Daytona 500: Winning team press conference, part 2

Continued from part 1 Q: Roger, if you could speak a little bit to what a team player Kurt Busch has been in all this. He went along with the decision to swap points, give his points to Sam Hornish. That worked out very well here. Then he...

Continued from part 1

Q: Roger, if you could speak a little bit to what a team player Kurt Busch has been in all this. He went along with the decision to swap points, give his points to Sam Hornish. That worked out very well here. Then he goes and gives Ryan the push that he needed to win the Daytona 500. Talk about the team player mentality Kurt showed throughout this situation.

ROGER PENSKE: Well, I think we started this season with all three drivers, all three crew chiefs, the engineering folks together and said, Look, we got to make this one effort. You know, certainly when Kurt stepped back, we moved the points to Sam, obviously there was a lot of discussion about that.

But what people don't realize, we gave our points to the Waltrip team two years ago. The good news was that Sam drove his way into the race and Jarret got in the race, so that made me feel good.

But I think Kurt and Ryan are maybe different. They do different things Monday through Friday. But I can tell you now at the racetrack, the three drivers get together after every practice, and it's made a huge difference, I think, in communication and obviously on the racetrack.

If you can't win yourself, you want your teammate to win. I've always said, we win as a team and we lose as a team.

Q: Roger, was the move to North Carolina, consolidating the team, aimed more specifically at trying to get more success in NASCAR?

ROGER PENSKE: Well, I think when you have we had Penske Racing North and Penske Racing South. That always bothered me. I wanted to have one Penske Racing. Getting together with Don, we decided we had this opportunity to get this big shop and we could put all the disciplines under one roof.

We've has a lot of crosspollinization. We moved crew members from the different disciplines. I think it's made a huge difference. We got one location, one set of people that manage it. We get the benefit, you know, of the experience that we have.

To me, I think it was the right move because our sponsors like it.  The
fans like it.  We've opened up our shop with our fan walk to the fans that
come in.  I get a number of people down here today that said, Boy, we love
going to your shop.  That makes us feel good.

I think Ryan will say that your relationship with Kurt has made a big difference for him. He really wants that, too. He came down to the winner's circle crying when he saw that Ryan won, because he knew how much it meant. And the fact that he could make a big difference in that victory I think is special to him and certainly you.

RYAN NEWMAN: Yeah, I was looking forward to him coming down 'cause, I mean, you can't do it without a team, and you can't do it without teammates sometimes. Like I said, everything aligned itself so Kurt could help push me. I'm just grateful for that.

Q: Ryan, it's funny you said Tony and The Home Depot Dodge.

RYAN NEWMAN: Did I say that?

Q: Yes.

RYAN NEWMAN: How about that. I was dodging him, that's all (smiling).

Q: Could both of you address what's changed with Dodge since Dodge finished six out of the top eight today?

RYAN NEWMAN: We got a different situation with this car at this racetrack. I think that's part of it. I think our Penske/Jasper engine did a great job. That made up for two of the six. That's a lot in itself.

Just when you're trying to run wide open, the horsepower underneath the hood makes a big difference when the cars are similar. Outside of that, it's probably a part just racing.

Q: Roger, going into this race all the talk was about the Hendrick teams and the Toyota teams. In the open wheel world, you're really the standard that everybody aims for. You're the Hendrick and the Toyota of the open wheel world. How did that affect you in the way you discussed the situation coming into this race with your teams, and does this kind of give you a step in the right direction so you can now consider yourself to be headed in that direction, that you can be considered in the same breath with Hendrick and Gibbs and RCR?

ROGER PENSKE: Well, obviously, when you think of Rick's team and RCR, Gibbs, these are world class teams that have won this race many times. We wouldn't be here if we didn't think we could win, I can tell you that. Every year we've been here, we've been close.

I think this year we were confident. A lot of things had come together. To me, we got a long way to go before we can sit at the table with those guys, but we're coming close.

Q: Roger, many years ago when I was a fan and not a writer of this sport, I remember when you were here with Bobby Allison, winning at Riverside with Mark Donahue, you were very gracious in talking about how much more difficult winning at NASCAR was than you thought. You haven't won a championship, but winning the biggest race after so many Indy 500s, how important was this to settle that score for you personally as one of the leading figures in international motorsports?

ROGER PENSKE: Well, I can tell you that you needed to win this race to get in that class, and we did that. Certainly our wins at Indy have been important to us. But there is no question when you run 35 or 36 races a year with the tight competition, the way this sport has been developed by the France family, it's tough.

I don't think it's any easier this year than it was last year.  If you can
get in and you can race with these guys, I love it.  I come to the races.
I've been to a lot of races obviously.  We've won a lot.

To me, to come and have the opportunity to win, which we have here, then to be able to execute, is certainly special. As I said earlier, this goes to the top of the charts for victories for Penske Racing.

Q: Ryan, when you're coming down the backstretch, you have Kurt Busch underneath you, half a lap to go for the Daytona 500. Is there a moment where you have to push the thoughts of winning the 500 out of your head to finish the job? Talk about that inner struggle. Do you have time to think about that?

