RYAN NEWMAN (No. 12 ALLTEL Dodge) NOTE: Newman, along with Jeremy Mayfield, represents Dodge Motorsports in the 10-race Chase for the 2004 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Championship. Newman and Mayfield experienced problems last Sunday at New Hampshire ...
RYAN NEWMAN (No. 12 ALLTEL Dodge)
NOTE: Newman, along with Jeremy Mayfield, represents Dodge Motorsports in the 10-race Chase for the 2004 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Championship. Newman and Mayfield experienced problems last Sunday at New Hampshire and consequently rank ninth and 10th, respectively, with nine races remaining in 2004. Newman trails by 136 points, while Mayfield is 142 points behind the leaders entering Sunday's MBNA America 400 at Dover International Speedway. Newman is the defending race champion.
"We had an awesome car all weekend (at New Hampshire), especially on Friday in practice and qualifying. With Saturday getting rained out, we were pretty happy with the performance of our weekend so far and looked forward to the race. We had a really great racecar with our ALLTEL/Mobil 1 Dodge on Sunday. Something happened in the engine. We don't exactly know what yet. With about 25 or 50 to go or whatever it was there, and it eliminated us from competition. We definitely had a shot at the win. We were leading at the point where we pitted, even when we had the engine problems. Unfortunately, we weren't able to continue.
"We look forward to Dover. Obviously last year we won both of the races. This year we got caught up in one of the big wrecks. Part of that was because I ran out of talent coming on pit road. If we can have no green-flag stops at Dover this time I think we're going to have a good shot at the win."
DO YOU FEEL A FINALITY WITH THIS POINTS' SYSTEM?
"We're just going to go there with the same plan we had at Loudon and that's to win the race, lead the most laps and get the most bonus points possible. Have a shot at the pole, get good pit selection which is critical at Dover and every other racetrack. Just stay focused. After the race there Sunday, we went out on top. Unfortunately we went out, but the good thing is we went out on top and we haven't been able to do that this year as far as performance goes. I felt good to be that competitive and be up front pretty much every lap of the race. I look forward to the opportunity for the last nine races. I think we've learned a lot getting up to these last 10 races. I think you'll see a lot stronger 12 car in the last 10."
IS THERE A DIFFERENT FEELING GOING INTO THE CHASE?
"I don't think so. The feeling is still the same. You're doing your best. If you win the championship by a point or lose it by a point or win it by 150 points, you're still trying your hardest. That happens from the first lap you run off the truck to the checkered flag drops on Saturday or Sunday. We'll just stay focused. I think the ultimate goals are the same for every team and that's to win the race on the weekend."
COMMENT ON ROBBY GORDON-GREG BIFFLE FLAP AND HOW IT AFFECTED CHASE CONTENDERS
"I got to watch some of the highlights. It pretty much seems to me that when something like that happens with what Robby Gordon did there's usually at least some kind of fine and usually probation afterwards. I haven't heard anything in regards to that. It was obvious he took out the 16 car. I don't know if the 16 car took out the 31 on purpose. I think that was maybe marginal, but Robby obviously went back and took out the 16 car and the other cars at the same time. It just kind of showed you how hot-headed he was at the time. It's part of racing. It's happened to me before, and it's happened to other drivers whether it's in the chase for the championship or the first race of the year."
HOW CONCERNED ARE YOU ABOUT BEING 136 POINTS OUT OF FIRST AFTER THE FIRST CHASE RACE?
"I'm concerned for sure. We had a chance to be 30 points out of the lead versus 130. It definitely hurt. We've had to fight back pretty much every season with this Penske Organization, and I think this is just another 10-race season for us that we're going to have to fight back. We're prepared to do that."
WILL IT BE THE SAME FOR WHOEVER WINS THE TITLE?
"It won't be the same. I guess that's an obvious. If different is good, this is the best potential we're going to have seeing if the winner of this NEXTEL Cup championship feels as warm and fuzzy as winning the Winston Cup championship in the past with the old points' system. I guess that's to be determined. For me personally, I don't think it's going to create the ultimate championship or the ultimate champion. I guess that's to be determined."
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO THE POINT THAT OTHER SPORTS HAVE TRIED SOMETHING SIMILAR?
"I guess the traditionalist in me says this is stock car and it's auto racing and we've become in my opinion one of the biggest if not the biggest fans' sports in the United States. We did it by what we had, not by what we're going to have. When NASCAR takes the risk of changing that, we take just as much risk to go downhill as uphill as far as the fan base we have and the following of NASCAR, so everybody knows it was a risk to change the points' system. We'll just see how it turns out."
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT CONVERSATIONS BETWEEN DRIVER AND CREW BEING BROADCAST?
"You've got freedom and speech, and you've got freedom to listen. The second thing is Robby lost his cool and it didn't take somebody listening to him to be able to see that or to be able to understand that. The way he drove the racecar proved it. There's a couple of different ways to look at it, but the bottom line is it's that way for a reason. It's that way because we have fans. It's that way because we have sponsors. It'll probably continue to be that way. Whether it's somebody cussing on the radio or somebody's plans to get somebody back, it's part of NASCAR right now."
HAS THE 12 TEAM REQUESTED FOR IN-CAR AUDIO NOT TO BE BROADCAST?
"To the best of my knowledge I don't know anything about that. I don't know about on-air, but I do know about on-internet we've been broadcast. I've seen fans send emails back in saying 'why did you say that to so and so?' or 'why did you say that during the race?' That's all fine and dandy. Like I said, it creates a fan following. Some people like it and some people hate it, but either way I guess it creates some turmoil which I guess is good for the sport. We'll just roll along with it. It seems like no matter what the same people cause problems and create situations that affect other people."
DOES A DRIVER NEED TO RETALIATE IMMEDIATELY ON TRACK?
"I think the bottom line is NASCAR does manage that in a certain way. There are drivers out there that are notorious for beating people around and at the same time getting beat around because they do that. I guess in the grand scheme of things, it's just like a lot of rules in NASCAR. They're judgment calls. Certain drivers deserve to get punished and certain drivers are on the receiving end and deserve to be able to get the guy back. It's not something that should be talked about as much as it should just maybe happen and just basically go with it. There's a time and place, and you don't always have to hit the guy back or spin the guy or crash the guy. You can go talk to him and fix the situation without having to repay the guy. You've got to keep in mind, too, that not only is that guy risking his life. You're risking your life. You can look at it that way, but a lot worse can happen other than just spinning the guy out."
HAVE YOU LOOKED AT THE CHAMPIONSHIP MATH?
"I glanced at it once when I got home Sunday night, but I haven't even looked at it. I haven't done any math. We're going to go to Dover and we're going to go to Talladega and Kansas and every other place, and we're going to go there to win. We're just going to stay focused. We went out on top, which we haven't been able to do much this year. We've been able to do it a few times as far as running in the top five and having a good if not dominant car, but it felt good to be able to run that good and that put a smile on my face after Sunday."
DO YOU EXPECT SOME DRIVERS IN THE TOP 10 TO HAVE PROBLEMS EVERY WEEK?
"I expect there's going to be at least one car every weekend that has a problem. Whether every car in the top 10 has a problem in the last 10 races, obviously, nobody knows. I think having the three we had this past weekend was probably on the high side. You'll never know. We'll just go on and see what happens in these next races. Talladega could wipe out all 10 of them or it could wipe out none. You just never know."