Dodge Motorsports Teleconference
Tuesday, June 14, 2005
Pocono Recap, Michigan Advance
RYAN NEWMAN (No. 12 ALLTEL Dodge Charger)
NOTE: Newman, a 27-year-old driver from South Bend, Ind., has recorded four top-10 finishes in the past five races and is the defending champion of the June race at Michigan International Speedway. He's sixth in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Standings, 48 points out of third and 329 points behind the leader heading into Sunday's Batman Begins 400 at MIS. Newman has competed in seven races at MIS, scoring two victories (August 2003 and June 2004) and four top-five finishes. He has led laps in five of his seven races at the two-mile track in the Irish Hills.
OPENING COMMENTS "We've always seemed to have a good combination when it comes to going to Michigan. Actually that's one of the racetracks where we've raced better than we've qualified statistically in the past. We'll see what Michigan brings. I enjoy the racetrack. I enjoy going up there and going fishing. I enjoy the atmosphere. It's probably the closest to home for me from an environment standpoint, knowing my dad's shop was down the street an hour and a half or so in Niles, Michigan. It's just a great place and a great facility.
"We had a good car no doubt at Pocono and just got caught up with tire failure at the end of the race. In general I didn't think there was anything wrong with the no shift deal. I thought that was fine. I thought everything was fine except there was obviously a tire situation. We had cut one earlier. We feel it was during a run and it was going down slowly and then it blew under caution. We came down pit road luckily because of the way timing was and we changed it out, but that was it for us. The biggest one was going into one at about 195 mph."
DO YOU SEE A SOLUTION TO THE TIRE PROBLEM? "There are two things I'd like to say about the tires. The first thing was the tires didn't throw marbles like they usually do at Pocono. The racetrack was in much better shape for racing. You didn't see much of NASCAR having to blow off the racetrack like we do at other racetracks. I liked that part of it. The part that wasn't so good was the fact that there were several tire failures. Not everybody runs the same pressure and not everybody runs the same camber at other racetracks and we don't have those issues for the most part. Obviously we had issues and other teams had issues at Pocono. The rumble strips are the same rumble strips that have been there ever since I've been racing which is five years. I don't think that was the issue. Like I said, the camber, everybody has different camber settings and everybody has different pressure settings. That carries through every racetrack. I think the tire was a little too sensitive maybe I guess is the best way to put it to the situation."
DISCUSS THE RUMBLE STRIPS "I only ran the rumble strips in turn two, the tunnel turn because that was the best way to avoid the big bump that was there. I don't think that was my problem at all. I don't think the rumble strips had anything to do with it. There's a pretty big bump there, but I'm not complaining about the bump at all. I think the bump adds character to the racetrack. The whole deal with the rumble strips I think was blown a little bit out of proportion."
DO YOU SEE A PROBLEM WITH YOUNG DRIVERS SHOWING THE VETERANS RESPECT? "I haven't noticed a problem. I treat a racecar driver as a racecar driver. It doesn't matter to me if they have one week experience or a decade of experience. I'm where I'm at because somebody thinks I'm capable of racing and competing at 100 percent against everybody out there, and that's Roger Penske and Don Miller. I've never approached drivers differently because of their age or veteran characteristics or anything else. I go out there to race."
WHEN YOU SEE TIRE PROBLEMS DOES IT MAKE YOU TEND TO BACK OFF? "You'd think that in some instances, but I guess the way I'm designed is to go as fast as I can. I've gone as fast as I can every time I've gone to Pocono. I see no reason why we should have to back up with the development of tires."
DISCUSS CHANGES YOU MAKE TO A CAR WHEN YOU GO TO SONOMA "Nothing special, usually from a driver's standpoint we go down and do a test just to shake the driver down as well as the racecar so when you do the first lap, which is usually in qualifying trim at those places you get a little better feel for the car. You can become accustomed to turning left no doubt, but it's not that hard for me to adapt to it all."
WHY DO YOU THINK NASCAR DRIVERS HAVE LONG MEMORIES? "It's no different than anything else in life. If you see somebody that's risking your life just for personal gain or because of their ego you tend to remember that. Each time a driver crashes another driver on purpose out there you're risking a life or potential serious injury and I'll always remember that personally."
IS IT IMPORTANT NOT TO GET CAUGHT UP IN PERONAL FEUDS WHEN YOU'RE ON THE TRACK? "Usually yeah, but it depends on who you're racing with. Some people you don't have to worry at all about and some people that's all you have to worry about."
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO RECOVER FROM A HIT LIKE YOU TOOK AT POCONO? "I felt a little sore for sure from the crash just a little bit in my neck Monday morning and as the day went on I just kinda lost that feeling. It's the same feeling after you get a Charley Horse. You feel that muscle a little bit afterward. Obviously a Charley Horse isn't life threatening, but that's all I felt. I didn't have sore ribs. I didn't have sore anything, just one little spot in my neck. That's totally gone today."
