NASCAR driver Ryan Newman is an accomplished hunter and fisherman. He'll be racing next Sunday at MIS.
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BROOKLYN, Mich. -- Later this week, Ryan Newman will be out fishing for bass on Wamplers Lake, just a few miles east of Michigan International Speedway. After that, the popular stock car driver will be talking hunting with racing fans at the track near here, encouraging them to join him on a bow hunt for trophy deer later this year at a private ranch in Georgia.
During his high-speed four days in Michigan, Newman will race a little too, chasing the 17th win of his Sprint Cup Series career. He will get the chance in next Sunday's Pure Michigan 400 at MIS.
But with Newman, it's tough to see where the line between business and pleasure is drawn, because it is comfortably obscured with fishing rods, camouflage hunting gear, rescue dogs, and conservation work.
Besides being an accomplished driver who has 159 top-10 finishes as he moves through his 11th year as a full-time competitor in NASCAR's top circuit, Newman is a prolific fund-raiser for causes that are anchored in his passion for the outdoors, pets, and racing.
"With the little bit of free time that we have during the racing season, I like to do things that are enjoyable for me, things I really care about, and things that are also fun for somebody else," Newman said last week.
On Thursday, Newman will take part in the third annual "Fish Your Bass Off" tournament, teaming up with top professional bass fisherman Kevin VanDam to help raise money for MIS Cares, a foundation that supports community programs in the area. Last year's fishing tournament, which also featured Newman and VanDam, raised more than $40,000 for charity.
"It's a neat event because it helps get funding for some important causes, plus we get away from the track for a while and get to do something else that we really love," the Indiana native and Purdue University graduate said.
Racing fans and fishing enthusiasts can experience the weigh-in at the tournament's end and take part in silent and live auctions, along with a dinner at Jerry's Pub and Restaurant.
"The best part is that it all goes for a good cause, MIS Cares, helping us give back to the community," track president Roger Curtis said.
Newman is also using his visit to Michigan to extend an invitation to the multitude of hunters in the Midwest to take a shot at joining him on a dream bow hunt on the Realtree Farms property in Columbus, Ga. Through his Ryan Newman Foundation, Newman is raffling off a two-day guided hunt for trophy whitetailed deer in October, with the avid hunter Newman as your partner in the tree stand.
"There are a lot of racing fans who are also big fans of the outdoors, so these things -- the fishing tournament and the bow hunt -- seem to work pretty well together," Newman said.
Realtree founder Bill Jordan, who often hunted with NASCAR legends Davey Allison and Dale Earnhardt, will be the host for the hunting trip. There will also be the opportunity to fish on Jordan's private lake, and the winner receives a pair of VIP passes for the Sprint Cup race that week at Talladega.
"I'm excited about this -- it will be a memorable experience for whoever the winner is," Newman said.
"It's a chance to go back in time, hunt big game with a bow, and maybe see some real trophy deer. I don't look at it as just a sweepstakes -- it's an opportunity for the hunting experience of a lifetime. I would expect that there's a lot of hunters up in Michigan who would love the opportunity to do something like this."
Newman said he and his wife, Krissie, created their foundation in order to use his celebrity platform to promote and fund several causes they care deeply about -- educating people on the importance of spaying or neutering their pets, encouraging the adoption of pets from animal shelters, informing the public about the importance of conservation to preserve the great outdoors for future generations, and providing scholarships to students pursuing careers in auto racing.
Newman, who holds a degree in vehicle structural engineering, shares his home in North Carolina with his wife, two young daughters, and their five rescue dogs -- Mopar, Harley, Socks, Fred, and Dunkin. Three days after Newman won the Cup race at Martinsville earlier this year, his foundation provided financial support to an animal shelter in South Dakota that had been destroyed by fire.
While making a racing stop at MIS several years ago, Newman joined forces with The Conservation Fund to help hatch "Racing for Wildlife," a program intended to protect the lands and waters in the U.S. for future generations to enjoy.
"Ryan cares passionately about animal welfare and a variety of environmental and conservation causes, and he is always helping out in some manner to raise money for these causes," said Alisha Cottrell, director of fan services at MIS. "He's also done a really good job of adopting Michigan. Ryan has been a great partner with us in a lot of endeavors."
Newman said his love of the outdoors and wildlife is partially rooted in his childhood days at a cottage in Michigan, fishing with his grandfather.
"I did some chores during the day, and I got to fish with my grandfather once the chores were done. My dad was always working, but my grandfather spent a lot of time with me, and he taught me a lot about the outdoors," Newman said. "I get a lot of my love of the outdoors from him."
Newman said he hopes to sell a ton of raffle tickets for the dream bow hunt while he's at MIS, because each of the $25 chances provides his foundation with the opportunity to do more of the projects close to his heart. The raffle winner won't be the sole beneficiary of the effort.
"Whoever ends up winning the bow hunt, we'll get some time in the woods and make a lot of fun out of it," Newman said. "And, hopefully, this event allows us to make a difference in kids' lives."
Contact Blade outdoors editor Matt Markey at: email@example.com or 419-724-6068.