“It’s fun to be back and at my favorite racetrack”

#6: Ryan Newman, Roush Fenway Racing, Ford Mustang Koch Industries

Newman, 45, last made a Cup start in the 2021 finale. Sunday at Darlington Raceway will be his 726th NASCAR Cup Series start. He won 18 races during his career, including the 2008 Daytona 500.

Newman has never raced the Next Gen car, but he has been paying close attention during his time away from the cockpit.

“I’ve paid attention to everything in respect to the car’s development, driver’s comments, safety, roll bars and crashes and data and things like that,” said Newman. “I’ve been in tune, so it’s not like I’ve just been out on the farm making hay. I feel like it’s fun to be back and it’s fun to have the opportunity and I look forward to tomorrow.”

Newman proved that on Saturday with an impressive qualifying effort, despite his equipment. The ‘Rocketman’ was once notorious for his blistering qualifying pace, and there was plenty to be proud of after qualifying 26th for this weekend’s race.

He out-qualified teammate Brennan Poole by ten positions and several other respectable teams.

“It’s fun to be back and at my favorite racetrack,” said Newman after practice and qualifying on Saturday. “I will say that the practice and qualifying session was less dynamic than I thought it was gonna be. The changes from the old car, the shifting and all that stuff, I felt like I adapted to all that stuff rather quickly, but the track is still my favorite, so that made it a lot easier. It’s easier to dance with a girl that knows how to dance.”

#6: Ryan Newman, Roush Fenway Racing, Ford Mustang Koch Industries

Photo by: Rusty Jarrett / NKP / Motorsport Images

Despite not racing in NASCAR over the last 18 months, Newman has been racing. Most notably, he competed in Tony Stewart’s Superstar Racing Experience in 2022, winning one race and ending the six-week series as the championship runner-up.

So what is it that compelled him to return to the top level of NASCAR?

“Just the opportunity,” he said. “Ultimately, I’m a week on, week off with my kids and just the way the schedule worked out my daughter is not racing. Obviously, there was a change in the driver lineup with the 51 car and gave me the opportunity to come and do this. I literally started this conversation prior to Martinsville and it was by accident when I texted Tommy Baldwin asking him about an opportunity to race a modified. He asked me if I wanted to go to Martinsville and I said, ‘In a modified?’ And he goes, ‘No, in a Cup car.’ And it all worked…

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