Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2004.
Dodge Motorsports Teleconference
Richmond Advance, Last Race to Qualify for the Chase
RYAN NEWMAN (No. 12 ALLTEL Dodge)
NOTE: Coming off back-to-back top-five finishes at Bristol and California, Newman has moved from 13th to 8th in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Standings. He's 404 points out of first place and 20 points ahead of 10th.
"First of all for California I think we achieved our first goal and that was to get a top-five finish. I think a top-five finish in that position, or in our position as far as points and everything, was going to keep us in the hunt. We were capable of doing that and did that. Obviously we went there to win the race, but looking at the big picture, the top five was the ultimate situation. Going into Richmond, it's the same old situation. We're going there to win the race. If we win the race everything else will take care of itself. We have to keep in mind, too, that we're 404 points out of the lead, so we have a shot from that mathematical chance as well as the top 10. If we can go there and do the same thing again, finish in the top five, we're going to have a really good shot at being in the right position to be in the top 10 as well as being within 400 points of the leader. We'll go there with the same racecar we had in the spring that sat on the outside of the front row and finished ninth. We had a good test there a couple of weeks ago, and we'll see how we can do."
TALK ABOUT WHAT THIS OPPORTUNITY MEANS TO COMPETE FOR THE TITLE
"It's kind of a Catch-22 situation. We caught Matt Kenseth last year almost 300 points in two races. Now we're sitting 404 points out of the lead. It's not like because of the chase for the championship we have a great opportunity to win the championship. We'd have a great opportunity regardless. We're just right now fighting for the top 10 situation. After Richmond we were 408 points out of the lead and still had the mathematical opportunity to win the championship, I'd be real upset. That's part of the reason I don't like the point system, but just to be in this position three years in a row is a great thing for our team as well as me personally, and we just keep working for that ultimate goal of winning the championship."
HAS THE NEW POINT SYSTEM CHANGED THE WAY YOU DRIVE IN CERTAIN SITUATIONS?
"No, I don't think so at all. I think if we had the opportunity at California, if we had a first-place car we would have tried to finish first with it. We had a top-10 car for most of the race and turned it into a top-five car at the end. We were able to make that happen and if we can win every race, which is almost mathematically impossible for any team, then the points will take care of themselves. That's just how we approach it."
WHAT'S IN BEEN LIKE GOING FOR A TOP-10 SPOT AFTER THE 26TH RACE?
"It's been just like business as usual for me. You've got to keep track of what's going on and who's around you and making sure there's nobody who tries to nudge you when they shouldn't, but the bottom line is we're just out there competing. There has been some extra concern, but I don't put any extra pressure on myself to try to perform. I just go out and try to do the best job I can with the equipment I have and the people we have around us."
ANY CONCERN HAVING THE 26th RACE AT RICHMOND?
"Yes and no. If you look at it that way, it sounds pretty traumatic. There's still 185 points available for every race up until this one. We had just as much opportunity to gain in the past 25 races as we have here at Richmond for this one, so mathematically it's just another race."
WAS BRISTOL A SAFER RACE BECAUSE OF THE NEW FORMAT?
"I think the Bristol deal was a freak situation. I said to someone earlier we were close to having a full moon, and I think it was a bad moon that week. It was a very good race, a very clean race and a lot of fun at Bristol and physically a great workout. Potentially, I think there is equally as much a chance to have a race like we had in the fall Bristol race at Richmond as well as well as a beat and bang up 20-caution type race this coming weekend. It could go either way I think, easily."
DO YOU TRY NOT TO THINK ABOUT DNF's?
"If we were in their position (24 team), we would be experimenting and being locked in to the chase for the championship we'd be doing everything we could think of to make our team that much stronger from an engine perspective as far as other perspectives and performance. That's their deal. I don't know what cards they have in their hand, and I don't know what cards they're playing. We're in a position where we fold when we have to and we sometimes have to end up playing cards we don't want to, but in the end, hopefully, we'll be able to make it in."
WAS THE TOP FIVE AT CALIFORNIA A SURPRISE?
"Our car was pretty decent, and I was pretty good on restarts passing some cars. Then I'd get passed a little bit. We were happy to have those four tires at the end and to be in the right position at the right time to take advantage of guys who only had two tires or no tires. Carl Edwards did a great job of racing me clean there at the end. I had a couple of other guys that were chopping me off pretty good, but it was a good run for us and the Sony Dodge to be in that position at the end of the race and to be able to capitalize and get that top five for our points day."
DOES THIS RACE ALMOST FEEL LIKE THE SEASON?
"In a way, yes, it could be very easily. We just have to stay focused on what we're at Richmond to do. We'll see how we feel afterwards depending on how everything comes out. We can only try as hard as we've been trying. Our guys at the shop and the guys on the team, they're all on the same team, and we try just as hard no matter if it's this race or the Daytona 500 or Brickyard 400 or Martinsville. We'll have to see how everything turns out. If we're on the edge of the waterfall, we'll have to figure out on the way down to land and take off for the next 10 races."
IS THERE ANY TALK BETWEEN DRIVERS ABOUT THIS RACE?
"I haven't had any discussion with any other drivers. Usually that happens before driver introductions. Usually, whatever is going to happen is going to happen. If it's going to be a beat and bang up race or a long green-flag run race, it just happens. It's not something we prepare for. I don't know if NASCAR is going to give us a speech going into this deal or we're going to have to give each other our own speeches."
DOES HAVING A CHANCE TO MAKE THE CHASE ENERGYZE YOUR TEAM? "We're not where we want to be, and that's the bad side of that coin. Ultimately we're still in a great hunt, and we've got our sights set on the target. Basically all we have to do is stay focused and follow through, but yes, the team is real excited about being where we're at. Usually at Penske, one of the three cars has a shot at the championship. The other team members are very excited as well, and that brings more excitement for everybody in the team, so we'll just do the best job we can."
DOES YOUR RECORD AT RICHMOND GIVE YOU EXTRA CONFIDENCE?
"It just lets us know, No. 1, that we can get it done. The ultimate answer is something so little can knock us out for the weekend, whether it's a piece of debris or somebody else's misjudgment. Our performances in the past are just that, history. We'll have to try to create better history. It's a fun racetrack and it's a track you can race on. It's one of the few short tracks we can race and pass and have some fun on. That's the good part of it. The bad part is it still has the potential to be a beat and bang up racetrack. If you can stay out of that function of it, you'll have a good day."
DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE TRACK GOING INTO THE FINAL 10?
"Darlington. I think that's going to be a pivotal race. At Darlington, guys usually hit it or miss it. Being where it's at in the schedule, that's a very pivotal weekend."
WHAT'S IT LIKE RACING AND NOT FEELING WELL?
"I've had a sinus type cold and headache. I think that's what everybody that's been sick has had and it's going around. I was very, very weak. I told the guys when I started the race I felt like 75 percent. I felt like 75 percent at the end of the race. It was pretty warm in the car because of the temperature outside. I got out of the car and I felt cold. I tried to get over it and get a lot of sleep going into Richmond. It's tough, but if you're mentally sane you can overcome a lot of those things."