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Hello, Newman

by Robb Reel

So it wasn't the most exciting Brickyard 400.

By the way, that's saying something considering the size of the Sprint Cup cars is ginormous for that track.  Passing is incredibly difficult and the "race" often ends up being more of a combination parade and pit-stop competition.  Still, there have been some memorable NASCAR moments at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Unless you work for Michelin, but I digress.

Because of the venue, the Brickyard 400 -- under some name variance in its two decades -- has become almost as important to stock cars as the Indianapolis 500 is to the open-wheel world.  The Greatest Racecourse in the World is a special place for both drivers and those who grew up in Indiana.  So it shouldn't be a surprise that the special nature of Sunday's race is in a Hoosier winning it.  The surprise comes from that Hoosier not being Jeff Gordon or Tony Stewart, with six Brickyard wins between them.


[Photo: courtesy of NASCAR.com]

Ryan Newman has not had the white-hot career those other two have, though he's had some spectacular moments.  The South Bend native and Purdue University alumnus was the 2002 Rookie of the Year in the Cup Series and won the 2008 Daytona 500.  Yet there's been a quiet undertone to his career, whispers that the 35-year-old hasn't lived up to expectations.  Newman, however, dominated at Indy this year -- four-time winner Jimmie Johnson was really the only other in the conversation -- taking the pole with a record-setting time and taking the checkered flag in a race with remarkably only three cautions.

Newman does now have a special place in history.  He became only the eighth driver to win at both Daytona and Indy.  Gordon and his four Brickyard victories are on that list; Stewart and his two are not.  His overall career arc may still never reach the heights of those two, but Ryan Newman is now in a greater class of driver... a class with legendary names:

Foyt
Andretti
Mears
Unser
Meyer
Gordon
Johnson
Earnhardt
Schumacher
Shaw
Rose
Rutherford
Stweart
Jarrett
Castroneves
Franchitti

Welcome Ryan Newman to that list.


[Newman waves to fans prior to the 2010 Coca-Cola 600 -- Photo: REUTERS/Chris Keane]

Hello, Newman.