With a degree in engineering from Purdue, Ryan Newman could have chosen any number of professions, most of which would not have included going airborne in a car at 190 miles per hour. Instead, he gave up his graphing calculator and pocket protector for a firesuit and helmet and went straight from readin’, writin, and ‘rithmatic to racin’, rubbin’ and roll-overs.
Newman is the only active driver with a college degree. Surely there are plenty of degrees floating around amongst the engine builders and crew chiefs, but most drivers these days jump straight from the womb to a racecar, making college as unnecsessary as a pack of Trojans at Lilith Fair. Our question is: since Newman is probably the smartest driver in the field, does he use this to his advantage? Does he challenge Jeff Gordon to Proust trivia or discuss physics with Kyle Busch in the garage? Or does he use his superior intelligence to toy with other drivers on the track?
Newman: Hey Tony, run down to Greg Biffle’s pit and tell them to radio Greg that the structural integrity of his harmonic balancer has been compromised.
Tony: Sure thing, Ryan. What does that mean, anyway?
Newman: Beats the hell out of me, just tell him I noticed it about three laps ago. It’ll keep him guessing until I can pass him.
Although sometimes known as "Rocket Man", we prefer to call him "The Professor." This would make teammate/owner Tony Stewart "The Skipper", wouldn’t it? All Left Turns believes that The Skipper hired The Professor for a vey specific purpose — you can read about it here.
Newman earned his "Rocket Man" nickname because of his amazing ability to win poles. He has won 44 poles, which puts him 15th all-time. He currently has 13 career victories, all of which he acquired while driving for Penske Racing. Newman had his best year in 2003 (only his second full season in the Sprint Cup series) with eight wins and 11 poles. This sophomore success story came at a cost, as he also racked up seven DNFs, which put him at 6th place for the season.
He was never to repeat the glory of the 2003 season with Penske Racing as he scored only two victories in 2004 and one in 2005. He went winless in 2006 and 2007, but came roaring back and won the 2008 Daytona 500. It was his last victory with Penske. This is not nessecarily a reflection on Newman’s ability as the overall performance of Penske cars has been lukewarm for several years.
The year 2009 offers new promise for Newman with the newly-formed and suddenly formidable Stewart-Hass Team.
Newman and his wife Chrissie have five rescued dogs: Digger, Mopar, Harley, Socks and Fred. (Good Gawd — please tell us he didn’t name his dog Digger. Anything but Digger.) They also own and operate The Ryan Newman Foundation. We encourage you to check it out – these people do good work. Newman also helped fund the construction of the Catawba County, North Carolina Humane Society.
We also like that fact that Newman is a car guy. He has 14 or so cars in his collection, including a 1928 Ford Roadster, 1936 Ford 3 window Coupe, 1939 Hudson, 1957 Dodge Super D-500 and the 1974 Triumph TR-6 that was his first car. Chrissie gave him a 1948 Buick Roadmaster convertible (his dream car) for his birthday one year. What a gal! By the way, if you look at the picture below, you’ll see that his shirt (which came with the car) says "I love my wife."
Newman, you’re a good man and we salute you – a man who loves cars and dogs is okay with us…
… even if one of them is named Digger.