Coming off an eighth appearance in the NASCAR Playoffs that includes a victory at Phoenix Raceway, Ryan Newman is embarking on his fifth season driving the No. 31 Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s/Caterpillar/Grainger/Liberty National Chevrolet in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
Debuting with RCR in 2014, Newman and crew chief Luke Lambert earned a career-best finish in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series point standings, coming within one point of winning the coveted championship. Consistency remained a strong suit for Newman and the Lambert-led team. In their four seasons together, the 31 team has earned three NASCAR Playoffs berths, one victory, 19 top-five and 54 top-10 finishes.
Newman kicks off his 17th full season in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in 2018.
While most 4-year-old boys rode Big Wheels for fun, Newman climbed behind the wheel of a quarter midget and never looked back. His open-wheel career started in 1983 when he drove in his first quarter midget race in New Carlisle, Indiana, and through the course of several seasons won more than 100 features, six regional championships and the 1988 Grand National Quarter Midget championship in the Heavy Mod division.
In 1993, Newman switched to full-sized midgets in the All-American Midget Series. He quickly made a name for himself by becoming the first driver to win both Rookie of the Year honors and the series championship in the same season. That same season, success continued, leading to the Michigan State Midget championship and induction into the Quarter Midget Hall of Fame.
Newman made the move to the United States Auto Club (USAC) in 1995 and in back-to-back seasons captured Rookie of the Year honors in the National Midget and Silver Crown Series. His first major USAC victory came in the prestigious Night Before the 500 at Lucas Oil Raceway in 1997.
In 1999, Newman balanced studying vehicle-structure engineering at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, while continuing to be a very active racer. He went on to become the first driver to win all three USAC National Rookie of the Year honors in the same year along with capturing the Silver Crown title.
The following year, Newman still competed in all three USAC national series, but started to switch gears when he signed with Team Penske as a test driver, also racing a limited schedule in the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards and the NASCAR XFINITY Series. Besides earning victories in the USAC National Midget and Sprint Car Series, he captured his first stock car win in just his second ARCA outing at Pocono Raceway and backed it up with two more wins before making his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series debut in November at Phoenix International Raceway.
In 2001, Newman’s schedule consisted of ARCA, XFINITY and Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series events. He won the season-opener Daytona International Speedway ARCA race and scored his first pole at Kansas Speedway. In XFINITY Series competition, he won at Michigan International Speedway and earned six pole awards. In the premier series, Newman kept pace and earned his first career pole at Charlotte Motor Speedway in May and also added two top-five finishes.
Newman’s first full season in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series competition arrived in 2002. He set rookie records for most top-10 finishes (22) and pole awards (six) in a season. He also became only the second rookie to win the NASCAR All-Star race at Charlotte. Four months later, he scored his first premier series victory from the pole at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. He finished out the season sixth in the championship point standings and earned the Rookie of the Year title over Jimmie Johnson.
The “Rocket Man” nickname held true in 2003 as he continued to lead the series in most poles with 11. Newman also won eight races, the most of any driver that year en route to another sixth-place finish in the standings. Post-season honors included the 2003 SPEED Driver of the Year, the National Motorsports Press Association Richard Petty Driver of the Year, the Benny Kahn/Daytona Beach News-Journal Driver of the Year and The Sporting News’ Dale Earnhardt Toughest Driver of the Year.
Newman successfully earned a berth in NASCAR’s inaugural Chase in 2004. For the second-straight year, he led the competition with most poles (nine), along with winning two more events. Team Penske also fielded cars for Newman in the XFINITY Series, where he won six of the nine races he entered.
The next two seasons saw Newman rocket to the top spot in qualifying seven times to finish out those years in 18th and 13th in the championship standings, respectively.
Newman launched his seventh premier series season in grand style by winning the sport’s most prestigious event, the 50th running of the Daytona 500.
Newman joined Stewart-Haas Racing in 2009 and added two more pole awards to his record book and earned a second berth in NASCAR’s Chase, where he finished ninth in the final standings. The 2010 season produced a November win at Phoenix International Raceway.
The following year, Newman made his fourth appearance in the Chase and finished 10th. His 16th-career win followed in 2012 at Martinsville Speedway in April as he closed out the season 14th in points
In 2013, another crown jewel was added to the driver’s win column. Newman started from the pole and kissed the famed bricks after winning the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. His winning form qualified him for the Chase, and two days later RCR announced Newman as the driver of the No. 31 Chevrolet SS beginning in 2014.
Luke Lambert embarks on his fifth year leading the No. 31 Caterpillar/Grainger/WIX Filters Chevrolet SS team at Richard Childress Racing and fourth working with veteran driver Ryan Newman.
In the first three seasons together, Lambert and Newman earned back-to-back appearances in the Chase for the NASCAR premiere series championship in 2014 and 2015, which included the driver’s career-best second-place finish in the point standings and earned the crew chief a MOOG Problem Solver of the Year Award in 2014. Their collaboration totals 12 top-five and 41 top-10 finishes in 108 starts.
As a student at North Carolina State University, Lambert was a Formula SAE team leader from 2004 to 2005, steering a team of students in the design and technical performance aspects of building race cars from the ground up.
Shortly after college, he joined RCR in September 2005 and spent four years as a team engineer. He worked alongside crew chiefs Todd Berrier and Scott Miller. During that time, the No. 31 team scored three wins, 27 top-five and 61 top-10 finishes and made three appearances in the prestigious Chase for the premiere series championship.
In 2011, Lambert made his debut on top of the pit box in the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway as interim crew chief of the No. 31 team. Lambert and his crew went on to earn two top-five and five top-10 finishes in 17 events with veteran driver Jeff Burton behind the wheel.
Lambert saw action as crew chief in the NASCAR XFINITY Series for driver Elliott Sadler in 2012. The No. 2 team finished second in the driver championship standings by capturing four wins, four pole awards, 15 top-five and 24 top-10 finishes.
Lambert’s first full season as a crew chief in the premiere series came to fruition in 2013. He guided Burton and the No. 31 team to 20th place in the driver point standings, earning two top-five and six top-10 finishes.