An Interview With Ryan Newman
THE MODERATOR: Our guest today is Ryan Newman, and this weekend at Michigan, Newman will pilot the No. 39 U.S. Army Bud Moore NASCAR Hall of Fame Chevrolet. The No. 39 will carry an old military photo on his quarterpanels, which pays tribute to Moore, a decorated World War II veteran who was inducted to the NASCAR Hall of Fame last month. The No. 39 car will also pay tribute to the Army's 236th birthday, which is this week.
Ryan is currently tenth in points in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points standings, and tied with teammate and team owner Tony Stewart. In 19 starts at Michigan, Ryan has collected one pole two, wins and four Top-5 finishes.
Ryan, as you head to a track that you traveled to many times as a kid, talk about what would it mean to collect another victory at Michigan, especially considering it being Army's birthday this week and your first Father's Day.
RYAN NEWMAN: Well, it's special for a lot of reasons, and I've always considered it home. It's one of the first places I ever came and saw a NASCAR Sprint Cup race and as a fan, and just kind of like coming back home for me.
So mix in having U.S. Army on the race car, their birth die, 236 years strong, the cool factor of having bud Moore on the race car and as you said the decorated veteran that he was and is, just being Father's Day, first time for me having my dad there and coming back home, I look forward to it. I hope the race car is as fast as all of the hype we have built up into it.
Q. Bud Moore being on your car and everything, and the Hall of Fame just announced Dale Inman is going to be inducted, wonder if you've met these guys and what's your sense of history of what they have done in NASCAR many years ago?
RYAN NEWMAN: Well, I had never met Bud Moore until a couple of weeks ago and was honored to meet him, especially after watching his biography on TV talking about how he was involved with the war and how influential he was and the command that he was with. That's one part of it.
The other part of it is the NASCAR side of things, and you know, what he's done for our sport, the innovations he's made, the things he's accomplished, and mixing those two things together, that's why it's an honor for me to represent him.
And then talking about guys like Dale Inman that you said, that I've got a chance to meet, obviously in the Hall of Fame, these are great, genuine men who have meant a lot and done a lot and some have started out with very little. Just proud to represent and proud to -- and it's an honor for me as I said to represent the Army, and then you add in a soldier like Bud Moore and NASCAR pioneer, that's even cooler.
Q. We saw this week Kyle Busch got a 6-point penalty for being too low on the left run. A little bit of an infraction, but not huge; how do drivers look that it? Do they say it's not much of a big deal or he got away with something?
RYAN NEWMAN: It's tough to answer that without knowing exactly what it was on the car, if it was something that was done intentionally and NASCAR can deem that intentional, then that's one thing. But if it was some situation where a part failed, then that's a different thing.
So it's hard from the outside in to say whether it's the penalty meets the crime, but in saying that, the toughest part in my eyes was figuring out how to match this points system with a penalty. To my knowledge that's the first penalty we have had with the new points system.
Q. Is it natural for guys to have parts break and just to be too low -- inaudible -- if that happened 36 times a year, he would be too low once or twice?
RYAN NEWMAN: That's why I say it's tough to say, because if you look at suspension components, the right front seems a lot more low than the left front does, so if the left front failed a component, then the question is, was it made to intentionally fail.
So NASCAR has to do their homework and have a study on whether it's element analysis of the parts and pieces and how it was assembled and whenever it happens, whether it was a spring or suspension part hood, I don't know. But that's all of the things that need to be considered, and you know, handing out a penalty when it comes to something like that.
Q. I see that you've been active in rescue dogs and that kind of program for a long time. Just wonder what your passion is about that, and how you became involved in it and why you think it's important, and I think the last thing I saw was that you and your wife have I think five rescue dogs, and I guess how many is too many when you get the house full?
RYAN NEWMAN: We used to have a rule in the house that we had to stop at four, because between my wife and I, it was only a dog per hand is all you could do to scratch and satisfy their needs.
We actually broke that rule and ended up with six and now we are back down to five. We just have a love of animals and want to do everything we can to help their welfare. So raise awareness for spaying and neutering and people going out and adapting a pet versus spending $1,000 on animal that somebody bred just to be a money maker for them.
You know, we are trying to eliminate the over population. The over-population, and therefore, the euthanization of animals.
I don't know if they make an F1 car that I can fit into.
Q. What's the response been from NASCAR fans as far as listening to the message and then getting involved in this?
RYAN NEWMAN: Well, NASCAR fans are like anybody else. I shouldn't say we are all -- there's a majority of us that are pet lovers.
