Nextel Cup driver Newman has a passion for fishing

As a NASCAR driver, Ryan Newman works in a high-speed, high-decibel world.

But he plays in a considerably more serene setting.

When he isn't driving the No. 12 Alltel Dodge around the track, he often can be found putting along in the slow lane in his grandfather's old fishing boat, soaking in the beauty of nature.

"It's totally opposite of what I do," said Newman, 29, who was in Kansas City, Kan., two weeks ago to compete in the NASCAR races at Kansas Speedway. "But I think that's why I enjoy it so much.

"There's no noise, no stress, no demands when I'm out there. It's just me and the bass.

"When my grandpa got me into fishing, he taught me that there's more to it than just the catching. And that's carried over to me."

Newman can still picture those early days when he and his grandpa would go to Michigan's Dewey Lake and troll with purple plastic worms for bass.

No, they never caught anything huge. But the days at that lake were still enough to hook Newman for a lifetime.

Today, grandpa is gone. But for Newman, his memory lives on.

Though Newman owns a Ranger bass boat with a 225-horsepower motor on it, he gets his most enjoyment going out on small lakes in the boat from which he learned to fish.

"I still have my grandpa's boat, motor, tackle box and fishing license," Newman said. "I take the tackle box and license with me wherever I go.

"That's kind of my tribute to him."

Newman uses that boat whenever he is home. His acreage near Statesville, N.C., includes a private lake that is loaded with bass.

But even when he is on the road, Newman makes time to fish. His trailer includes 12 fishing rods that are rigged and ready to go.

"A lot of the places where we race, there are good places to fish not far away," he said. "A lot of times, I'll just go fishing when I get a little down time.

"There are only two or three tracks that don't have good fishing nearby."

As proof, Newman can offer the fish story behind his biggest bass ever - a 10-pound, 6-ounce trophy.

"It was a Saturday and I had just blown a tire in the Busch race at Atlanta," he said. "I was a little frustrated and I needed to cool down.

"Someone offered to take me to a private pond not far from the racetrack. We went out there and I caught that big one. And one of the guys who took me caught one right at 10 pounds.

"That was one of the best days I've had."

But sometimes Newman doesn't even have to leave the racetrack to find good fishing. He remembers the day at Darlington Raceway in South Carolina when he fished a pond on the grounds and caught a 6 ½ -pound bass on a Rat-L-Trap.

"I caught that fish in the Minnow Pond, right outside turn four," he said. "I had always looked at the pond and wondered if it had fish in it.

"I found out it does."

Newman also has caught peacock bass near Homestead-Miami Speedway, and a variety of fish near Watkins Glen, Michigan and Pocono.

Even on the way to or from those locations, there have been a few detours so that Newman could go fishing.

The rods are rigged and ready to go. Always.

Newman laughs about the time he was racing at Watkins Glen and he went to dinner with friends at a restaurant along a beautiful lake.

"We found that it was going to be a wait for our table, so I went and got my fishing equipment," he said. "I caught two smallmouths before our name was called."

Now Newman is carrying his love for fishing into his charity work.

He has organized a charity bass tournament for Dec. 8 at Lake Norman in North Carolina. He will be joined by fellow NASCAR drivers and other anglers from the public. Proceeds will go to the Ryan Newman Foundation, which, in part, helps educate children about the importance of conservation and the outdoors.

"Fishing is really an important part of my life," Newman said. "I love racing; that's in my blood.

"But fishing, especially for bass, is something that's a big part of me, too. I guess it's just being out in nature, having to think like a fish - figuring out where they want to be and what they want to feed on - that appeals to me."