NASCAR driver Ryan Newman comments after his run in the Gateway Dirt Nationals
The Gateway Dirt Nationals is a dirt race that’s run in the middle of December. The race is hosted inside The Dome at America’s Center in the center of Downtown, St. Louis, Missouri.
Three classes of dirt racing action pound the 1/5-mile oval. With the dirt midget and the dirt modified class, it’s an invite only basis. The promoters of the event have to welcome you to the entry list.
Several months ago, Ryan Newman was sent one of those invites. I remember thinking, ‘there’s no way that happens.’ And sure enough, it happened.
NASCAR star Ryan Newman unloaded his dirt midget. It was the first time in 19 years that he’s driven a midget. And on the opening night of the show, he turned his first laps.
Newman popped a wheelie all the way down the front stretch on the opening lap in hot laps. As he came back around, he did it again. The session ended with Newman parked lightly against the inside concrete wall after he attempted a crossover pass.
In qualifying, he ran 17th of 18 in his group. In the heat, he finished 8th of 9th. But, with every session, he began to get a hold on the machine.
In the feature, Newman was on the gas early and driving around them as he bounced off the cushion. He cracked the top 10 and run every lap of the feature as many crashed out. Newman finished 11th of 17.
On the final night of the show, Newman had one more chance to make Saturday’s main event. He finished 5th in the third B Main, missing the main event by just one position.
Ryan Newman after running the 2019 Gateway Dirt Nationals
After you got the invite, what happened from there? How did this whole deal come together?
“Well, I’ve obviously got a relationship with Clauson-Marshall Racing on the sprint car side,” Ryan Newman told RacingNews.co.
Newman purchased a piece of Clauson-Marshall Racing in 2017.
“I wanted to do the Chili Bowl. I decided to come here first and get a little experience. Knock the rust off, get some laps.”
“We put a deal together with Coca-Cola and an old sponsor of mine, Welsch Heating and Cooling, from St. Louis. Then, I just came out to have some fun.”
“It was really to knock the rust off and see if I have a little bit of skill in me.”
You were planning to do the Chili Bowl before you got that invite?
“We’d like to, yeah.”
I was surprised when they offered that invite. Because you haven’t been in a midget in 19 years. Were you surprised?
“Well, no. It’s an event, like they say. It’s not a points race. They want to put people in the stands.”
How would you assess you weekend? When you first went out, you were popping wheelies all the way down the stretch.
“I got better and I still did one in that qualifier.”
“I was still getting accustomed to the car and how it drives. It’s definitely a lot of fun. I enjoyed it.”
Did you get any testing at all before you got here?
“Oh no, my first two laps, you saw on Thursday. That was all I got, two practice laps and went straight into qualifying and a heat race.”
“I’ve never run indoors and I’ve never run a midget that would run the front tires off the ground. A lot of firsts,” Newman concluded.
Ryan Newman is not yet on the Chili Bowl Nationals entry list. The race is run January 13-18th, 2020 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. It’s the most popular dirt midget race in the country.