2010 NASCAR Preseason Thunder Daytona Fan Fest: Friday news conference
January 15, 2010
An interview With Ryan Newman
DENISE MALOOF: We have Ryan Newman with us. Ryan, let me try this. The No. 39 U.S. Army Toronado/Haas Automation Chevrolet. Did I get it right?
RYAN NEWMAN: It's actually Tornados.
DENISE MALOOF: That may be the only time I halfway get it right all season. Back to work, 2010 is not too far away, back in front of the fans tonight. Give us a little bit of what I did on my winter vacation.
RYAN NEWMAN: What I did, it sounds like I'm writing a journal or something. What I did on my vacation, 2009/10. I shouldn't say I, we, Krissie and I, each year we go out to Utah with some friends, it's either Utah or Idaho depending on where we want to go, and go snowmobiling.
This year we stayed in our little cabin, which has very little running water and a generator, and we kind of rough it, which was a lot of fun. I enjoy that.
I did that for four days, and I went down to the U.S. Army All-American Bowl down in Texas, and that was pretty cool, got to meet a lot of distinguished military personnel, which was good for me personally, but very cool because not many people get to do that.
Just recently I went to -- it's called Pike County, Illinois, which is like the place to go to for deer hunting in Illinois or in the United States, white tail deer hunting. My dad and Tony Gibson and my wife's uncle who works for us, we all went up there and spent three days hunting up there. Literally, I would have been just walking out of the deer stand central time yesterday at this time, so sat in a tree from about 11:30 until 5:45, and they're an hour behind. I was a lot colder yesterday right now than I am today. (Laughter.)
But in general it's been a really good off-season and got to do some work around the shop with the race car, doing some new seat stuff and talking to Tony Gibson about some of the car things and that we can do to make the U.S. Army and Tornados and Haas Automation faster, and that's about it.
Q: When you look at what you guys achieved last year, is it a challenge to continue and expand on that? What exactly do you want to do to make sure you don't regress and that you keep moving forward as you look at 2010 compared to the good start you guys had?
RYAN NEWMAN: That's one of the things that I've personally made a challenge for myself is to make sure that we improve, because in so many people's eyes we weren't supposed to do what we did last year.
From a team standpoint, from a performance standpoint, it's important that we move forward and progress, like you said. How we do that is honestly a people thing. It's teamwork. It's building better race cars, communicating, all those things that the 48 team has done for the last four years straight. We've got a lot of work ahead of us to get to that point, but I think that our organization has done a lot of great things in the off-season for our people and for our race cars to be stronger, and we'll prove that. We'll try to prove that.
Q: NASCAR sent out a memo today saying there's going to be an open test at Charlotte in March for the spoiler in place of the wing, speculation is it could be on the car as soon as Martinsville. Any reaction to that?
RYAN NEWMAN: Kind of numb right now in respect to it. I always said personally I like the looks of the spoiler over the wing. I think that the wing has had some benefits and it's had some drawbacks. The benefits, I think, were the way the cars race side by side together, I think the side force, what we see with the -- the biggest problem with the Truck Series in my opinion is when a truck gets inside another truck, it gets really loose, and I think that the wing made our side-by-side racing better. But I think with our problems that we've seen at the fast racetracks, and fortunately we haven't seen it outside the racetracks at the restrictor plate tracks, when a car gets spun around, it's typically going to go for a ride. At places like Texas and Atlanta and Charlotte, I don't remember seeing a car getting spun around to the point that it could get airborne, so I think that that wing that creates that downforce going forward also creates lift going backwards.
And I think that secondly, it also blocks some of the air basically, and in layman's terms from the roof flaps, which in turn are designed to keep the car down. I don't know how much testing was done when the wing was put in place in respect to all these things, but I think in the end NASCAR is doing a lot of work and doing a lot of great things to do what's best, and I think having a test like that is great for -- I've been a very big advocate of no testing, but I think this is a good thing for the sport, and I think it's a great racetrack to test at in respect to what we can learn with a spoiler versus a wing for all racetracks.
