RYAN NEWMAN (No. 12 ALLTEL Dodge Intrepid) NOTE: Newman made up two laps and finished seventh last Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in the UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400. Scoring his first top-10 finish of the season, Newman moved from 32nd to 17th...
RYAN NEWMAN (No. 12 ALLTEL Dodge Intrepid)
NOTE: Newman made up two laps and finished seventh last Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in the UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400. Scoring his first top-10 finish of the season, Newman moved from 32nd to 17th in the NASCAR Winston Cup Standings after the first three races. The 25-year-old South Bend, Ind., native is in his second season behind the wheel for Penske Racing South, and it's his first season in a Dodge Intrepid. He had the highest finishing Dodge at Las Vegas, and he's also the highest ranked Dodge driver in the series standings after 3 of 36 events.
"We were definitely on the loose side when we started the race in Las Vegas, and we got caught in the pits after somebody's wind shield tear off land smack square on our grille and the water was about 270. We had to come in and take that off. We went back out and we were two laps down. The ALLTEL Dodge was fast after that. We got the two laps back and went after it. Unfortunately it was a 400-mile race, and we ran out of laps and time. At the end of the race we were a good half second faster per lap than the leader and most of the top cars. We were definitely the car to beat at the end. We just weren't in the position to beat everybody.
"We tested at Atlanta, so we're pretty positive going in. After seeing how the car performed on a flat race track like Las Vegas it was a polite eye opener for us. Las Vegas is a place where you find out who's making the good down force and who's got the good speed. To come back from two laps down was great. The problem was we got ourselves in that position in the first place. We're going into 2003 approaching it as a championship year. We're here to win the championship. We started off really rough and 14th at Rockingham wasn't really good for us either. Coming back from two laps down and finishing seventh at a racetrack we finished fourth at last year after leading the most laps was a good eye opener for us.
"I've got kinda mixed emotions about it (new garage access rule). I've said in the past it's a tough thing to manage. The fans keep the sport running and we're trying to keep the fans out at a certain time without upsetting the fans. The way they're doing it I think is good. I think they've achieved a certain percentage of what they're trying to achieve. There are times I'll walk in the garage area and the hot pass deal hasn't started yet and I'll sign a bunch of autographs. I'm fully aware of that. I'll take the time and do it. Other times I'll pass 'em up and say I've got to go, I'm sorry. It's a fine management system. There's no need to change anything around right now, at least from what I've seen.
"It was a relief just to get back on the lead lap (at Las Vegas). We were so close there that one time. Junior got away from me and he beat us back to the line by about a foot. After that, I thought it was going to be the last caution. Fortunately we had another caution. Unfortunately it was my teammate Rusty Wallace. There were a lot of highs and lows throughout the whole race. We started out loose and fell back a little bit, I think we were around 12th. We came in and got two laps down, just kinda killed us. To be able to fight back like that says a lot about the team and how we fought back together.
"That was pretty big. We came from two laps down last year in the spring race at Rockingham and finished 14th. We had a car then that was capable of doing what we did at Las Vegas. We've done it before, but we don't like doing it. That's the bottom line.
"I wouldn't say rewarding, but you can definitely feel the speed as a driver (at Atlanta). You always feel the speed more so when something comes up like the wall or another car and you either hit it or have to back off. It's just a different kind of racetrack with different kind of race cars. You've got a lot more down force there. The cars are a lot more maneuverable than they are at Daytona, but the track is smaller and faster. It's just a mixture of everything and you have to adapt to the different conditions.
"Obviously the things directed from engineering have helped a lot. At the same time I think just college in general has helped me out as far as me managing classes and continuing my racing career at the same time. I learned a lot about time management. I guess a lot of what engineering teaches you is problem solving. Adapting those two things to life in general has helped me out a lot, and I think that applies to racing also.
"I'd say neither (youth and experience) are more important. It's just the total package in my opinion. You've seen those guys 74 years old doing triathlons? It's the total package.
"During a race, sometimes it's a little bit of both. Typically, it's a lot of the description part of it (when talking to crew chief). I feel like during race time when we figured out what's going on with the race track I'm a little more suggestive (about how to fix a problem) just because I'm working around other cars and obviously we don't have a lot of tools to work with. We can't go in and change shocks or springs or things like that.
