Brooklyn, Mich. — Ryan Newman felt fortunate to be at practice Friday morning for the Quicken Loans 400 Sprint Cup race at Michigan International Speedway.
After all, Newman missed his flight out of North Carolina when Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s plane left Statesville Regional Airport a half hour earlier than planned.
My bad, said Dale Jr.
“This is what happened, this is the honest truth,” Earnhardt said Friday morning, just prior to practice. “Tuesday he (Newman) asked me if he could get a ride to the race track, which is common for drivers to do that. We were leaving at 8:30 a.m., that is what it said on my calendar. Then, since Tuesday we have added some media to this morning, did a couple of things out front. My PR guy Mike Hoag moved takeoff time to 8 a.m. I didn’t know about it. I didn’t look at my calendar.
“When I got up this morning I didn’t look at the clock. I just got in the shower, went downstairs, got in the car and drove to the airport and got on the plane. I forgot about Ryan. Even if we were taking off at 8:30 and he wasn’t there, I probably would have left him. Yeah, he should have texted me last night.”
Well, Newman was at the airport by 8:30, earlier than that to make sure he didn’t miss the flight.
“I talked to Junior, I guess it was Monday night and asked if I could bum a ride since my wife and kids are coming tomorrow on my plane and it just made sense if I could just jump a ride instead of sending a plane back and forth,” Newman said. “He said ‘Yeah, no problem.’ I double-checked to make sure that we were 8:30 Friday morning and everything was good because it was pretty much the last ride I thought would go out to come up here.
“We were supposed to leave at 8:30 and I showed up before 8:30 and his (Earnhardt's) truck was there and the airplane was gone. I knew I was in trouble at that point. I jumped in my truck and drove across the airport, literally, and happened to see Dale Jarrett’s plane sitting there. I walked in, and Dale wasn’t there yet, but his pilots were.
“I said, 'I’m hoping you guys are going to Michigan, right,' and they said ‘Yeah,’ so I bummed a ride. It was extravagantly convenient and lucky at the same time."
Former Sprint Cup driver Dale Jarrett is now a motorsports broadcaster. His son Jason is Newman’s spotter.
"I told Jason, 'Your old man saved me on this one,'" said Newman. "It was probably the closest I’ve been to not making a practice. I made it from Adrian airport here pretty quick.”
Newman, driving the No. 31 Quicken Loans Chevrolet, was 14th fastest in practice at 200.714 mph. Dale Jr. was second at 202.943.
Sprint Cup qualifying is set for 3:40 p.m. with the race Sunday at 1.