So it's good to see -- we have got our -- inaudible -- of pets that talks about drivers and TV personalities and car owners and crew chiefs and their love of animals and the bottom line is, we represent as -- from the NASCAR side of things, the same type of feelings and emotions that people have that are common fans out there in the real world.
So a lot of things transfer over and I think that's what they like to see in how our relationships are with our animals.
Q. Looking at Daytona, are you looking forward to tandem racing, and what are your thoughts on tandem racing in general?
RYAN NEWMAN: I look forward to coming back there, and getting a little more experience from Daytona and Talladega, I'm sure our teams are going to be more competitive than they ever have been at that type of racing.
It's going to be hot. It will be interesting to see how much grip there is in the race car after this spring and if we still have to run wide open or if we have to lift at all. The racing itself, I wouldn't say is my favorite kind of racing, but I do prefer it more over the old style of drafting, I guess you could say, that we have always done there.
It's nice to have an impact as a driver on the abilities of tandem racing, but I would rather be racing side-by-side, three-wide or four-wide or running wide open and having my car do the work than something else pushing me.
Q. I went to the ride swap yesterday with Tony Stewart and Lewis Hamilton. I was just totally fascinated. A lot of effort on behalf of your team and to come out for two days and get ready. Did you see any of that, and if you haven't answered this yet, what are your thoughts about how Tony did it and how Lewis did it and how fascinating that would be as an general ear to watch it?
RYAN NEWMAN: I watched three minutes of it last night and saw Lewis in Stewart's car and he did a heck of a job I thought just controlling the race car which isn't easy to do.
Outside of that, I think it was more about having fun and creating some awareness for mobile and how great of a partner they are for Stewart Haas Racing and how basically from a racer's standpoint, a good racer can drive anything, and I'm sure probably both of them proved that at the end of the day. I didn't see that but I'm just speculating.
Q. Would you like to do the swap of something like that just for fun?
RYAN NEWMAN: I don't know if they make an F1 car that I can fit into.
Q. Tony fit into it.
RYAN NEWMAN: Yeah, I got him by a couple of inches on the suit coat size.
Q. You've been racing Daytona about ten years how. Can you give me your impression of how racing has changed at Daytona in those ten years, how dramatic it's been?
RYAN NEWMAN: It's been a big change I would say for two parts. No. 1, probably the biggest part is the car itself and the way that we race around there and going from no it -- what do you call it, no taxicab signs to taxicab signs to no taxicab signs in the new car and then the difference between the wing and the spoiler and the way the cars are drafting now. That's one part of it.
The other part of it is the racetrack itself; the fact that it's so grippy now, it was such a handling racetrack. You had to be all about getting your car perfectly set up in order to not abuse the tires or blow a tire or going back to my Daytona 500 victory, the cars were on edge; everybody was on edge. It's a fun place to race. And it will be even more fun once the track gauges up again.
And in just those ten years as you stated, it changed a lot. The racing changed a lot, more so from the change of the race car than to the change of the racetrack.
Q. With your engineering background, the changes on the horizon with the fuel injection and the new body template, it seems like NASCAR is quickly modernizing the series.
RYAN NEWMAN: Yeah, and I don't like the whole modernizing thing. I don't know how to answer the fuel injection question. It's kind of a Catch 22 where we are talking about being green and good for the environment and those things, that's one side of it. The other side of it is I like the preservation of the history of our sport, and the fact that it is kind of rustic in many areas.
You know, a friend of mine, I said one time, before you take the carburetor off and put a fuel injection system on it, why don't you take the 1966 truck arm suspension out of the back of the car first and make it make the racing look better. I don't think the difference between a fuel injection versus a carburetor is going to change the way the fans perceive our sport in the grandstands, and I think that's what we need to focus on the most.
Q. You get to do many off-track activities; can you share your most favorite off-track moments?
RYAN NEWMAN: My most favorite off-track moments: I've had a lot of fun doing my Army appearances and actually I'm driving right now to another one, so if the lady on the GPS speaks, that's not somebody else, that's her; she's got no personality.
I really enjoyed my Fort Bragg appearance where we got to do the vertical winds tunnel. They took me down in the training areas where they do live rounds bouncing off rubber walls. It felt like they were bouncing off. I swear, I don't know how the rubber walls kept the bullets from not bouncing but just things like that are a lot of fun and getting to meet soldiers.
And visits to the Walter Reed are special; they are bittersweet, but they are special. Things like that have taught me much more about what the U.S. Army does and is and has been doing that I didn't realize in my years past. But we have a lot of fun off the racetrack, sometimes even at the racetrack I go and finish and do things like that, too. But getting to meet those soldiers and those people are definitely special.