"A certain percentage of it (fire in racecars) can be eliminated, but it's technology based and it's because of NASCAR's rules. We could take the fuel pumps off the right front of the engines where the majority of the hits are that knock the fuel pumps off and cause the fire which initiates everything. I guess that's one separate thing from the fuel cells bursting or like what we saw with Jamie McMurray (in accident at Las Vegas) which was just a combination of everything. The fuel cell had a leak and he backed up into Waltrip at Las Vegas and caused the fire there, but we could have electric fuel pumps in these cars and eliminate a lot of these fires. I couldn't tell you if they're looking into it or not.
"Atlanta is a great race track. It's super fast when we qualify. We're running about 192 mph. Getting down into the race when the tires fall off and the speeds drop off because of that, it's a lot more manageable when it comes to the speed and the G forces in the corners. I guess the biggest thing I like about Atlanta is that it's a true race track. It's got two or three grooves. You can go high. You can go low. It's so fast you've got to work with the drag and drafting down the straightaways. Those pay off pretty big. It's really a fun race track to drive.
"It's not the fastest place we qualify at. Texas is. Texas is pretty fast. It does feel like it's pretty fast (at Atlanta). It's just a matter of putting in two good laps and going on for the rest of the weekend.
"I'm not sure what we have (fire extinguishers inside race car). It's what Penske Racing has put in the cars for quite a while. They haven't made any changes in the recent past. That's some NASCAR technology center should be looking at down the road. Having a fire extinguisher back in the fuel cell area and things like that could make a difference in continuing their careers because they don't get burned. I know a lot of drivers and crew members and crew chiefs that make suggestions, but it comes down to the point where you can't do everybody's job for them. They have to have the people and technology to do those things themselves. That's why they have people like Gary Nelson, who's an ex crew chief, and Joe Garoni. They've seen it. They've been racers. They should know.
"From what I saw of McMurray's deal, I was not satisfied at all. He was out of the car and Michael Waltrip was pulling his car away way before they ever got there. That was pretty poor there. Just from off the top of my head, what else I've seen has been pretty decent. I remember Jason Keller's. They were there pretty quick for that one.
"I wouldn't use the word expect. I'd say want. It's just a matter of having the opportunity at the right place at the right time. When I got the opportunity at Penske Racing to do some ARCA races, it was pretty much a no brainer for me to make that initial step and see if we could build on that. Fortunately we've been able to.
"I would say it (ABC racing program with ARCA, Busch and Winston Cup) is definitely in the right direction. It was built to put a team together and run a lot of races, do a lot of testing and get a lot of laps at different race tracks. The variation I think was a good thing. The fact that we got to do a lot of tests and learn about the tracks before we went there was awesome. It wasn't a super demanding schedule, but we did more events with our ABC schedule than Rusty did in his full time Winston Cup schedule in 2001. We definitely stayed busy, got a lot of laps and a lot of experience. That was the basis for it.
"The rookie stripe, it is what it is. It's to signify rookies, but when I'm out there I know what drivers are in what cars. I don't care if there's a rookie stripe on there or not. Some drivers out there, and I may be one of them, but they're crazier than rookies. They don't have to be rookies. I look at it from that perspective, but being Raybestos Rookie of the Year was a great feat for our team. To me, it was more of a team reward than it was for me a personal driver award. That's the way I've treated it. At the same time, there have been rookies of the year that didn't compete against anybody, and that doesn't mean they're the best rookie of the year out there.
"My dad, Mike, got me involved in racing. I was four years old when we went over to a race track in New Carlisle, Ind. I grabbed some laps. He always wanted me to be a race car driver. Once I got going at it, I never looked back. I can't remember when I was two, but I can remember when I was four. I can remember going to race tracks and doing things with my dad and with my family, just at different race tracks with people, and I've never looked back on it. My dad is probably the biggest advocate of who I am.
"My father drives my motor home and carries the second gas can over the wall on race day and does all the pre-race spotting. He stays pretty busy and he enjoys doing it. He's pretty much my biggest fan and biggest critic."