2009-03-19 / Sports

Stewart And Newman: The Odd Couple

Ryan Newman and Tony Stewart Ryan Newman and Tony Stewart By Gerald Hodges The Racing Reporter

Racing like most other elements of life isn't as simple as it used to be. Drivers in NASCAR's Sprint Cup level have reached "The Promised Land."

Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman are totally opposites. Except for being from Indiana and their love of racing, they don't share many other character traits.

Yet both have achieved success in racing, despite having reached their destinations from different starting points.

Stewart was working in a machine shop for $5 an hour when the call came.

Newman continued to pursue a degree from Purdue University, after signing with Penske Racing.

After 10 years of driving the No. 20 for Joe Gibbs Racing, and winning two Cup championships and 33 wins, Stewart opted to buy into what was the Haas CNC Racing team late last season. He took over a co-ownership role, hired Ryan Newman to join him as a teammate and set about revamping a struggling organization.

There were many fans and reporters that had doubts about Stewart's ability to function as a driver/owner.

After four races into the 2009 season, he has reeled off three top-10 finishes in the opening four races and sits sixth in the cup standings entering the season's first off weekend.

"I enjoy it a lot," he said "There's a sense of pride every day when you come in the garage and you see the No. 39 (of Ryan Newman) and you see the No. 14 car sitting there. You realize the sponsors that you have and the group of guys that you've assembled and the fact that everybody has enough faith in what you're trying to do to want to be a part of it. That makes you feel good."

Newman, however, hasn't fared as well. Besieged by engine failures, pit-road problems and issues with tires, he has struggled to sit 33rd after the opening four races. Still, for an essentially new operation, the net result has been positive. Some of that No. 39 group's setbacks have been beyond their control. So Newman, a 13-race winner in the series, should be able to overcome and move back into a more comfortable points position in a few weeks.

Newman began working for Roger Penske in 2000, winning three of the five ARCA RE/MAX Series races he entered, and making his Winston Cup debut at Phoenix International Raceway In 2001.

In 2002, Newman won a season high six poles, breaking the record set by Davey Allison, and won his first career Busch Series race. In September, he won his first career Winston Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway after starting from the pole. Newman also became the second rookie since Dale Earnhardt Jr. to win the The Winston. He beat out Jimmie Johnson for the Rookie of the Year award.

Newman and his wife, Krissie, operate the Ryan Newman Foundation, which primarily focuses on assuring that adequate care is provided for unwanted dogs and cats in shelters and pounds. He helped fund the construction of the Catawba County, North Carolina Humane Society shelter, in the county where he once lived.

A room at the top

NASCAR and several of the tracks around the southeast have been working with hotels, trying to get them to lower their room rates for fans.

I hope they succeed, because if room prices go much higher, I will have to stay home and watch the races on television.

To be honest, I don't usually stay at big hotels. I prefer the motels that are located in suburbs just off the interstates. They usually have less hustle and traffic getting in and out of them, and I don't have to walk as far to my room.

But this year's Atlanta race was an exception. Instead of staying at the Day's Inn in Newnan, Ga., I opted for one of Atlanta's upscale hotels.

A big folder, prominently displayed on the only table in the room, said: 'please take a minute and let me know.'

It turned out that the president and CEO of the chain wanted to know what I thought of the room. There were 10 questions he wanted me to answer, each with as many as six parts. The completed questionnaire and form was to be mailed to him. It even had his signature at the bottom.

After reviewing all the questions, I decided not to fill it out, because I was only registered for a three-night stay, and if I did what he asked me, I might have to spend another night.

Instead, I decided to write a letter.

"Dear CEO,

Let me say first, that your hotels have always been a little bit above the average.

I hope you won't be surprised that my first comment is about the price. My room for three nights is $560.42. It is only a single room, not a full suite.

That averages out to $186.80 per night. Don't you think that is a little high for one person?

Being able to get breakfast in my room at 6 a.m. on Saturday was pleasing. It's hard to decide how much to tip the room waiter, but you solved that by adding a 20 percent 'service charge.' You were a little generous with my money, I thought.

The small glass of 'natural fresh orange juice' was $3.95. The blueberry muffin was $3.50 and two cups of coffee $4.25. Total, including tax and the compulsory tip came to $15.71.

The coffee and muffin were OK, but you've got to find a better way of squeezing the orange juice. It was bitter, and didn't taste fruity at all.

I only ordered breakfast once during my stay. The other two mornings I ate at the Waffle House.

There are two little bars of soap. I plan on using one and taking the other one home with me. Not stealing is it? For $560.42, I think you can afford it.

There are several movies available, but I am afraid to preview any, because they might be charged to my bill.

And one other thing, I'm having to pay a surcharge for wireless Internet access.

Come on, CEO, I've never paid for it before. Some McDonald restaurants provide it free. If I buy a Big Mac and a senior citizen cold drink, then I can send out all my racing stories from the convenience of my table. Maybe that's what I'll do next time.

I got your little card and a chocolate mint on my pillow every night, saying, 'have a nice day.'

Really, do you think those cards and mints have any effect on what kind of evening I have? If eliminating them would reduce the price of the room, even a little, I'd be all for it."

The Racing Reporter

Next week: faithful to the end

Weekend racing: The Nationwide and Sprint teams are at Bristol. The Trucks have an off week. There was no NASCAR racing this past weekend.

Saturday, March 21, Scott's Turf Builder 300 Nationwide Series, race 4 of 35; starting time: 2:30 p.m. (EDT); TV: ABC.

Sunday, March 22, Sprint Cup Food City 500, race 5 of 36; Starting time: 2 p.m. (EDT); TV: FOX.

Racing trivia question: How many Busch or Nationwide Series championships has Dale Earnhardt Jr. won?

Last week's question: Where is Robby Gordon's home town? He now resides in Cornelius, N.C., but is originally from Bellflower, Calif.

You may contact the Racing Reporter at: hodgesnews@ earthlink.net.

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