Q. And do you get to do anything like say you get special treatment to go to a Super Bowl or is there anything like that that you like, also?
RYAN NEWMAN: Yeah, I've gone to Super Bowls. In fact, I never had gone to a professional football game in my life and I went to a Super Bowl. I was lucky back in the day to be partnered up with Gatorade because they have big Super Bowl parties and things like that. I enjoy those things, but I don't enjoy them any more than going on the racetrack and doing what I do and enjoying the things around the racetrack.
It's not changed from my personal standpoint ...
Q. You had a 15th and 9th the last two weeks; you guys are on the bubble. Do you feel like you are at all on the upswing or do you feel like you're swinging into this Chase spot or where do you think you're at?
RYAN NEWMAN: Our 15th at Kansas was partially luck. We did the fuel strategy thing. I had a miserable race car and finished 15th, which was good. We salvaged a decent finish out of something that should have been 30th. But we got caught up in wreck there at Charlotte with the mediocre race car, and really struggled -- my point is, Pocono was a good turnaround for us, for our team. We had a transmission problem towards the end of the race and still finished 9th. So that was nice to have a good rebound weekend there.
And I think to answer your question, going into Michigan here, that will be one of our defining factors of whether we make the Chase or not, or at least have the potential as far as how we do here and if we can keep that ball rolling, that we finally got moving again back in Pocono. And saying that, not basing everything off of Michigan, but a big part of our summer stretch is working on racetracks that have lower grip and typically fast mile-and-a-half, two-mile racetracks. We'll see what we can do there.
Q. Does Michigan take on any additional importance because -- inaudible -- wild-cards, at Infineon and Daytona?
RYAN NEWMAN: Yes and no. They all weigh evenly and you can get just as much lucky as you do unlucky sometimes or vice versa. So when it comes to -- just like at Charlotte, getting caught up in the 34 and the 5 wreck, we could have been a Top-10 car that day. We were not going to win the race, at least based on the performance of our race car. Honestly you just never know. You can speculate, but Michigan is a place that I enjoy, and it's really a wide-open racetrack. Once you get your car right, you can pretty much have a good day.
Q. You mentioned your visit to the Walter Reed; how do you handle that? Those are very emotional, seeing the soldiers with lost limbs. I guess you try to be upbeat or try to talk about racing with them, or how do you do that?
RYAN NEWMAN: Well, you have to have a strong stomach and sometimes you have to have an even stronger brain, because they are going through some serious life changes in their life and the amazing thing is all those soldiers, at Walter Reed especially, they want to get back in battle. They want to go back with their command and friends and be part of their team. That's part of the reason they are such a parallel between racing and what we do and the U.S. Army and those soldiers, because they want to fight. They want to go back to battle and they want to win.
It's tough at times. Sometimes you go in and you see somebody have a reaction to you, and it's like magic and you can just talk about anything. You can talk about sports, the weather, their trip, what happened to them, the things they have been through. And some people, they don't want to talk about it. You just have to read the character and make the best of the first impression that you can.
Q. I asked you a couple of years ago about social media and you said you didn't really care for it that much. You do have a Twitter account now and you do have a Facebook page. Has your opinion of social media changed?
I understand the reason and the importance of it.
RYAN NEWMAN: It's not changed from my personal standpoint, and I've told other people this and I'll tell you the same thing. Those accounts, my Twitter and Facebook, they are the things I'm doing, but I'm not pushing the buttons to make that message come out. So the reason I say that is because if I was as involved with my Facebook and Twitter account, I wouldn't be able to take the time to do those things that are getting ready.
It's kind of a Catch 22 for me. I enjoy doing what I do, whether it's feeding my baby deer, or playing around the farm, doing things with my baby and my wife, or going to get ice cream; if I was -- I've got an old flip phone with no Internet -- or I shouldn't say no Internet, no e-mail, or anything like that. I try to keep it simple, and a phone is a phone to me. I just have people that help me out so that because of the importance of Facebook and Twitter and social media, it's important to the fans and it's important to our sponsors and that's why it's a Catch 22, because I know of its importance; at the same time, I know of the response of the things that I like to do outside of that so that I can have time to get everything done.
Q. Are you surprised at the number of your counterparts, drivers and whatnot, that do have an active account and participate on a regular basis.
RYAN NEWMAN: I wouldn't say I'm surprised. I understand the reason and the importance of it. I guess I'm maybe a little more active when it comes to doing things throughout the day than they are, so that's maybe the difference.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you everyone for pore anticipating and thank you for joining us today and best of luck this weekend and happy Father's Day.