Three of the five drivers competing in the EA Sports 500 as part of the Winston No Bull Five million dollar bonus this weekend at Talladega Superspeedway are behind the wheel of a Ford. Matt Kenseth, Todd Bodine and Ryan Newman spoke...
Three of the five drivers competing in the EA Sports 500 as part of the Winston No Bull Five million dollar bonus this weekend at Talladega Superspeedway are behind the wheel of a Ford. Matt Kenseth, Todd Bodine and Ryan Newman spoke about that opportunity during the NASCAR Winston Cup teleconference.
RYAN NEWMAN --12-- ALLTEL Taurus:
HOW DOES IT FEEL TO BE THE FAVORITE FOR THE TRACTOR-TRAILER RACE? "It's different, but we did get to experience it at Charlotte. We did have the fastest time, but we knocked over a few cones. It's one of those things where it's still tough to do, but it's a lot of fun to experience."
YOUR THOUGHTS ON TRYING TO GET THE MILLION DOLLAR BONUS? "It's gonna be tough, no doubt. We've put up some good runs so far this year at the restrictor-plate tracks, but we haven't had the finishes we should have had. We lost a motor there at Talladega and crashed with a few laps to go at Daytona in the night race, but, overall, we've had good performances as a team and as the car has gone through the race."
IS RESTRICTOR-PLATE RACING WHAT YOU EXPECTED? "I was thinking that about halfway through the race at Kansas this past weekend. As rules have evolved in Winston Cup, the air has become one of the biggest factors in how the cars handle and that was the thing I was looking forward to when I was running midgets -- was going and playing with the air, so to speak. Now as I've started to do it, I enjoy it but it's something that's probably difficult to adapt to. As a driver, it's difficult to work with. You have to have a good race car in the first place to get yourself in position to be able to work with the air. Even back to Kansas, with a flatter race track and the way those cars are with the straightaway speeds we had, it was very difficult to work with the dirty air."
HOW MUCH HELP OR ADVICE HAS RUSTY GIVEN YOU THROUGHOUT THE YEAR? "I couldn't put a number on it. I could just say that there are times where he's been a great help -- where I've been able to go up to him and say, 'Hey, what do I expect from this tire at this race track or what do I expect from this driver starting next to him on the green flag start?' Those things are priceless and he's helped me out quite a few times. At the same time, he's come to me a couple times and said, 'Hey, what do these tires feel like?' For instance, this past weekend when we went out and did the first run at Kansas, he came over the radio and said, 'Hey, how are these tires? How does everything feel?' So we can relate to information things like that."
DOES CLEAN AIR REALLY MAKE THAT MUCH OF A DIFFERENCE? "If you can imagine going down the highway and getting passed by a semi at 55 miles an hour and feeling what it does to your car, and then go out there and go in a circle with cars that perform because of the downforce -- we call it a relatively flat race track even though the banking is 14 degrees -- and try to figure out what it's like going through the corner at 150 instead of 55, you can imagine what the difference is between one car and another. But then when you put 42 other cars out there besides yourself and you've got this big whirlpool of air, it pays dividends to be in front. Even when you're 10 cars back, there's a huge difference."
IS THERE ANY FRUSTRATION BEING IN THE SAME ROOKIE CLASS WITH JIMMIE? "No, there's no frustration at all. Jimmie has had a great year and I've had a great year so far. If it ended right now, we could both say that we've done some amazing things. But, overall, I don't think either of us are overshadowed by each other. We've both had performances in different areas. We're leading in top fives and we're tied with Jimmie in top 10s. Jimmie has more wins than we have, but we won the all-star race, so there are a lot of trade-offs. At the same time, he's leading the Winston Cup championship and we're leading the rookie battle by a pretty good margin. It's just one of those things where timing is everything."
ARE YOU STILL THINKING CHAMPIONSHIP BEING 154 POINTS BEHIND JIMMIE? "We were thinking that back in Daytona. Jimmie and I sat down in our first conversation as rookies and said, 'Man, there's no reason why we shouldn't have a shot at this championship. We've got great teammates, great equipment. Obviously, the teams have hired us because they think that we're capable of doing it, whether it's our rookie season or not.' To be sitting where we are with seven races to go and Jimmie and I both having a shot at the championship, that's just awesome and that's great for us. But we just have to keep doing the things we've done all year and go out there and try to attack each race like it's the last and do the best we can as a team."