2019 Mencs Bristol 2 7 Ryan Newman Alex Bowman Battle Jacob Seelman Photo
Ryan Newman (6) holds off Alex Bowman at Bristol Motor Speedway in 2019. (SPEED SPORT Archives photo)


For many years, the story circulated that fellow NASCAR Cup Series drivers called Ryan Newman “Kidney Stone” because he was so difficult to pass. True or not, Newman is not the only racer who is challenging to get around.

Some are just too fast to pass, while others are more than willing to rough up the competition to keep it in the rearview mirror.

“Everyone is hard to pass now but for the majority of his career, I’d say Ryan was the hardest to pass,” declared current NASCAR Cup Series driver Alex Bowman. “Since Ryan retired, Ross Chastain has assumed the crown. The biggest thing with him is you’ll pass him clean, then in the next turn he’ll run you over. There’s no ‘he ran me clean last week so I’ll run him clean this week’ with him.”

“It’s true that Ryan was hard to pass,” added longtime Cup Series driver Kasey Kahne. “He was a really good driver and you had to be a lot better than him to get by.

2015 02 14 Volusia Woo Steve Kinser Donny Schatz Paul Arch Photo Dsc 4625 (385)a
Steve Kinser (11) fights off the challenges of Donny Schatz during the 2015 sprint car season. (Paul Arch photo)

“In NASCAR, who is the hardest to pass changes from year to year, depending on who you’re feuding with at the time. With the sprint car racing, it’s different,” said Kahne, who is now racing with the World of Outlaws. “In Cup, you took their air away but now, if you’re good enough to go forward you try to pass them wherever you catch them.”

Florida asphalt legends Dick Anderson and Bobby Brack agree the toughest Floridian was Gary Balough, who was also a superstar on dirt in the Northeast. From there, their thoughts diverge.

“Balough was tough to get around because he was very talented and extremely smooth,” said Anderson. “Bobby Brack was the same. He got me out of the junker classes by convincing car owners to take a chance on me. When I got to the top late model class, I found out how good he was, but I was fast, too. He told me after a couple of weeks that we couldn’t be friends anymore because he raced for the money, then he spun me out on the first lap of the feature. I paid him back by putting him in the frontstretch wall on the white-flag lap, which cost him a win. We got along pretty well after that.

“But the dirtiest driver I ever raced against was Dale Earnhardt,” Anderson added. “He took me out of a 200-lapper at Metrolina, back before he got to be a big deal. Looking back, I think I might be the only guy to have punched him in the nose after a race.”

“Balough was really hard to pass and Dick was tough, too,” noted Brack. “Like Balough, he was good everywhere. And getting to the front got even harder when Donnie and Bobby Allison and Red Farmer came down to Palm Beach. That was hard racing.”

Northeastern asphalt modified standout Brian Ross has another interesting viewpoint. “Who were the hardest guys to pass is an open-ended question,” Ross said. “There are several reasons why a guy might be hard to pass.

“We had mirror drivers, guys who couldn’t pick a lane and stay there and guys who were always the top competitors. Richie Evans was always hard to pass simply because he was always on his game and the top competitor. Eddie Flemke always knew how to use the race track to his advantage. If you were lucky enough to have days where you could pass those two, you could be very proud.”

Moving to sprint cars, World of Outlaws champion Danny Lasoski said: “In my era, it was Steve Kinser, hands down. You had to be sure to get him the first time because he’d make his car so wide, you’d never get another chance.”

“I agree,” added 10-time WoO champion Donny Schatz. “There’s no question that it was Steve. He was such a hard racer. Newman may have been a pain, but Steve was like the coarsest grit sandpaper. He was so strong and full of desire that he just wore you down. You weren’t going by if he could help it or if you did surprise him, he got you back in the next corner. And it wasn’t because he had a superior car. You never heard what a good car he had, because it was all Steve.

“Today’s guys are all hard to pass because they go at it at all costs,” Schatz added. “They don’t care if they or the car come out of the next corner. There’s no respect. It’s certainly not like when I started. And lapped cars are even worse as far as not showing respect to the leaders.”

Schatz and Kinser agree regarding lapped cars, with Steve declaring, “Lapped cars are actually worse than the fast guys to pass. You have to time it to catch them in just the right place and, even then, sometimes they’ll change lanes and block you.