INDIANAPOLIS — A born and bred Hoosier, Ryan Newman spent his childhood racing everywhere from Anderson to Winchester and every short track he could find in a state mad about racing.
The South Bend native graduated from Purdue and landed a summer job working in Jeff Gordon's old race shop in Pittsboro. And like many Indiana kids, he revered Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
A win at the famed Brickyard? That would be a dream.
Newman made the boyhood dream a cool reality Sunday, taking the checkered flag in the Brickyard 400 to end a 49-race winless streak. His parents, who fueled his love of racing and took him to the Indianapolis 500 as a kid, joined him for his biggest win in Indiana.
Newman was as cool in Victory Lane as he was on the track when he held off Jimmie Johnson. There were no tears, no quivering voice.
"I don't show a lot of emotion, I think everybody knows that," said Newman, who likened the victory to his 2008 Daytona 500 win. "I had the same emotion, the same thankfulness I did when I won the Daytona 500 because I feel everybody that has been a part of my racing career — from people that bought my racing uniform, bought me a right rear tire, given us a credit card to get to some racetrack at some point in my career — those are the people that helped me get to where I am today.
"…I've raced go carts at pretty much every go cart track around here, been kicked out of half of them. Those are the things that make it special. I think about those things more than I carry the emotion on my cheeks."
So it was left to his father Greg, who spotted for Newman in the race, and mother Diane to show the emotion.
Newman set a track record in qualifying, knocking Johnson off of the pole. They were also the two fastest cars for most of the race, but Newman gained the edge with a fast final pit stop.
Johnson, a four-time Indy winner, pitted from the lead with 27 laps left and it was a slow final stop for the Hendrick Motorsports crew. Newman pitted after that and took only two tires to move into the lead after the field cycled through pit stops.
"There's definitely disappointment there, but that's racing. It happens," Johnson said. "We win as a team, lose as a team. There's been some late race mistakes on my behalf that have taken race wins away from us."
The victory comes as Newman is looking for a job — Stewart-Haas Racing has signed Kevin Harvick to join the team next season, and team co-owner Tony Stewart told Newman two weeks ago he won't be brought back in 2014. It didn't change the post-race mood, as Stewart hustled to Victory Lane, lifted Newman from behind and the two shared a long embrace.
Kasey Kahne, Johnson's teammate, was third and Stewart was fourth. Tampa's Aric Almirola was 17th and David Reutimann of Zephyrhills was 29th, two laps down.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. rallied to finish sixth after an early pit stop to fix a loose wheel put him a lap down. He raced shortly after finding out uncle, Randy Earnhardt, died Sunday morning. Randy, the brother of Dale Earnhardt Sr., was important to Junior in his early racing days and in Dale Earnhardt Inc.
"It is just very, very sad, but I am glad his suffering is over with," Dale Jr. said of his uncle, who died at 60 after a yearlong bout with cancer. "He is going to be missed. He was awesome, such an awesome guy."