RYAN NEWMAN (No. 12 Alltel Dodge Charger) NOTE: Newman finished second Sunday in the Dodge/Save Mart 350 at Infineon Raceway. He opened the season with a third-place run in the Daytona 500 but hasn't had another top-five finish until Sunday...
RYAN NEWMAN (No. 12 Alltel Dodge Charger)
NOTE: Newman finished second Sunday in the Dodge/Save Mart 350 at Infineon Raceway. He opened the season with a third-place run in the Daytona 500 but hasn't had another top-five finish until Sunday in Sonoma. Consequently, Newman ranks 17th in the series standings with 10 races remaining to qualify for The Chase. He's 50 points behind Penske Racing South teammate Kurt Busch in 14th place and 215 points out of 10th.
IF YOU HAD TO COMPARE YOUR SEASON TO DATE TO A FISHING TRIP WHAT WOULD IT BE? "It definitely rained at some point. That's a good question and a good way to put it. I'd say a few times we've caught a couple of fish, no real big fish but a couple of keepers. We've had to look really hard for the fish. The fish finder tells us they're there, but they're not biting. It looks like the moon phase is coming in, and they should start biting pretty soon."
DO YOU HAVE ANY THOUGHTS ON WHY JIMMIE JOHNSON HAS BEEN ABLE TO TURN IT AROUND ON PLATE TRACKS THIS YEAR? "Jimmie has always had a pretty good and fast race car for restrictor-plate tracks, going back to his Daytona 500 pole run back when he was a rookie. For him it's not that uncommon. It's just that he's probably not got to victory lane. That's what we're looking for."
DO YOU EXPECT THE DODGES TO RUN WELL AT DAYTONA AGAIN? "It's kind of hard to say you expect it, but I look forward to the opportunity to go back. We definitely had a strong run at Daytona (in February)."
DO YOU REMEMBER LAST YEAR'S JULY RACE AT DAYTONA LASTING UNTIL THE WEE HOURS OF THE MORNING? "Actually I don't. I can't comment on that. I don't recall much about it other than it was a pretty late night and early morning. I didn't even remember that. I'm sorry. I believe then we just got out and went home. We don't have our own jet. Krissie and I fly with the team. Whenever the team leaves we leave."
COMMENT ON STARTING POSITIONS AT CHICAGO "The track is getting much more conducive to passing because of the age of the asphalt. When I won there in 2003 it was probably still fresh. Two thousand and one was the inaugural season, at least for NASCAR to be on it. It's a fast racetrack. I like it a lot. It's kind of unique in the shape of the backstretch and the frontstretch. My point is the asphalt aging is going to make it much more conducive to getting multiple grooves and pass easier. The way the aerodynamics are on the race cars right now it'll be easier with multiple lanes."
IS THAT THE TYPE OF TRACK DRIVERS LOOK FORWARD TO? "Definitely Michigan and Atlanta are tracks we really look forward to as far as being able to race and your starting position not dictating what laps you're able to lead if you have a fast racecar."
WHY HAVE THE FISH NOT BEEN BITING? "In fishing terms at the beginning of the year we were throwing the wrong lure. It's hard to get the fish to bite if you're throwing the wrong lure. Once we got the right lure on you've got to throw it in the right spot, and we're finally getting around to doing that. The fish are there and they're starting to bite, which is what I was alluding to as far as the moon phase changes. The bottom line is we were trying to fish, but we weren't fishing really hard at the beginning of the season. We were trying hard, but we weren't getting the results. Basically, if you look at the 2 and 12 efforts we've definitely rounded the corner and it's getting a little bit better as far as our performances and qualifying and what not. That's a good sign for any Penske racing fan. It's just a matter of us from this point forward of putting the right effort forward, which we always do, and getting the results, which we don't always do."
HAVE YOU HAD TO GET USED TO NEW SETUPS? "We had a really tough off season from a people standpoint in the offseason at Penske Racing, losing the entire 77 team and changing hands of basically the entire 2 traveling team. We actually lost more people and had a bigger personnel change in the offseason than we ever have at the 12 car. That made it difficult to start the season right. Daytona was basically, I won't say it was a fluke by any means, but it didn't show what our true capabilities were in reference to averaging out the first seven or eight races if that makes any sense. We've just definitely struggled more from a people standpoint at the beginning of the season. That's gotten a lot better up to this point. We still have a little bit of room for improvement, but it's definitely made the whole situation at Penske Racing a lot better."
COMMENT ON THE INFINEON RACE "It was a good solid run for us to be able to start fourth. We had a close call on the very first lap with McMurray and Harvick and all that stuff. But we had a good run, and really good pit stops. The guys did a great job with the Alltel Dodge in reference to that. We had good track position and kept the car on the racetrack and kept the fenders on the car the entire day and that led to a good finish."
HOW MUCH IS MATT KENSETH A PATRON SAINT FOR GUYS TRYING TO GET INTO THE TOP 10? "He's definitely proved there's potential and hope. The worst part of it is he was basically the only one that had to do it last year based on what we had seen the previous years on guys that were in The Chase and not in The Chase. Right now between Carl Edwards and myself and Kurt, there's three guys that have been in The Chase trying to get in. Obviously the guys that are in the top 10 now don't want to lose that opportunity. We've got a little more work to do in reference to the numbers that are fighting against us, but mathematically there is hope. There is a lot of potential. We can't dwell on that, but we can use it as a reference."
WHAT SIGNS DO YOU SEE THAT YOU COULD MAKE THE CHASE? "From a communication standpoint, we've struggled mostly because of performance this year. Getting that better, which was a lot better last weekend and we're looking forward to it being good at Daytona. Just the communication part, the teamwork, that makes so big a difference in the performance of the race car, being able to make the right changes and being able to make the right calls. Again, we had great pit stops, which is always a bonus. It keeps you going and keeps you ahead. The little things all tied together make such a big difference compared to some of the bigger things."
WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY BETTER COMMUNICATION? "When you're not running well and you're not performing like you have in the past and you know you can or you have before, and things are not making sense, it's hard to fight through the things that aren't making sense. If I say something to Matt and tell him this is what's happening and he says 'it didn't happen that way in the past' or 'why does it feel that way? O 'why doesn't this affect the car the way it used to?' It's hard to fight through those situations. It's hard to not fault the other person, and that's been something that's been difficult for us this year because of our performance and because of struggling the way we have. From a timing standpoint we haven't been able to put the efforts forward to qualify, to have a better pit selection, to have a better race situation. Just the whole equation has been off balance for us a little bit. That's why the communication part, it's good to be able to get it back when everything is making sense like it did this past weekend. That's what I was alluding to. There are no problems outside of that."
HOW LONG DID IT TAKE YOU TO RECOVER FROM CRAMPING SUNDAY? "I got one little blister on the back side. It was mostly like for any guy out there, if you were to drive down the highway for 10-12 hours and be sitting on your wallet and not being able to move. You've basically got that one little pressure point. It's like you're sitting on a high heel. That's what it felt like and it actually hurt way worse after the race than it did during the race. I'm doing OK now."