RYAN NEWMAN: My dad was spotting for me. I could hear the tears dripping going down the back straightaway over the radio. He was emotional, as he always is. Rightfully so. He's put so much effort into making me a race car driver and the person that I am. My mother, as well.

But to listen to him, I knew I had a really good push from Kurt. I knew when Kurt pushed me that he was locked in. Granted, if we had the opportunity at the start/finish line, I would have raced him like I raced anybody else. But he did a great job.

It was just awesome.  I mean, I got that tingly feeling.  You only get that
in certain things, you know what I mean (smiling)?  I didn't get it there;
just down my back (smiling).  Everybody's toes curl two ways (winking).

Q: Roger, when did you first realize the talent that Ryan had? Who first gave you the indication that this kid could someday be a good racer for you?

ROGER PENSKE: Well, we really had a friend that used to follow the open wheel series. You know how people give you a brochure on a young driver? I had gotten this brochure. I went to Don and I said, Look, I think this guy has some real opportunity.

I remember staying a couple times and watching him run his car at Nazareth. You know, Ryan had the technology background. His family and dad were behind it. We took a chance.

But at the end of the day we've been consistent. He's won a lot of races. We never got all the way to where we needed to be. But I think this didn't happen overnight. The same thing as we brought Sam in here. You just can't go out and pick the top driver.

As I told Sam, I said, You know, I can't hire Chad Knaus for you as a crew chief, so don't count on it. We've got to build. That's certainly what we did.

Certainly Roy's relationship with Ryan has been outstanding. All the people on the team, Don Miller obviously who was my partner for many, many years, made a huge difference in Ryan's career over the last several years. I want to thank him again for all that he's done.

Q: When did you see your dad first after you got out of the car, and what did he say to you or do when you saw him?

RYAN NEWMAN: When I was in Victory Lane, I just finished up the interview, he just told me he loved me, he was proud of me, and I gave it right back to him. He was extremely emotional. We gave each other a big hug. He went on to talk to everybody else (smiling). Talked to my mom on the phone. She was an absolute mess. Don Miller and some other people. One of my old Silver Crown car owners actually.

It's amazing. I'm sure my mailbox is four times full now.

Q: Kind of an unusual question: Do you remember the last time you got a speeding ticket and how fast you were going?

RYAN NEWMAN: Let me think about this. Yes, I do. I was driving my 1957 T Bird. I pulled out of my driveway; the speed limit is 45. It's downhill. He clocked me at 60. We're talking like three quarters of a mile here.

He pulled me over in my '57 T Bird with my wife. I rolled down the window. He came down and said, Still runs pretty good, huh? I said, Yeah. What do you say to that? Goes back to his car, came back, and he give gave me a ticket.

Q: Did he know who you were?

RYAN NEWMAN: I wish I knew who he was right now. It was one of those deals where it doesn't matter.

Q: Roger, can you speak to your expectations coming into Speedweeks versus the reality of six Dodges in the top eight and your expectations going to California and Vegas with this car?

ROGER PENSKE: Well, again, we felt we had a good test here. We knew we had a lot more power that we could bring to the race. That's what we did in the reliability. This is a horsepower track. I think that Ryan came back and Kurt and even Sam and felt we had pretty good cars. We learned a lot.

But, again, it was execution today. And most important, reliability, which we didn't have last year. Ryan missed a couple of wins because of reliability.

But I think as we go forward, this will give our team a lot of momentum. But I can tell you this, we're going to line up with everybody else next week in California. I don't think because you won the Daytona 500 they give you an extra lap ahead of the field.

Q: Ryan, a couple of times it looked like you were going to win the race, then something else would happen. Talk about the challenges, how you kept your mind focused so you didn't get frustrated during those points to come back to win.

RYAN NEWMAN: My car actually wasn't ideal out front. I was on the loose side for most of the runs. The last run we tightened it up, got it right. Roy did a great job. Guessing my voice feedback as far as how far to adjust the car.

When I was out front I was just way loose, and that's why I dropped back there. When I was running third, I fell back to fifth, actually lost the lead draft. Giving it up. Man, I can't afford to crash it now. I got too good a car. Let's work on it. I sacrificed third place for running sixth at the time.

It came back around once we got the cautions. Roy did a great job with the guys in the pits adjusting the car, getting me out. And I was worried when those guys came down, the 20 and the 18, when they cut off. I was worried they were going to have better tires, and they did.

But we had the track position and it paid off. They had to really run their cars hard to get back up front.

Q: I know you've talked about this before, but just why did you go to college, and did that help you at all today in any way?

RYAN NEWMAN: Well, I think my decisions might have been a little bit better. I always said that college taught me two things: It was time management and problem solving. Those are the two things that everybody deals with in everyday life. I think everybody learns that at college, if you get your diploma, no matter what you get your diploma in.

I can't sit here and say I won the Daytona 500 because I'm a vehicle structural engineer, but I'd say it definitely helped.

Continued in part 3

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Kurt Busch , Bobby Allison , Chad Knaus , Sam Hornis
Teams Team Penske