RYAN NEWMAN (No. 12 ALLTEL Dodge Intrepid) - qualified fifth, fastest Dodge. "This is our Martinsville car, and it didn't fare well there, but it was for a different reason. We were pretty good in practice, and we're going to make some changes...
RYAN NEWMAN (No. 12 ALLTEL Dodge Intrepid) - qualified fifth, fastest Dodge.
"This is our Martinsville car, and it didn't fare well there, but it was for a different reason. We were pretty good in practice, and we're going to make some changes for qualifying. Usually we don't like to make changes for qualifying, but after being 11th (in practice) we've got to make some changes. We finished second in both races here last year, so it was definitely a highlight for our season.
"It's like a matrix where in the end there's an answer but the numbers are supposed to line up for a reason. It's just a matter of getting things put together.
"I'd heard rumors they hadn't done anything to the track, but it looked to me like they did, like they maybe put half a coat or coat of sealer on it. You don't have a lot of issues here like you do at other race tracks when it comes to the air and the downforce and balance. There's a big change from qualifying to race trim. Hopefully it won't be a big difference, but I just look forward to getting some Happy Hour time and race trim time to make sure we're good with this new car.
"I've always relied on them. I think the communication is getting better and better. We've just had a lot of freak things happen to us this year. We just need to get the train back on the rails and go forward. Obviously the guys have gotten the wind knocked out of them a few times like I have, but in the end we're a good team and we'll fight back. I think we'll be strong.
"I'm looking forward to it (The Winston). Last year was a great race for us in The Winston, fighting through the Open and then the sprint and making the cut. It was so cool to be in the position we were in at the end of that race. I look forward to it again. Things have got to line up right, and we've got to have a fast race car and stay out of everybody else's trouble, which was pretty common last year.
"I had a dog die once. Ironically, it's a lot the same. You get your tail whipped and you've got to get back and go. Some of the things that have happened to us are our fault and some of the things are just totally racing gremlins or whatever you want to call it. You get knocked off the horse, you get back up and go. That's what we're here to do. You can't focus on what happened last week other than just take the things you learned and apply them to the future. That's what we do. We're trying to get the train back on the tracks.
"The tires are good. They've been good the last year and a half in my opinion. The last problem we had I think was here and Phoenix with that tire, and then they changed it. A couple of guys had problems with the tire here last year. I think Rusty blew one and Kenseth blew a couple. The bottom line is these cars are making a lot of downforce and with downforce you've got to have a durable tire. Goodyear's got to build tires for different race tracks because you've got seashells down in Darlington and you've got tire sealers here at Richmond. It's two totally different environments, and the tires have been good. I think as far as durability, but to what Rusty is saying, if they take downforce off these cars then you're going to have to soften the tires up because we'll just be on top of the race track and we'll be able to go the entire fuel runs and no one will pit.
"I don't foresee anything happening. You'd have to make such huge changes in order to get the effect they're looking for. Ten years ago, and this is just my opinion, but I've been told cars used to make lift. Now they make lots of downforce, and that's because of the rules and what technology has brought to racing. NASCAR will have to make some rules to take the downforce off the cars. Softer tires will make for more variation of racing. You'll see more variation of the tires and more variation of lap times which will make other cars faster on new tires. The fast cars might be fast at the start of the race and then you've got a guy who comes in and takes tires and the way it used to be, the guys who have the guts to stay out will get their doors blown off 15 laps into a 40-lap run. It's only hypothetical. I don't see it happening, and if it does happen it's going to be a lot of confusion for a lot of people.
"It's pretty comparable (this year's performance compared to last year's). The biggest exception would be Martinsville. We just totally missed the brake package there. We learned a lot, and that's a good thing, but we didn't learn it at the right time. The deal at California, getting knocked out so early, I know we had a good race car there. It was just a matter if everything lined up and we got to finish. Obviously, it wasn't meant to be. Talladega was a blown tire, and we blew an engine there last year. There's a lot of places we've run good, and we had some problems in the pits. We've gotten those things fixed as far as losing time there. Our run at Vegas, coming back from two laps down and finishing seventh on the last green flag run was really amazing, but that doesn't make the record books.
"I feel comfortable at every race track. It's just a matter of getting everything aligned, having a good team, good pit stops, good car, good track position. Obviously the driver has to get it around the race track. Keeping the fenders on the car (at Richmond). This is short track racing. Four hundred laps is a long time.
"If you train a dog to bite, it's going to bite. If you train it to be good and mannered, it's going to be that way no matter what the conditions are. If you tell it to bite, it's not going to bite. I think a lot of the guys we have at Penske Racing are like that. They're not high tempered, fly off the handle type of people. They take things as they go and you've got to take the bad with the good and the good with the bad. I think that's the best way to get through a lot of these things. A lot of it all comes down to how you were raised as a kid.
"Roger is involved in many corporations. He's got corporations that succeed to the enth-degree and he's got corporations that fail at some point. You've just got to go along, and that's just another example. We're out here doing the best job we can. We just go with the flow.
"I think the key people are the driver, crew chief and car owner. They look up to you and if you make a mistake, they might think it's OK to make a mistake or they might say if he did that it's OK. It's important to have that leadership role and make sure I respect it and Matt respects it and the guys respect it, too.
"I didn't watch the tape, but I saw it. When I was next to him (Steve Park on first lap at California) it looked like he got loose and had to correct up. I was there and it shot us both into the wall.
"At the first of the season, our weakness was superspeedway stuff, being fast in qualifying and in race trim. I think we've made some progress in that, but we couldn't show it at Talladega. We've been through two superspeedway cars in two races and we've got to build another one. Other than that, it's just getting the monkey off our back.
"Those places (restrictor-plate tracks) are fun for the fans to watch, and they're fun from a driver's standpoint, but you've got to be out front. When you're mixing it up in the center of the pack and you've got guys who like to move around more than they should, it's not a whole lot of fun. Sometimes physics just doesn't allow an answer. The cars are built for speed, and the bottom line is you've got to take some banking out of the race track to get the speed down so you have variations in the grooves and in the corners so guys have to let off. That's why there's usually a bigger pack at Talladega than Daytona because at Daytona sometimes you do have to let off. That's just the way car balance works. At Talladega it's usually wide open all the way around.
"Our goals are still the same. We haven't met some of our goals because of the DNFs and things like that, but the bottom line is we're still out here to win races, poles and lead laps and win every award that's out there to get. There's not one yet that we haven't lost an opportunity to win. The points battle is a long deal, and someone can have bad luck like we've been having. I think we're capable of doing it."