Daytona 500: Winning team press conference, part 3

Continued from part 2 Q: Ryan, all week long I'm sure watching TV or reading or whatnot, all anybody talked about was Toyota, Gibbs, Hendrick, Chevrolet. RYAN NEWMAN: Junior. Q: Junior. Having the confidence that you had, you said...

Continued from part 2

Q: Ryan, all week long I'm sure watching TV or reading or whatnot, all anybody talked about was Toyota, Gibbs, Hendrick, Chevrolet.

RYAN NEWMAN: Junior.

Q: Junior. Having the confidence that you had, you said you felt really good about your car, your team, whatnot. Do you just sit back and kind of grin and say, Good, I got 'em where I want 'em, they're not talking about me, we can do this without any pressure?

RYAN NEWMAN: No, the pressure doesn't change anything. I've been on both sides of that. I don't think it affects the way I drive or the team's performance.

I would definitely say, yeah, you're right. There was a lot of talk about Toyota. There was a lot of talk about Hendrick, the strengths that they had.

I thought that we were extremely competitive in the Gatorade Duel on Thursday. Had a winning race car, just didn't get a chance to show it on that last restart.

 I thought that we were capable of beating half the field after Thursday.  I
didn't know what the guys were going to have.  I thought 8 team was
extremely strong today.  He was stout.
 I think the 20 gave up a little bit.  He played patience, a little cat and
rabbit there.  He definitely obviously showed up when he needed to.

Either way, I don't look back after it and say, Hey, man, we just beat those guys. It was a team effort on our part to beat everybody. And most importantly, we didn't beat ourselves.

Q: Ryan, it happens occasionally, but not a lot, that a guy wins this race only leading a handful of laps. What were you thinking during most of the night when you were mired back in that 12th to 20th? Did you imagine you could do what you did all night long?

RYAN NEWMAN: In a way, yeah. I mean, I knew that we struggled for grip at the start of the race. We fell back. I think we fell back to like 18th or 19th at one point there. I watched the scoring pylon count the laps down. I knew where I needed to be at a certain time.

Fortunately, the way strategy worked out, the way Roy called the shots, the car that we had with ALLTEL Dodge, we were capable of being in the right place at the right time.

Yeah, there was doubt in my mind at the start of the race. Again, going back to what I felt on Thursday, I knew the car was capable of beating at least half of them. Just keep working with it, and we did.

Q: You talked about coming here 15 years ago and seeing the Seagraves Tower. How many times have you come to Daytona as a fan and when was the first time?

RYAN NEWMAN: I remember my dad pulling me out of middle school. If you do the math...

I'm not exactly sure of the year, maybe '90, '91, something like that. The whole deal with coming down here, my grandfather passed away. Instead of them coming down, we came down, my dad and I, with my aunt and uncle. We met them down here. We sat up in the Seagraves Tower, too. They let us stay at their motel we went to the New Smyrna every night ate peanuts and watched modifieds run.

It was just awesome to be able to look at the Seagraves section after the checkered flags fell and realize where you've been and where you are. There's just so much honor that goes along with it. It will take a long time for it to set in.

Q: Ryan, five years ago you left here like a highlight reel from your crash. Tomorrow morning you may be more famous than Wayne Knight. How does that feel? More television commercials in your future?

RYAN NEWMAN: Yeah, they got their mileage out of that crash. Obviously it was pretty spectacular. I feel blessed to be able to walk away from it.

I just can't wait to see how everything gets printed and played and taped and live shots and things like that. But just to be a part of it, just to feel it, just to see it, and to be sitting up here with Roger Penske knowing we won the 50th annual Daytona 500 is just awesome.

Q: Is your mom here? We talked to DeLana Harvick last year after Kevin won. She said that NASCAR always tells the drivers to bring a suit and be prepared to go to New York. You're not normally a suit kind of guy. Did you pack one?

RYAN NEWMAN: My mom stayed home. She just spent some time with some friends out in Phoenix. One of our neighbor's husband passed away. She did the right thing, spent some time with her. Been traveling a lot. Had the opportunity to stay home and visit with my sister and her two grandbabies.

So she was bawling in Victory Lane when I talked to her. I had to talk to her later because I couldn't understand a word she was saying.

What was the second question? Oh, the suit.

Oh, I was actually prepared for both. I had my clothes sitting out ready to go on the airplane, on my bed, in my bus. I was ready to go home if we had to go home. I figured if I didn't have my stuff ready we wouldn't do it. I'm kind of backwards and opposite when it comes to that stuff, so I don't have a suit with me. But I'm sure that the plane can stop someplace in New York on the way.

Q: You won $1.5 million. I think you can afford a suit now.

RYAN NEWMAN: It's not about affording it, it's just like wearing it. I don't necessarily like wearing 'em.

Q: When you grew up in Indiana, did you always dream your biggest moment would come at Indianapolis?

RYAN NEWMAN: Well, I'd hope to. I mean, we had great runs at Indianapolis back in '03 and '04. It was just a place we went to. We were always hooked up. The car was fast. We've had poor finishes the last couple years there.

We hopefully can get back on the freight train to speed there and have a better run at it. I know a lot of great things happen after you win the Daytona 500. A lot of history is based around stat wise winning the Daytona 500, then going on to win the championship. That would just be a dream come true.