DO YOU TRY TO STAY IN SHAPE IN ORDER TO TAKE HITS LIKE THAT? "It's a vague, but it's basically a combination of everything, but I think the most important thing is stretching. I stretch out pretty good before a race. It doesn't matter how strong you are. You have to be flexible in instances like that because you have to be able to have full range of motion and have more of an elastic body when it comes to crashes like that."
WHY DO DRIVERS LIKE MICHIGAN SO MUCH? "Michigan is probably the easiest racetrack on the circuit to drive, but it's the most fun to race because you can race three or four wide sometime in the corner. You have to understand the draft down the straightaways. You have to understand how to get your car through the corners and get down the straightaways because the straightaways are so long. There's a need for a lot of horsepower. You've got to get through the corners fast to get down the straightaways. >From a drivers' standpoint it's forgiving because you've got so many potential grooves out there. You don't have to hit one particular line like you do at Martinsville or Darlington or places like that. It's an easy track to drive. It doesn't take a super talented driver to drive it, but it takes a talented driver to race it."
IS MICHIGAN STILL A FUEL MILEAGE TRACK? "Every race is a fuel race because we carry fuel, but I think back when they were talking four or five years ago it was that way because of the way racing was there. There were very few cautions if any. I think there was a time when it went green for the whole race or it was close and somebody threw a piece of rollbar padding out on the racetrack. The race is 400 miles or 200 laps and the way it worked out, the amount of fuel the racecars could hold, it was almost an exact match from the start of the race until the end. If you didn't save fuel you weren't going to make it. If saved a little bit of fuel, you could make it. That's why it was such a big deal back then. Now, the racetrack is so big you're going to come across a fuel mileage situation because you can't make up an extra lap or two like a half-mile racetrack because the track is two miles long."
DO YOU THINK NASCAR IS TOUGHER ON THE RULES THIS YEAR? "I'd say they're about parallel with what they've done in the past. I'd say there are a couple of instances this year where there should have been some fines or penalties or discussions at least. I feel there were times where it's been crazy and you try to figure out why they called someone to the trailer, but no one actually knows because it's a confidential conversation. I think in general you usually see the same people on probation year after year and it just carries over because those are the type of people who do those types of things. I think in general it's much different than it's been in the past."
WHY DO TEAMS TRY TO BE SO CREATIVE? "I think it's a combination of the cars are a lot closer then they used to be and it's a lot tougher competition wise. Everybody is different. You're still going to have the same attitude and egos from people who think they are the best and that's usually what brings out aggression on the racetrack."
DOES YOUR ENGINEERING BACKGROUND GIVE YOU AN EDGE ON THE TRACK? "I think being an educated person helps in anything you do and driving a racecar at 200 mph is probably one of those things. How much I can't exactly tell you."
HAVE YOU SEEN ANY OF THE FEMALES RACE? "I've actually raced against Sarah Fisher maybe a dozen times and actually helped her out quite a bit when she was driving a midget back in USAC racing. I gave her some help on setups and things like that at places like IRP and Winchester and definitely know that I've helped her in her career. I think she's a talented driver. I don't know 100 percent about her IRL career, but I've said before, whether a person is young or old or male or female it doesn't matter to me. They are racers once they strap into that racecar."
WHAT KIND OF OBSTACLES WOULD SARAH FISHER FACE? "That's a better question for her than me. The best thing I can say is if she feels she's equal to everybody else then it's the same thing. If she feels she's unequal to everybody else then it would be different things and it would be her opinion. I don't know anything about Erin. I know Sarah is a talented racecar driver. Without a doubt she can drive a racecar fast and she can drive a racecar hard. Outside of that, I don't know her well enough personally to say she'd make a racecar driver. A racecar driver isn't always just a driver. You've got to have marketability. You've got to be well-spoken. There are a lot of things. You have to be able to manage yourself around fans and everything else."
WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE A ROAD COURSE IN THE FINAL 10 RACES? "I wouldn't say I'd like to see it, but if you're going to define the champion in the last 10 races it's a type of track we race on and it should be part of it. It doesn't matter to me, not really. The road course racing we race at is not the best racing, I don't feel. If you've got 11 corners there are usually two passing zones. At oval there are usually four passing zones in four corners, and the racing at the road courses doesn't seem to be as good as the ovals to me."
COMMENT ON ROUSH DRIVERS WINNING SEVEN OF THE 14 RACES SO FAR THIS SEASON "They're going to run out of their luck before they get to The Chase for the Cup. Hopefully we can make that happen. Your first question you kinda set me up because we gave them one of those wins down there at Darlington on Mother's Day Weekend so we're going to try to take one away on Father's Day Weekend."
ARE YOU SURPRISED HOW TOUGH GREG BIFFLE HAS BEEN? "Not really, Biffle is an awesome race car driver. He's got a lot of talent behind the wheel. Obviously they've given him great equipment and he's put himself in position to win races. That's not a surprise at all to me."
DO YOU SEE A FAVORITE EMERGING FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP? "Not really, not until you get to those last 10 races or probably halfway through the last 10 races can you actually define that."