Ryan “Rocket Man” Newman graduated from Purdue in 2001 with a degree in Engineering. The South Bend, IN native has been racing in NASCAR full time since 2002 and on Sunday he competed in his 15th Daytona 500.
Newman started 14th for the 59th running of the Great American Race and ran towards the front the entire day. Avoiding multiple crashes that had damaged many of the race favorites, he seemed to have a car that could compete for the win as the race was nearing its end.
All of that came to a change, though, with 59 laps remaining. Chase Elliott made an aggressive move to try and block a run from Jamie McMurray which triggered a multiple car crash, collecting Newman. Contact from Daniel Suarez forced Newman’s number 31 Caterpillar Chevy SS to slide sideways across the backstretch before hitting the grass, ripping off the splitter and causing severe damage to the right frontend of the car.
Newman’s team was able to get the car repaired under NASCAR’s new damaged car rule but was out of contention for winning the race. Ryan finished 21st. It was a disappointing end to the first race of the season for the number 31 team.
Newman won the Daytona 500 back in 2008 when he was driving for Penske Racing. In recent years, he has made NASCAR’s playoffs, The Chase for Monster Energy Cup, multiple times and has ended up just short of winning the championship. This year could be the year that the former rookie of the year will finally win the championship.