TULSA, Okla.—Ryan Newman ripped off his rookie stripe in the Chili Bowl Nationals—and his performance didn’t disappoint.
Newman came from seventh to third in his heat race on Wednesday night at Tulsa Expo Raceway and started and finished fifth in the third qualifier. He lined up 15th for the A Main but found himself in the pits before the 30-lap feature ended.
After starting second for the E Feature in the Alphabet Soup, Newman briefly dropped to third in the No. 6N Clauson Marshall Racing midget before passing two-time Chili Bowl winner Cory Kruseman for the lead--which he held to the finish. He started 16th in the second D Feature and finished seventh—two spots short of a transfer position.
“I didn’t embarrass myself--I guess that was goal number one,” Newman said with a chuckle. “Well, goal number one was actually to have fun. Goal number two was not to embarrass myself and having fun.
“I have to thank Aggressive Hydraulics, Coca-Cola, Brake Safe Technologies and Driven 2 Save Lives for the opportunity to come here and play, but give me a shot at a win. We won that 'E,' which was, to me, spectacular for the first time here ever. We had great equipment--just didn’t have enough laps here. I felt like we were making some gains on it. These guys do a great job of preparing race cars, just ran out of laps.”
Newman had several teammates to turn to for advice, including Tyler Courtney, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Cole Bodine. The only direction from team owner Tim Clauson, a fellow Hoosier, was to “drive what he gives me, put it where I need to put it.”
“He never told me how to drive, and I never told him how to wrench it,” Newman said. “It was a lot of fun, and the track played to my advantage. If it was cowboy up on the cushion, it would have been more of a challenge for me.
“But just proud of all the fun we had this week. That’s what it’s supposed to be all about, in general. We brought a competitive race car, got caught up in the A Main on Wednesday and worked our way back—but we didn’t work our way back far enough.”
Newman trimmed off 20 pounds prior to entering the event. Last year he was hesitant to compete against kids half his size. Then he had a change of heart.
“A lot of these guys talked me into it, no matter what my weight was, because it’s indoors and you can get that forward drive,” Newman said. “Sometimes, it’s to your advantage. When the track is tacky, it’s not to my advantage, but it was when the track slicked up.”
On Monday, Newman’s attention will return to NASCAR and the No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing Ford. When asked whether he would return to Tulsa, Newman didn’t hesitate.
“I would do it again in a heartbeat,” Newman said. “It was worth it. I’ll be back in the shop next week a little, but it’s a lot of fun coming out and doing this. Obviously, the big picture is the Daytona 500.
“But this is something I’ll never forget. We came here, had fun and didn’t embarrass myself. I would much rather be in Victory Lane—where someone will be later tonight in the A. But for my first rodeo, I stayed on the bull pretty long.”