RYAN NEWMAN, NO. 39 HAAS AUTOMATION CHEVROLET, met with members of the media at Martinsville Speedway and discussed racing at Martinsville, the start to his season, drivers being athletes and other topics.
HERE AT MARTINSVILLE, IS IT THE GOOD, BAD OR UGLY FOR YOU? “It can be all of the above. We were horrible here last fall at the start of practice and we actually had the idea of going some place to test for Martinsville and that didn’t work. Then we finally got good at the start of the race and went up and led some laps and then broke a rear gear running in the top-five. It can be a little bit of everything. It is 500 laps but it is 1,000 cycles on your brakes, on your transmission, on your gears. Pit road is really tight. A lot of things that we deal with from a mechanical standpoint as far as what is tough on the race car is even tougher here. If you have a good car, manage it and put yourself in where you can be David Pearson or Richard Petty here at the end.”
HOW DO YOU LIKE THE NEW QUALIFYING SETUP HERE (ON SATURDAY) OR DON’T YOU? WHAT IS YOUR OPINION? “I don’t mind the qualifying setup. I just don’t want to come here for one day and just qualify? To me, for what we do in qualifying, it makes more sense to use our practice speeds for qualifying and not have to spend an extra day or put the time in. I don’t know what the schedule is after our Cup practice but if we could qualify after our Cup practice and make it a two-day event. That, to me, makes the most sense. Coming here, I have the opportunity to go back and forth so coming up tomorrow for two laps is not the most planned, I guess you could say, as far as use of everybody’s time. Then you have guys on crews coming up here and spending nights in motels just to be here for two laps. I think it is experiment and I’m not mad about it but I don’t see that it makes entire sense right now.”
CAN YOU SAY THAT THE BIGGEST DIFFERENCE BETWEEN LAST YEAR AND THIS YEAR HAS BEEN LUCK? “Do you want me to say that? You said ‘Can I say that’. So, yes I can, but I don’t want to.”
PUT IT IN PERSPECTIVE FOR US: “I think some of it has been us on the good side of luck versus the bad side of luck. But I think in saying that, as I have said before in the past, even when we are having bad luck, part of that is preparation. I think we put ourselves in a better position team-wise and communication-wise to be more successful this year. After two years of working together, we’ve learned what we needed to work on and I think we did a good job in the off-season of doing that.”
WHAT WAS IT? “Just overall teamwork; communication. It is really how we work together as a team. Talking about things more is probably the biggest part of it. Being more specific about what we talk about in reference to the race car, the balance and things like that.”
HOW DO YOU MENTALTY PREPARE YOURSELF COMING INTO MARTINSVILLE WHERE IT CAN BE FRUSTRATING WITH A LOT OF BUMPING AND BANGING? “It is Martinsville. I was thinking about it this morning. Been doing it for nine or 10 years now and it is just, after you do it so many times, you just come here with the mindset that it is just Martinsville. To answer your questions for somebody hasn’t been here, you have to manage a lot of things. You have to manage your brakes; your bumpers; you don’t knock the radiator in; you leave yourself a little bit of room on pit road. You know it is 500 laps and even if you get a lap down, the way the cautions work here, there are going to be several Lucky Dogs. Just things like that; that you just have to keep thinking about instead of knocking a guy out of the way that won’t move after four laps of following him.”
DO YOU HAVE TO BE A GOOD ATHLETE TO BE A GREAT DRIVER AT THIS LEVEL? AND ALSO HOW MUCH OF A FACTOR CAN PHYSICAL FITNESS AND STAMINA PLAY INTO A PERFORMANCE AT THE END OF A TOUGH RACE? “Why wouldn’t you have to be a great athlete to be a great driver? You said a good athlete to be a great driver? Why wouldn’t you have to be a great athlete to be a great driver? MEDIA MEMBER RESPONDS-BECAUSE I HAVE TALKED TO SOME DRIVERS WHO HAVE SAID YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE AN ATHLETE AT ALL TO BE A GOOD DRIVER. “Nobody lies, right? Nobody stretches the truth? To answer your question, I was just picking on you because you said good athlete and great driver because I think in some sport, depending on the athleticism, and the amount of athleticism, you have to be a great athlete to be a great professional I guess you could say, whether it is a driver or a player or whatever. I think in what we do, I don’t think you have to be super athletic. I think more of what we do is what the US Army is all about which is the mental and physical and the balance of the emotional strength to be successful. So, I don’t think I have to be capable of out running Jimmie Johnson or Mark Martin or Carl Edwards, but I have to be able to stay with them when I need to and at the same time have the mental and emotional strength to be successful. I couldn’t tell you if I have to be good to be great, but I can tell you that I think it takes a balance of all three of those things to be successful as a race car driver because of what we do. We’re sitting in a chair, operating pedals and a steering wheel which is entirely different than going head-to-head, helmet-to-helmet with somebody else. So the athleticism is not a direct comparison.”
