Ryan Newman, driver of the No. 12 ALLTEL Taurus, took part in a Raybestos Rookie press conference earlier today to discuss the rookie points race and season to date. RYAN NEWMAN --12-- ALLTEL Taurus HOW DO YOU FEEL COMING TO...
Ryan Newman, driver of the No. 12 ALLTEL Taurus, took part in a Raybestos Rookie press conference earlier today to discuss the rookie points race and season to date.
RYAN NEWMAN --12-- ALLTEL Taurus
HOW DO YOU FEEL COMING TO THIS TRACK?
"It's been a pretty good track for us statistically. We had the ARCA pole here. We crashed in qualifying practice in the Cup car last year and took our backup car out cold turkey and qualified 17th or 18th and worked our way up through the field and finished second. The track has been pretty good and I think it's gonna be different this year with the track being one year old and the surface being a little less abrasive. Maybe the track will widen out a little bit and we'll have a little more passing, but, overall, we've pretty much had the same kind of year (as Jimmie Johnson). We've had some success in other areas as far as top fives. He's been knocking down the wins, but it's been a great year for both of us and I'm just looking forward to finishing it out."
WHAT DO YOU SEE AS YOUR BEST OPPORTUNITY TO MAKE UP GROUND IN THE POINTS RACE?
"The best opportunity is every weekend. I guess sometimes your biggest gains come from everybody else's weaknesses. We may go to a place like Talladega where there may be a big crash and we might be the only one that makes it through it that's in the top 10 in points. You look at things like that and just try to put yourself in position. No matter what, we've got to approach every race at the end of the season like it's the last and just do the best we can. We've done that to this point and it's gotten us to this point, but you've seen the last four weeks how things have shuffled around between the points leader and the top 10, and how the point gap has lessened and lengthened."
WHAT'S BEEN THE KEY TO YOUR SUCCESS THE LAST TWO MONTHS?
"Really just keeping the car together. We had the consistency going at the beginning of the year. We were third at Texas when we broke a motor. We were third at Talladega when we broke a motor. We were leading at Pocono when we lost a fuel pump. The consistency was there in performance, but it wasn't there in the end result at the end of the day. We had a problem at Michigan with the motor again, in the last 10 races, and just got involved in an accident at Bristol, which isn't too far fetched for anybody."
HOW HAVE YOU FIXED THOSE PROBLEMS?
"They just went back to the drawing board and looked at what they could do to make everything better. We just had some freak parts. Like I said, a fuel pump breaks, we had some oil pump belts break. Those things you just don't typically see, so those guys went back and researched and, at the same time, looked at everything else that could take us out."
DO YOU STILL CONSIDER YOURSELF A CHAMPIONSHIP CONTENDER?
"We'd be crazy not to consider ourselves a championship contender. Everybody always looks back to see what Kulwicki did in the last few races and he came back and fought back. Like Jimmie said, you can go to places like Martinsville where anything can happen and Talladega where anything can happen. There are 185 points available in one weekend, so we're not out of it. We just need some good luck for us and not-so-good luck for everybody else."
DO YOU REMEMBER ANY "ROOKIE"MISTAKES ON THE TRACK THIS YEAR?
"I punched a hole in the radiator at Martinsville being impatient with a slower car. There are times when I've slid through my pits and we've had our share of crashes, like crashing in qualifying at Dover in the spring race. You try to put those things behind you and try to forget about them, but those are mistakes you've made."
HOW MUCH OF A RIVALRY IS THERE WITH JIMMIE?
"We sat down in Daytona and we never really talked to each other a whole lot in the Busch Series other than saying 'hi' and 'good luck' and stuff like that. But when we had similar opportunities, I think we gained a lot of respect for each other just through what he has with Hendrick and what I have with Penske. The way we've treated each other all year, we've had some good races on the race track and we've had a lot of fun. I think we respect each other's teams a lot. I know my crew chief Matt (Borland) and Chad (Knaus) have a good rapport and I just think everything carries over. The bottom line is I think we've got a lot of respect for each other on the race track and off."
WHAT SIMILARITIES DO YOU HAVE WITH JIMMIE?
"I think another thing too is we've both got a lot of dirt experience. There are few people out there that I know of, besides Tony Stewart and Schrader, that have a lot of experience on the dirt and I think that helps a lot with the car control."
YOU AND JIMMIE WENT TO A MARTINSVILLE TEST TOGETHER, WHO DROVE?
"I did, but he went back with his crew chief so maybe I did something wrong."
HOW DOES RUSTY HELP YOU?
"It's priceless information when you can sit down with a teammate like Rusty, that's got so much experience when you go to ask him a question. I can remember times when I started fourth at Bristol and I said, 'Man, what am I gonna do going into turn one? Is the guy running third gonna leave me a hole or do I make my own hole?' For situations like that you can only go to somebody like Rusty for the answer. That's what keeps you out of trouble in rookie seasons. Like Jimmie said, we're beating some records as far as what we're doing on the race track in performances and I think that relationship with our veteran driver teammates has helped a lot."
HOW ARE YOU HOLDING UP PAST THE HALFWAY MARK OF THIS 20-WEEK STRETCH? "The best thing to do is just take it one week at a time. Forget about the fact that it's a 20-week stretch and just do it. That's what we're here for. There are a lot of on-track and off-track commitments, but sometimes those commitments keep you busy and keep your mind off the fact that you're working steady for 20 weeks."
WHAT WOULD IT MEAN TO WIN THE ROOKIE TITLE?
"I've been a rookie in different series and everytime I've challenged for rookie of the year, I've won it. Sometimes we've won it when we didn't even try -- we didn't even run the whole series. Winning it is great, but, like Jimmie said, the big picture is the championship. The big picture is winning races in order to get the championship. Rookie of the year is something that's great, nobody can take that way from you. We've had a spirited battle all the way through this year and, up to this point, it would be great for either of us to win it. But the big picture is the championship."
WOULD YOU LIKE TO RACE OTHER TYPES OF CARS AS WELL WHILE STILL RACING WINSTON CUP?
"It might come to that some day as far as going off and doing something fun, aside for what we do for fun, but, overall, I know we enjoy the time to relax to be able to go back and focus on what we do each weekend."