NASCAR driver Ryan Newman does not take lightly to wearing his “uniform” on race day. He sees his suit as a symbol of pride, not because of the wealth and fame it brings, but because of the label it has on it: “THE U.S. ARMY.”
Newman, who drives the No. 39 Army Bud Chevy, enjoys the massive amount of attention he continues to get from fans and military personnel on and off the track. In fact, he will be a part of the Army’s birthday party which entails sharing festivities with service members this year at the Michigan International Speedway. But the driver does what he can do to return the favor.
"I really enjoyed my Fort Bragg appearance where we got to do the vertical wind tunnel," Newman said. "They took me down in the training areas where they do live rounds bouncing off rubber walls. Things like that are a lot of fun and getting to meet the soldiers."
Everything isn’t so cheery for Newman though. He has a few poignant stories of his own to tell while dealing with appearances at Army functions.
"Visits to Walter Reed (Army Hospital) are special," he said. "Bittersweet, but they are special. Things like that have taught me so much more about what the U.S. Army does and is and has been doing that I didn’t realize."
Newman has visited Walter Reed on numerous occasions and has been touched emotionally by soldiers trying to recover from their injuries. He cannot put into perspective what he does compared to what a U.S. soldier does.
"Well, you have to have a strong stomach, and sometimes you have to have an even stronger brain, because they are going through some serious life changes," he said. "The amazing thing is all those soldiers at Walter Reed want to get back in battle. They want to go back with their command and friends and be part of their team."
"It’s tough at times," Newman said. "Sometimes you go in and you see somebody have a reaction to you, and it’s like magic, and you can talk to them about everything. You can talk to them about sports, the weather, their trip, what happened to them, the things they have been through."
"And some people, they don’t want to talk about it. You just have to read the character and make the best of the first impression that you can."
"I’m just proud to represent the Army, and then you add a soldier and NASCAR pioneer like Bud Moore, that’s even cooler," Newman said.