In Sunday’s Brickyard 400, Ryan Newman became the second Indiana native who came from a short-track open-wheel racing background to win the race, after his team owner Tony Stewart. Newman, who grew up following the Indy 500, says the emotional reaction of winning at Indy in a stock car was intense.
“To me, it’s awesome to be here at Indy,” he said. “It’s awesome because it’s my home state. I grew up racing around here, Winchester, Salem, IRP, little tracks like Anderson. That makes it special.
“Most people don’t know that I lived out in a shop in Jeff Gordon’s old shop before I ever made it in NASCAR. I slept with the racecars. That was my summer job, working racecars, sleeping in the shop with them. I’ve raced go-karts at pretty much every kart track around here, been kicked out of half of them. Those are the things that make it special. I think about those things more than I carry the emotion on my cheeks.”
Although Newman thinks the viability of open-wheel short-track racing as a training ground to the big leagues is unchanged, he believes the opportunities for those like himself to advance either to NASCAR or IndyCar are declining with the reduction in TV coverage and national publicity for that branch of the sport.
“It’s not the same as it used to be. The USAC series doesn’t have the national exposure that it had through television before,” Newman noted. “They raced Silver Crown and midgets last night at IRP. I think they had 17 Silver Crown cars and 14 midgets. We used to have 60 Silver Crown cars and 35 or 40 midgets. TV used to be there and it used to be a big deal. Now it’s a little line on the bottom of the TV as to who won.
“My dad told me, ‘You were lucky you did that when you did.’ We caught it at the tail end when it was as good as it was.
“You don’t see a lot of racing on a short-track level anymore on TV. You would catch an ASA race every once in a while. It’s not there like it used to be. It makes a difference for the younger drivers coming up. It’s job security for me. But you have guys like Kyle Larson that are coming up and doing it. There are kids winning Sprint car races that are really, really good. They may never get seen or get that opportunity.”