BROOKLYN, Mich. -- Ryan Newman does not consider himself a celebrity. You won't find him sending out tweets to thousands of followers, pontificating on politics or the ways of the world. He's not comfortable in a tuxedo, and he doesn't seek out the spotlight.
Newman, the native Hoosier, is a lot more aw-shucks than he is GQ -- and he is fine with that. But he is without question a star in the world of stock car racing, where he has won 14 times in the Sprint Cup Series, NASCAR's top circuit.
Newman has chosen to use that notoriety to champion his pet cause -- saving dogs and cats from a certain death sentence. His Ryan Newman Foundation has encouraging adoptions from animal shelters as a key part of its platform.
"We just have a love of animals and want to do everything we can to help their welfare," Newman said about the commitment he and wife, Krissie, have made to the cause.
Newman, whose penchant for winning the pole position as the fastest qualifier earned him the nickname "Rocketman" earlier in his career, uses every opportunity he can to push his message with racing fans. He advocates adoptions, along with measures to control pet populations and reduce the number of animals sent to shelters.
"I want to raise awareness for spaying and neutering and people going out and adopting a pet, versus spending $1,000 on [an] animal that somebody bred just to be a money-maker for them," Newman said this week as he prepared to travel to Michigan International Speedway for Sunday's Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips 400.
"You know, we are trying to eliminate the overpopulation -- the overpopulation, and therefore, the euthanization of animals."
Newman doesn't lose his followers in one of those practice-what-you preach contradictions. He and his wife have set the example they hope others will follow by adopting five rescue dogs. They are all mutts, Heinz 57s, or whatever label fits.
"We used to have a rule in the house that we had to stop at four, because between my wife and I, it was only one dog per hand it was all you could do to scratch them and satisfy their needs," Newman said. "We actually broke that rule and ended up with six, but now we are back down to five."
Newman, his wife, and their daughter Brooklyn Sage share their home with the rescue quintet -- Mopar, Harley, Socks, Fred, and Dunkin.
The Newmans used their foundation, which started in 2005, to assist hurricane victims along the Gulf Coast with the care of their animals.
"Our hearts went out to those people who loved their animals so much that they would put their own lives in danger to save the lives of their helpless pets," Krissie Newman said. "Families who did evacuate came home to find their homes destroyed. They were living in their cars with their children and pets."
Their efforts included the donation of truckloads of pet food and supplies, and bringing a busload of rescued dogs to the Charlotte area for adoption. The Newmans also have provided grants to assist animal sanctuaries, animal rehabilitation centers, and rescue centers around the country.
They also have put together the first two books in a series entitled Pit Road Pets which has featured the stars of NASCAR and their family pets, along with the pets of crew chiefs, team owners, media personalities, and fans. Proceeds from the book sales have helped build a spay/neuter clinic in North Carolina, and provided funding for those who could not afford to have the procedures performed on their pets.
Newman comes to MIS, the site of races in the ARCA, Nationwide, and Sprint Cup series this weekend, ranked 10th in points on the Cup side. Newman, who holds a degree in vehicle structural engineering from Purdue, won Cup races at MIS in 2003 and 2004.
Newman said the response from stock car racing fans to his message of adoption and population control for pets has been very well received.
"NASCAR fans are like anybody else ... there's a majority of us that are pet lovers," he said. "So it's good to see the same type of feelings and emotions that we have are also common in fans out there in the real world. A lot of things transfer over ... and I think that's what they like to see in how our relationships are with our animals."
Contact Matt Markey at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6510.