Q: Ryan, can you describe what the push felt like on the backstretch? Has there been anything that stood out about this week in the sense of all the history that's been brought up? Anybody you enjoyed seeing or anybody you got to talk to, with former winners?

RYAN NEWMAN: The push itself, Kurt and I talked yesterday after practice. We discussed, along with Sam, how hard it was to actually push here compared to Talladega. Talladega, it was cake to push each other around for the entire lap. Here, even down the straightaways, it could be pretty iffy.

There were times tonight where I got pushes.  I was like, Man, ease off a
little bit.  I'm on the floor here.  You know, Kurt did a great job holding
me straight, which makes a difference.  You can wiggle around and shake the
guy in front of you loose.  He did a great job with it.

What was the second part again?

Q: Just about the history.

RYAN NEWMAN: The history, yeah. Like I said, sitting in the drivers meeting, the drivers that were up there, A.J. Foyt, Junior Johnson, even Pete Hamilton, guys I'd never seen before, I just heard of. I got their die cast at home. The little die cast of the wing cars, I've got them all. To see those guys in person, to see Mario Andretti sitting elbow to elbow with A.J. Foyt, picturing those guys, the way they used to run, the dirt miles, things like that, it's all part of it.

I felt that when Ken Schrader came up and gave me a hug in Victory Lane. Never said a word, just gave me a hug and walked off. I know how much he appreciates the history of the sport. That said a lot for him there, as well.

Q: This is a quote about you from Buddy Baker. He's as close to a third son as I've ever had. I don't have a record that I wouldn't like to see him break. Buddy had his share of his dry spells during his career. I wonder if he played any role in helping you cope with yours?

RYAN NEWMAN: Absolutely. Buddy was my teacher when I first started at Penske Racing in the ARCA series. Even the Busch and Cup Series. We used to go to every test together. He would ride along. We'd get in the rental car, drive around the racetrack the right way.

We'd turn around and drive around the racetrack the wrong way, gives you different vantage points. He likes to let you see what you can do coming off the corners and the way you enter the corners.

He was a great friend. He was a neighbor. We lived on the lake together. Now we're living up in Statesville. Either way, he's an awesome guy. It's really an honorable, as well. My dad and Buddy hit it off really well, even when they were spotting together. They spent a couple nights this week this week, this past weekend, eating dinner together and hanging out.

That's just awesome. I mean, to know that I was sitting in the Seagrave Tower and I watched Buddy Baker running in the Crisco car, and to see now my dad going out to dinner with him and see him being honored in the 50th running of the Daytona 500, it's just a dream come true, as well.

Q: One of the things I've noticed in your talking here, the one common thread is you keep going back about family. You went through some rough times the last couple years, on and off the track. How much more satisfying is it to enjoy this win with the family but also they were there to help you not only in your bad times but Roy's bad times as well?

RYAN NEWMAN: Absolutely. My family was my crew growing up racing in quarter midgets and midgets, even the Silver Crown series. Up till '97 was when I got a full time ride with somebody else. They were still part of the crew, they weren't responsible for getting into the racetrack.

My sister, I talked to her on the phone. She's my biggest critic. She had a few choice words. She told that she didn't think I could actually even do it on a restrictor plate, restrictor plate track.

So, it was, you know, I guess to prove my sister wrong either way is cool at the same time.

Q: Ryan, you broke an 81 race winless drought. Can you talk about what you have gone through since your last win in '05. A lot of times last year it looked like you were going to do it. What's it like?

RYAN NEWMAN: It was tough last year knowing that we were that close so many times. Going back to even Charlotte, when the track bar mount broke. It's like, Man, what do you got to do? I've told a few people, I just hope when I get back to Victory Lane it's a big one. Honestly, actually it was.

It's great to do it as a team, to have a rebounding year like we did last year. Everybody, Michael Nelson, the guys on the team that helped get the team back on pace, you know, they're here today, too. That's awesome. Just all the hard work and the effort that all the Penske organization puts into it, it's all played out tonight.

Q: Is it something special for you to have the only gold trophy in the 500?

RYAN NEWMAN: I just assumed they were all gold. I didn't really pay attention to it. It's neat. It's awesome. We both get one, Roger?

ROGER PENSKE: I hope so.

RYAN NEWMAN: I hope so. Me, too (laughter).

No, it's a team win. It's an organizational win. I'm just happy to see it and touch it and feel it. I mean, I drove by Daytona, U.S.A. and saw the statute of Dale Earnhardt, Sr. with that trophy in his hand, and that meant a lot to me. I won't have a statute made of me today, but hopefully that is something I can look forward to.

Q: How did you feel tonight putting your hands and feet in the concrete?

RYAN NEWMAN: That was pretty wild. The crazy part was you'd only do your right foot and then both hands. I guess they assume the left foot does nothing to get you in Victory Lane around here.

It was pretty cool. That's the first time I've ever done it, so I'm not sure where my casting is going. I'm not sure if I get a Walk of Fame or a square on a sidewalk someplace, but it was definitely cool.

KERRY THARP: Congratulations. Great performance tonight.

ROGER PENSKE: Thank you.

RYAN NEWMAN: Thank you.

-credit: nascar

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About this article
Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Ken Schrader , Mario Andretti , Junior Johnson , Roger Penske , Buddy Baker , DeLana Harvick , A.J. Foyt
Teams Team Penske