LOOKING AHEAD TO TEXAS, YOUR MILE-AND-A-HALF STATS ARE PRETTY GOOD AND OF COURSE THERE IS A LITTLE BIT OF EXCITEDMENT ABOUT THIS FIRST NIGHT RACE AT TEXAS, SO JUST YOUR THOUGHTS GOING INTO TEXAS. ARE YOU PRETTY CONFIDENT SO FAR? “That is one of the things going back to the earlier question, the things we have worked on and that’s our biggest weakness as a team was our bad luck at restrictor plates which we called partially bad luck. The second biggest weakness we had was our intermediate tracks, our mile-and-a-half, two-mile race tracks. We didn’t have as good of stats there as we did at the short tracks and some of the road course stuff. That was one of the things, that looking at after the first five races between Las Vegas and California, that we’re happy that we have made big improvements as a team on the No. 39 side. Obviously Tony has proved he can get it done and we’ve made a bigger statement of what we are capable of. Going into to Texas, I am happy. I am looking forward to it. The night race, I think the biggest thing, what is the track going to do. I don’t know. We always had a big balance transition at places like Charlotte, Atlanta and they were sometimes different. But going into Texas, what the transitions are going to be and what the weather is going to be like that leads to those transitions. That’s the biggest thing, answering the unanswered. But everybody has the unanswered right now.”
I think we put ourselves in a better position team-wise and communication-wise to be more successful this year.
CAN YOU PUT THE FANS BEHIND THE WHEEL AS YOU DRIVE MARTINSVILLE? “It can be totally different because you can be up front and it can just be relaxing because you can just be barely easing in the brakes, you’re not driving really hard in the corner. You are not having to out-brake somebody. Obviously, if you are out front, you’ve got a good race car. You’ve had a good pit stop, whatever. You are in a good position. But if you are back in the middle of the storm, you are having to really abuse your race car because of traffic, not because of the way you drive. They might get sideways or get bumper-to-bumper and check-up in front of you and you have to over-brake your race car when otherwise you wouldn’t. So, you are abusing your race car unintentionally because of traffic. That is one of the biggest things here that you have to manage if you know you know have a fast race car, is not use it up and get stuck back in there with those guys that are using up their race cars in traffic. That is just one perspective that you don’t normally see out on the race track. I should say, you don’t normally see because you are not on the race track doing what we do. I looks like we are just kind of jumbling up but you don’t know how much and how much leg it takes to get these cars to stop sometimes and what you are doing to the rotors and the brakes to cause that.”
WE HAVE SEEN A LOT OF DRIVERS TAKE GAMBLES ON PIT ROAD AND DIFFERING PIT STRATEGIES, HOW MANY OF THOSE DECISIOINS ARE PLANNED OUT OR ARE THEY SEAT-OF-THE-PANTS, HEAT-OF-THE-MOMENT DECISIONS? YOU TALKED ABOUT COMMMUNICATION, HOW MUCH DOES THAT PLAY INTO THE CONFIDENCE WHEN THE CREW CHIEF COMES ON THE RADIO AND SAYS WE ARE DOING THIS OR THAT, HOW MUCH DOES THAT HELP? “I understand your question, but I think it is a little out of context. I don’t think we have taken gambles on pit road; I think we have taken options. I think that we’ve taken two tires when other guys have taken four. To me, a gamble is when you go out there and you say ‘man, we might make it on fuel so we are going to stay out’. We haven’t done that with our team. (Tony) Stewart has done it a couple of times but we haven’t done that. So I don’t necessarily agree with the word gamble, but I understand your context of the question and that is we’ve put ourselves in the option of track positions I’d say more so than four tires and that, I think, has helped us at times. That could change at different race tracks, but I would said in general Tony Gibson (crew chief) has been making great calls in respect to that.”
DO YOU RUB IT IN TO YOUR BOSS MAN (TONY STEWART) THAT YOU ARE HIGHER THAN HE IS IN THE POINTS RIGHT NOW? “No. No. Honestly, I haven’t seen him since California. But, he doesn’t rub it into me when he is ahead of me so I don’t rub it into him. I mean, honestly he sees us as equals when it comes to what we do in the race cars and just because he owns my race car, doesn’t mean I rub it in his face when I am one point or 30 points ahead of him. So, if he did rub it into me, I would rub it into him, let’s put it that way. But we would be doing it jokingly, not seriously."
-source: team chevy