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How NASCAR Star Ryan Newman Separates Himself

As a motivational speaker, I constantly study high achievers and share their common denominators of success with others. I often share stories of how high achievers separated themselves on the way to success.


Ryan Newman

Ryan Newman, the winner of the 2008 Daytona 500, is a great example. The South Bend, IN native separated himself in many ways on the path to being champion of the 50th running of the biggest race in the world. As the 30 year old roared across the finish line, it brought back a flood of memories to me.


As a TV News and Sports Anchor in South Bend, IN, I first started covering Newman when he was an 8th grader. He started winning smaller races around the midwest, so we would go out and interview him at his Dad's Auto Repair shop. After the first interview I came to the conclusion that he was going to be a champion on a national level one day. You could see it in his eyes. It was a searing focus. He meant business. He was very serious about making it to the highest level. Even as a middle schooler, which is a time where many kids don't know their head from their feet!


I once had a school librarian take me aside and say that Newman never had an overdue library book in all his years in South Bend schools. Sounds like a "different" kind of thing to say, but it showed his attention to detail and being organized. I know around my house it takes an act of congress for all of us to rustle up library books when they are due (!).


He was a clever little rascal. As a youngster, his Dad drove him through the night from Indiana to Daytona to see the 500 in person. Strapped for finances, they slept in their car in The Cracker Barrel parking lot. Once at Daytona, Newman aspired to walk around in the restricted area for drivers. He stood by the gate and studied the access credential, then retreated to their car and made one out of art supplies he had brought down. He got in.


He took his education seriously, graduating from South Bend's LaSalle High School with a 3.84 GPA. While most NASCAR drivers wouldn't even consider college, Newman graduated from Purdue University with a degree in Vehicular Engineering. He would be the first to tell you his GPA was not stellar, but he finished. He didn't quit. I remember hearing Lynn Swann give a keynote one time. He said many people won't use their actual degree from college, but by finishing a degree they show they can keep a commitment and stick with something. Newman has always maintained that by going to college he learned a great deal about time management and problem solving.


While at Purdue, he found a classmate who was savvy in marketing. Newman asked him to help put together marketing packets based on his racing accomplishments. While other students were out partying, Newman was working hard on those packets. They helped him in impressing Roger Penske, the legendary team owner who would eventually sign Newman to his race team. Penske could have signed just about anyone. Newman had separated himself from many other drivers by having that engineering degree.


The knowledge he gained by studying engineering helped him gain an advantage in fuel management and the physics of each race track. In 2003 he won 8 races and was named the best driver in the world.


He has seen his ups and down. He went from eight wins in one season to zero wins over two seasons. In many ways he separated himself by always being able to remain on an even keel in a sport known for volatile personalities and mood swings. If I had to attribute that to anything, it would be his faith. In covering NASCAR races, I often sat in on the chapel service offered to drivers in a tent by the track. Without fail, Newman would always be there sitting by his wife Krissie.


He has taken his good fortune and put it to use to help others. His foundation has been a rousing success to help abandoned animals, wildlife conservation, and student scholarships.


When Newman was a boy, a mechanic from a small town near South Bend befriended him. His name was Ralph Marley. When Newman learned Ralph was dying of pancreatic cancer last year, he invited him to his house in Charlotte. He spent a day with Ralph showing him all over his land and his collection of vintage cars. Then he said, "Let's go to Penske Racing." It was a 20 minute trip that took about 5. Newman got his own car up to 110 mph (don't tell anyone) on the highway outside of Charlotte. Ralph was tickled pink, as they say.


"I hope you know the highway patrol!!" he said to Ryan.


"I hope they know me!" Ryan said!  


Ryan Newman is an example of how anyone can achieve their dreams if they are willing to work hard, have laser like focus, and a fierce determined attitude. He is also an example that the seemingly little things, like never having an overdue library book, add up.



- Charlie Adams, Motivational Speaker
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