ROSSBURG, Ohio -- Ryan Newman leaned heavily on his dirt-track experience to contend for a historic victory Wednesday night at Eldora Speedway. Although he came up two positions shy on the final rundown, his joy of being part of NASCAR's landmark return to dirt left him yearning for more experience kicking up dust.
It also gave him an idea, delivered in classic deadpan.
"I heard that they were hauling dirt into Daytona right now," Newman said, "? that part of their $400 million renovation project was dirt at Daytona."
Newman clanged fenders with teammate-for-a-day Kyle Larson over the final stretch to finish third in the inaugural CarCash Mudsummer Classic presented by CNBC Prime's The Profit for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, leaving the race thankful for the opportunity and pleased with his effort in NASCAR's first national series race on dirt since 1970.
"It's awesome. It's fun. It's pretty simple," Newman said. "We didn't need pit crews tonight, so there's a lot of simplicity to it. And I'm not saying that that makes it great; I think it's a matter of asking the fans. Did I enjoy it? Absolutely."
Newman approached Turner Scott Motorsports co-owner Steve Turner shortly after the race on the half-mile dirt track was announced on the truck series' schedule. The deal was struck; Wednesday night, Newman made the most of it.
Newman started 10th and had worked his way into the top five near the halfway point of the first 60-lap segment, quickly establishing his truck -- along with teammate Larson's and eventual race winner Austin Dillon's -- as one of the strongest in the 30-truck field. He stayed in the front-running group the rest of the night, getting as high as second place but never leading a lap in the 150-lap race.
In part, the law of averages on even or odd running positions conspired against Newman. Running second or having odd-numbered starting spot meant starting on the less-advantageous inside line on restarts. Enjoying the leader's privilege of lane choice or starting fourth, sixth, and so forth, meant restarting the race on the preferred outside groove.
"I was trying to be methodical about it, but whenever we got a caution it mixed everything up on restarts," Newman said. "If you were fourth, you were typically second by the end of the first lap. That meant you were back on the inside for the next restart, so restart position was pretty important."
Over the home stretch, Newman leaned not only on his experience but literally on his teammate's side panels, battling the brilliant Larson hard in the high groove. Out of brakes and out of laps, Newman was able to smile and trade quips with Larson, six days shy of his 21st birthday and 14 years shy of Newman.
"It was fun out there, no doubt," Newman said. "I asked Kyle after the race for his mailing address; I wanted to mail him the left side of my truck because he used it up. It was really fun and we raced hard. He used me up but he had the truck to use me up."
Newman's exuberance after the return to his roots begged the question: Why not more dirt-track racing -- Daytona aside -- in NASCAR's future? Newman rattled off a list of other venerable dirt facilities in the Midwest that would certainly fit the bill.
"This was a great show, at least from our perspective as drivers, to do something off the charts different and I think great at the same time," Newman said. "There's a first for everything. I think it's great and something awesome for our sport. I think our fans got to see something different and I think our sport really needed something different.
"From a driver's perspective, I didn't come here as a Cup driver, I didn't come here as a NASCAR driver, I came here as a driver who had an opportunity to win the first dirt race in the truck series and the first dirt race in a long time in NASCAR. I think it's a monumental day. I mean, Austin Dillon has something he's going to remember the rest of his life. So it's something special and it's over tonight, but hopefully it happens again."
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