Obviously the faster you go, the more it has an effect from an aerodynamic standpoint. A spoiler at Martinsville is going to mean a lot less versus a wing than going to Atlanta or Texas.
Q: The Daytona 500 has always been at times -- can be a very strange race the way some of these things turn out. You've got guys like Rusty Wallace who's never won one, and yet you've had a lot of surprise guys. What does it take to win the Daytona 500, and why are there so many unusual winners?
RYAN NEWMAN: I'm not real sure. I mean, I think going back to when we won in 2008 that it was purely a team effort, an organizational effort with the two cars obviously. We did have the fastest cars all day long, but when we put our two Dodges together at the time, they beat the one Toyota that we needed to beat.
You honestly never know what's going to happen. It seems like the race, especially when it was a day-to-night race, it took on a lot of transitions, and you just never knew what was going to happen. And I think that's a lot of -- I guess maybe the first race of the season type of situation where you just don't know what to expect, you don't know -- and in respect to who has won, it's a different list, I guess you could say, than some other racetracks. That's maybe coincidental. I don't know. It's a great racetrack. I enjoy it. I think that Daytona is entirely different from Talladega in respect to how you drive it, how you race it, and obviously the glory that comes along with it. But I really look forward to this year's Daytona 500.
Q: You've had the U.S. Army as a sponsor for about a year now. Can you compare the expectations that you had and what you've learned and all the things that you've done that you never thought you'd be doing?
RYAN NEWMAN: I don't think that there is any true expectations of myself and other people on me. I think that in respect to having the U.S. Army as a sponsor, I've learned that racing, as many other businesses, is a people business, and working with people instead of, per se, a product has really opened my eyes to what the U.S. Army does for each and every person in the United States and each and every person in the world for that matter.
For instance, going to the U.S. Army All-American Bowl and meeting several very distinguished generals and meeting the Secretary of the Army John McHugh, few people get to do that, get to shake his hand in the first place, and get to stand side by side with him and watch a quarter of football and talk about things outside of the army or racing or football.
I think that the people part of it is something that's really opened my eyes, having that affiliation with the U.S. Army, and what a people business it really is here in NASCAR.
Q: I apologize if you've already addressed this, but on the Yellow-Line Rule and the possibility of this going away, when drivers were asked about it last week in Nashville, they were pretty unanimous that they didn't want it taken away. I know you've, however, said that any racetrack with out of bounds line isn't a racetrack. Do you still agree with that? Are you in favor getting rid of it because that would making racing more real?
RYAN NEWMAN: I think that the out of bounds line has turned into a bit of good because I think it's taught the drivers to respect each other a little bit more.
The second part of that is back when I first said that, when the first out of bounds line was made, we still had a ton of grass on the edge of the asphalt. And now at a lot of racetrack, Talladega, Daytona, places like that, which we don't need to talk about with the out of bounds line, there's so much asphalt that's been paved in order to keep the cars from catching that grass or catching some air that an out of bounds line would mean literally racing from here to Lakeland to clear out. That's not racing because I think you're going to run into situations with blocking, and blocking has been a big, bad part of IndyCar racing for the last few years, with their speeds with their cars and the fact that they don't have an out of bounds line in respect to that.
If you give us, which there is, plenty of room to race above the yellow line, then there's plenty of room to race. If you give us room, that whole room, then I think there's more room for us to block so to speak.
Q: So you'd be in favor of keeping it?
RYAN NEWMAN: I'm totally in favor of keeping the double yellow line rule. It probably would have been easier to say that first.
Q: In the memo that NASCAR sent out today, they said they wanted to parallel the downforce between what they have now with the wing to what they have with the spoiler. Is that possible?
RYAN NEWMAN: Oh, yeah.
Q: Can you kind of explain? How much testing would you need to be able to have that, and is that okay if it's just more of an ?sthetics thing and a vision thing than a downforce thing?
RYAN NEWMAN: I think that we have to manage that blade, spoiler, whatever you want to call it in the back of the car, from a vision standpoint for sure. The wing has blocked some of our vision, but in racing the Nationwide car, I almost can't see out of the back -- through the rearview mirror out the back of the car.
