Ryan Newman wins SRX Round 3 at Stafford, retains series’ points lead

Newman SRX Stafford
Kathryn Riley / Getty Images

Ryan Newman bided his time and pounced with four laps remaining in the 75-lap affair, passing Marco Andretti to win his first Superstar Racing Experience (SRX) race at Stafford (Conn.) Motor Speedway.

Following Helio Castroneves’ win at Five Flags Speedway and Tony Stewart’s win last week at South Boston, Newman is the third winner this season.

With his win, Newman retains the points’ lead as the summer series hits its halfway point.

Joining Newman on top of his car at the end of the race were his daughters, who poignantly escorted him out of the hospital two years ago following an accident in the 2020 Daytona 500 that might have ended his career.

“It’s just so special,” Newman told CBS Sports after the race. “To have these two girls right here, nobody knows what that means to me. I got choked up the last couple laps, and then seeing the smiles on their faces kind of took the tears away. It’s so special driving with the best drivers in the world and to be victorious is extremely special.”

Last week in South Boston tempers boiled over, contributing to a lot of torn up equipment. Stewart, one of the owners of the series in addition to being a driver, said he would have a meeting with the drivers to reinforce that the resources are not available to keep wrecking. It seems to have had an impact as this week was a much calmer affair.

Newman’s win was aided by a competition caution with 10 laps racing. These cautions are one of the ways SRX keeps the short track races from being runaway affairs.

The pass for victory was not without contact, another feature of short track racing.

“He did the bump the same thing every single one of us would have done to try and win the race,” Andretti said. “I’m just learning so much from these Cup guys. They’re just too good in these types of cars.

“I’m slowly learning and slowly putting it together. If I can keep finishing where I’m at in the heats and it gives me good enough track position to run up front in these races, hopefully I can put one together before the end of the year and try to win the championship.”

Paul Tracy used the late-race battle to climb into third. Tracy was the biggest victim of the frenetic goings on at South Boston. He was spun multiple times and ended the race in the pits. At Stafford, he also experienced trouble when Michael Waltrip, a driver he tussled with last week, clipped his rear bumper. This time it was Waltrip bearing the brunt of the accident. He finished 12th in the 12-car field.

Tony Stewart in fourth and Bobby Labonte rounded out the top five.

Feature: 1. Ryan Newman, 2. Marco Andretti, 3. Paul Tracy, 4. Tony Stewart, 5. Bobby Labonte, 6 Hailie Deegan, 7. Ryan Hunter-Reay, 8. Matt Hirschman, 9. Justin Marks, 10. Greg Biffle, 11. Bill Elliott, 12. Michael Waltrip.

Round 1: Helio Castroneves wins at Five Flags, hopes for NASCAR start
Round 2: Tony Stewart earns third SRX victory and first on a paved track

Ford Mustang GT3 test has Austin Cindric dreaming of Daytona: ‘I want to drive that car’

Cindric Ford GT3 test
Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Austin Cindric wasn’t the “mystery” test driver behind the wheel of the new Ford Mustang GT3 at Sebring International Raceway, but the Team Penske driver desperately wanted to be.

Ford CEO Jim Farley, an amateur sports car driver himself, made the big reveal via a Tuesday tweet that provided the first video evidence of the GT3 Mustang on track.

“I’ve watched the video in question about a million times,” Cindric said Wednesday during a Ford Performance Zoom news conference to promote NASCAR’s first road course weekend of the season at Circuit of the Americas. “Definitely exciting times for sure. I want to drive that car. It suits my experience level and also the relationships that I have.”

Ford will enter the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship next season with its GT3 Mustang, entering a two-car factory effort (that will be managed by Multimatic) in GTD Pro and making customer cars available in the GT Daytona category.

That increases the likelihood of seeing more NASCAR drivers crossing over to IMSA. Cindric has been the only full-time Cup driver in the Rolex 24 at Daytona the past two years, but Ford Performance global director Mark Rushbrook has said the GT3 Mustang will provide more opportunities.

Ford has used its GT4 Mustang as a NASCAR driver development tool in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge with Harrison Burton and Zane Smith combining to win the season opener at Daytona International Speedway in January.

“We’re excited about the Next Gen car and the new architecture there and the similarities between that car and GT3 and even GT4 cars,” Rushbrook said at the announcement of the Ford GT3 program in January 2022 at Daytona. “We think it’s a great opportunity and to do be able to do that in a 24-hour race and get NASCAR drivers even more time is something we need to consider taking advantage of that opportunity.”

Given his sports car background, Cindric probably still would be in the Rolex 24 regardless. He has eight IMSA starts since the 2017 season opener at Daytona, racing a Lexus RCF GT3 and Mercedes-AMG GT3 in the GT category. The 2022 Daytona 500 winner made his second LMP2 start this year with Rick Ware Racing.

But Cindric’s preference naturally would be in a Ford, particularly with sports car racing enjoying convergence and crossovers in both GT and prototype racing.

“It’s an exciting time in GT racing, just as it is now for prototype racing with a lot of new regulations and manufacturers building new GT3 cars,” he said. “And also the opportunity with WEC (the World Endurance Championship) and Le Mans and how that all lines up for that category of car. It’s definitely an exciting time. I want to be as much of a part of that as possible.”

Though those odds seemingly will increase with multiple Ford entries in the Rolex 24 field next year, Cindric said NASCAR drivers still have to put in the networking to land rides as he has in recent years.

“Now how (the GT3 Mustang) relates to specifically NASCAR drivers and how often they want to be in the Rolex, could it be an influence? Absolutely, as far as the tie-in with the manufacturer,” Cindric said. “But the challenge and the drive and the logistics of getting an opportunity for a race like the Rolex 24 will be just as challenging as it always is to find your one-off ride for the race. At least from my experience, that’s what I still anticipate.”

It turned out the “mystery” test driver wasn’t from NASCAR (Farley revealed the driver to be 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Joey Hand after a fan asked whether it was Joey Logano).

But Cindric believes there could be more Cup drivers — and perhaps himself — behind the wheel of Mustang GT3s in the future.

“There’s definitely more of a pathway than I think there would be before as far as Ford drivers are concerned,” he said. “Hopefully, I’ll get the opportunity to drive that thing. It’s obviously a great looking car. That’s the first box you’ve got to check. And it’s cool (to have) a guy like Jim Farley, no doubt he’s a racer just as much as he is steering the ship for Ford. It’s cool to see he’s just as excited as the rest of us about it.”