with sagging attendance and tv ratings. Newman thinks the time has come for some big shakeups in the schedule Monster Energy Cup Series schedule.

“I think ultimately, no matter what, people like to see some change,” Newman said. “And I think that doing something new or doing something different is extremely important with our fan base. I think that’s why the roval has a chance of success. I don’t know that it’s an ideal racing track or surface, but I think ultimately it’s something new for our sport and it brings a level excitement. When we went to North Wilkesboro for the first time it was new and different. When we went to Rockingham the first time it was new and different. I think that our sport is a little bit stagnant with the schedule and the locations that we go to. The people that are invested in our sport have invested a lot of money, but it hasn’t change a whole lot. We’re moving a race from New Hampshire to Las Vegas. Well there’s already a race in Las Vegas. Let’s go to the Indiana State Fairgrounds. Let’s go to Iowa. Let’s do different things in different places and touch people that we wouldn’t normally touch. … I think changing that up and getting to a different fan base – not a different culture but a different fan base – has potential for great dividends.”

On track this year, Newman is struggling through one of his most frustrating years in the Monster Energy Cup Series. Newman is in his 17th season full-time with the series and his fifth with Richard Childress Racing. After 19 events he sits 19th in the Monster Energy Cup Series standings with no top-five finishes and four top-10’s.

“It has been a very frustrating season,” Newman said. “I’ve had cars land on top of me. I’ve been in crashes that I never should have. Had parts of my race car fall off. Lots of silly things. Some of them are self-inflicted, but either way they’re silly. It’s a good adjective for them. I’m very frustrated with it. I know that as a driver I’m way better than the results that I have as a driver this year.”

With the Monster Energy Cup Series Chase for the Championship playoff system, one win can launch a struggling driver into the playoffs, though Newman isn’t a fan of the idea of crashing the party without being prepared to run solidly.

“One week can change your position,” Newman said. “The one week that you win gets you into the playoffs. But if you’re only winning one week then you’re not going to win a championship, so what really are you getting? You’re just buying yourself some time. You’re part of the playoffs which is great – good for the sponsors, good for your fans, good for you – but you can’t just rely on one week. It doesn’t work that way. We have to step up our program so that we’re running in the top-five week in and week out. Not only will the points take care of themselves at that point, but the season will too.”


  1. doug smith says

    Well done, well said,, Thanks Shawn

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