From an aerodynamic standpoint it's easy to figure out. Wind tunnels get you 95 percent there. The difference is when you get cars side by side in racing what the effects are of the downforce and the turbulent air. I feel that that correlation is easy to make, that spoiler, which we've had in the past. It's just the aerodynamic part of it, I should say, is the most important part from a balance standpoint as we've seen with race cars. Most racing was probably 2005, I think it was, when we had the Dodge Charger, we had so much front downforce on the car that it would literally just spin around. I crashed the car in Nashville one time, it just spun around. We learned later that the downforce in the front was so much more than what we were used to that it's almost impossible to drive at times.
In saying that, finding that balance, that aerodynamic balance, which I think we have a good balance of, and that's why they want to keep the balance the same between the wing and the spoiler, to keep that part of it the same, the difference is what that spoiler does when the car goes backwards versus the wing or what that spoiler does side by side with other cars versus the wing.
Q: Last weekend we were in Nashville, Tennessee, kind of a fan sound and speed fan thing, and then here again with fans. Just your take on the importance of kind of keeping in touch with fans here in the off-season and having events like this?
RYAN NEWMAN: I think it's great. I think it's great that we have a lot better weather than we had last year for this function. I think that as much as we like to have our time off, it's important that we pay respect to the fans, and I think it's great that the fans come out to an event like this. I've been a part of sound and speed for I think it was the first three or four years straight, so I know what that event is all about, and that's a lot of fun outside of a fan appreciation event. Coming to do this is fun, as well, to kind of relight the fires, and when we come back in a few weeks we'll kick the tires.
Q: From your perspective in retrospect, as a teammate, Tony can basically do no wrong for the first 26 races. During the Chase the performance fell off somewhat. Did the demands of being an owner and driver finally catch up to him, or was that more coincidental than anything else?
RYAN NEWMAN: I don't think any demands caught up with Tony Stewart. I think he just didn't have the last ten as good as the first 26 from a performance standpoint. I think he took a lot of criticism because of his position because of that, but I think it had nothing to do with it. I honestly 100 percent believe that.
Q: Describe the difference in the feeling in walking in the shop now compared to last year when the whole thing was coming together. And also, what do you think the team has learned and from your perspective Tony going through this one time?
RYAN NEWMAN: Just like you guys here, knowing names when you walk into a room makes a world of difference than when you walk in not having a clue what to expect or whose voice is going to sound like what or who you should laugh with or what you should laugh at. It makes a big difference a year later walking into Stewart-Haas Racing, and knowing my group of guys, knowing Tony's group of guys and the shop people and things like that, I kind of have an idea how things are supposed to go and how things are going to go and how we've progressed as a team personally and professionally. You know, it's different. It's a lot more relaxing for me personally. It was tough, as I had said earlier, leaving Penske Racing because you leave the people behind, you leave your job behind there, but at the same time, you don't terminate the friendships that you have, but yet you still have to grow friendships with the new people that you're associating with.
It's almost like having twice the Rolodex, twice the emails. Everything doubles up, and it takes time to -- I don't feel like you create that chemistry, that chemistry has to happen. You can't create chemistry by going out of your way in my opinion, it's just sometimes it happens and sometimes it doesn't.
Q: I want to ask you about the business end of the sport a little bit, where you're from. Obviously you're seeing the economy stumbling along a little bit. Do you think the sport is doing a good job of making it more affordable and keeping the entertainment value up for the fan?
RYAN NEWMAN: I think that racetracks, NASCAR, a lot of people have done a good job of respecting people and respecting the fans in respect to being able to afford to come to a race. We've seen ticket prices drop, we've seen parking, concessions, all those things have dropped. Obviously we're in a good position where we can still make money from a business standpoint, but to have that level of respect for the fans, to say, hey, this is what we're going to do to help you out in these tough times is I think something NASCAR should be commended on.
You know, it's not like a light switch. It's not going to get better just like that. It's going to take some time, and I'm glad that a lot of people are doing what they can to help out in many ways.
DENISE MALOOF: Thank you, Ryan, and we'll see you again soon.
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