INDIANAPOLIS – Ryan Newman wasn’t sentimental about Sunday possibly being his 21st and final NASCAR start at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but the 2013 Brickyard 400 winner is philosophical about the future.
Particularly after surviving his vicious wreck in the 2020 Daytona 500 that he has described as a near-death experience that changed his outlook on life and made him “a complete walking miracle.”
“I say that every day now,” the South Bend, Indiana, native said when asked if he viewed Sunday as likely the last laps on the historic track he loves. “I mean literally after the stuff that happened (in the 2020 Daytona 500 crash that left him hospitalized with a head injury), just live every day to the fullest.
‘A BETTER PERSON’: Ryan Newman reflects on becoming more ‘spiritual’ after crash
“Don’t take this the wrong way, but I’ve seen enough people now that are going through cancer and the attitude that they have can be more powerful than the medicine that they’re taking. And I think that’s a big part of everyday life. You don’t have anything. There’s no guarantee to life. There’s a guarantee to death, and you should live every day like it’s going to be your last, and that’s all I’m really focused on. And I try to plan things out, but in the end, I’m trying to maintain a good attitude with the people around me and the situation I’ve got and go forward and whatever happens will happen.”
With Brad Keselowski becoming a driver and co-owner at Roush Fenway Racing driver next season, Newman’s status is uncertain for 2022.
Though team president Steve Newmark said Roush Fenway would like to field a third car for Newman in select races, Newman said Sunday he has nothing firm beyond this season. This season is his 20th consecutive full time in NASCAR’s premier series, a career that includes the 2002 rookie of the year title and 18 Cup victories, including the 2008 Daytona 500.
“I really don’t know,” Newman said about next year. “I’d be interested in running full time with the right team and the right people. But I don’t know what there is available for that.
“I think at this point anybody can speculate on the possibilities.”
Though he would prefer racing on the oval this weekend, Newman still relished enjoying his annual homecoming at the Brickyard.
“It’s still Indy,” he said. “It’s still special. It’s still home. There’s still lots of people here that consider me the Hoosier guy, but in the end, I’d much rather be turning left than left and right. It’s still special to be here and see people I grew up with and family and friends and fans.”
Newman became a spokesman last year for the Indiana Donor Network’s Driven 2 Save Lives program after being inspired by late USAC star Bryan Clauson, whose organs saved five lives.
IMS’ dirt track in Turn 3 will play host Wednesday and Thursday to its third Driven2SaveLives BC39 in honor of Clauson with a field that will include Chase Elliott, Conor Daly and Newman.
“Coming back here for the BC race will be pretty special itself just cause of Driven 2 Save Lives, the history of the Clauson family and what I think is a spectacular dirt track here that now Roger Penske owns,” Newman said, pausing to flash his dry wit. “I told (Penske) I can’t believe he spent all that money just to own a dirt track, but he’s got one now.”
After making the 2019 playoffs during his first year with Roush, Newman ranked a career-low 25th in the 2020 points standings (missing three races because of his Daytona 500 injury). Through 23 races this season, he is 26th in points with only three top 10s (and a best of fifth in the Bristol Motor Speedway dirt race) while being plagued by misfortune.
“I don’t even know how to spell luck anymore,” he said. “But it’s not been good. You’re a product of your own environment and what you can make for luck. There’s peaks and valleys, and we seem to definitely be in a valley.”
Newman, 43, turned up for the BC39 by racing Saturday night in a Silver Crown race. After running in the Chili Bowl the past two years, he has speculated on returning to his USAC roots and racing dirt full time when his NASCAR career ends, but he said options are open for next season.
“I really don’t know,” he said. “I really just want to have fun and race and compete for wins. Trying to race to stay on the lead lap is no fun at all.”