Ryan Newman No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS, met with members of the media today at Texas Motor Speedway...
Ryan Newman discussed his position in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, his thoughts on this weekend’s race and the season, being aggressive at Texas and other topics.
What’s your outlook for this weekend at this big, fast 1.5-mile track? “We’re looking forward to the opportunity. We had a good run going at the first race and caught a windshield tear-off on our splitter, so we had to pit under green and lost a bunch of positions. This is an opportunity to come back here to prove and show the things that we’ve learned as a team and organization since the first race in Texas, and to keep our consistency going with a couple of top-fives and couple of top-10s – and hopefully have some fun with what we’re doing with our Caterpillar Chevrolet.”
Talk about your season. You haven’t won a race but you’ve been so consistent and are the one guy who could win a championship without winning a race. Has that crossed your mind? “Mathematically, the potential is there. As long as you have four seeds and three winners, there’s that potential. We know that at the max there will be two at this point going into this last round. Nevertheless, a championship is still a championship, and the trophy doesn’t have the number of wins underneath it. If we win the championship, that would be great in any form or fashion. But we’re here to win races as well, and there would be nothing better than to win the next three. There’s no guarantee in any of that.”
Looking at the stats, Kevin Harvick has led 1817 laps, and he is eighth in points. Brad Keselowski has led 1,518 laps and he is seventh in points. Jimmie Johnson has led 1119 and he’s out of title contention. You’ve led 41 and are second in points. Does that seem odd to you at all? “Well those were mostly odd numbers, yes. But other than that (laughter)… Other than that, it’s not the typical equation that you have where performance is equal to championship run. At the same time, this points system is a little bit different this year.
Our consistency has been our strength, and our consistency has been not in the top-3; our consistency has been basically fifth to 11th more often than not, and it’s been very difficult to lead laps for us. Our last laps led were at Talladega. A lot of people lead laps. It’s my standard answer but it is what it is. We’re riding the wave that’s presented to us, and we’re having fun with it.”
You’re finishing races at one of the highest rates of your career. Are you driving differently this year to make sure you finish races? “Yeah, it’s just unfortunate that there are guys who are doing a little better job than us (laughs). Realistically I’ve always tried the same amount and give the same effort at each and every race. In the end, we’re still getting beat so we have to step it up. We’ve done that the last few weeks, and it’s showed from a little bit of everything – pit road, myself as well as the pit crew guys with the racecars, and strategy-wise everybody is stepping it up a little bit.
We’ve improved the second time we’ve come to these racetracks, which is a big deal for us as a new team to show that improvement. From my standpoint, I do know it’s important to finish. I’d rather finish seventh than 27th without risking too much. At the end, you still don’t have to win a race to win the championship. Mathematically, you can finish 39th or 40th at Homestead. That’s not something anyone wants to see, but that’s the math of it. It’s not likely to happen, but I just go out there and do the best job I possibly can and that’s made me a consistent driver this year.”
Is there any points spread that you had on third that would make you feel more comfortable going into next week? “Not really, no. Just because anything can happen. I still look toward Phoenix as being a high-potential from some really crazy restarts with the dogleg in the back. We saw the start of that at Loudon, and the last couple of laps at Charlotte were pretty intense. I don’t know what the math would be; the high 30s would be really nice, but I don’t think that that’s necessarily going to be the case. It will take three really good races to put yourself in the hunt going into Homestead.”
Can you describe the pressure you feel this weekend and as you move along in the Chase? “I don’t have any pressure.”
Why do you think that is? “I medicate myself. I don’t know (laughter). I’m having fun with these guys. It’s been a lot of fun. Yeah, there’s intensity out there but that’s different than pressure to me. I’ve always said that pressure is what explodes things. There’s no reason to put unneeded or unwanted pressure on anything you want to perform well.”
With everyone saying you have to be patiently aggressive in the chase, and aggressiveness being different at Talladega and Martinsville, what is being aggressive like at a place like this? “It’s a fairly good question. The bottom line is that you only have to be as aggressive as you need to be. If you have a dominant racecar, being aggressive is the worst thing you can be. If you’re in a position where you’re fighting for seventh or eighth all day and you think you have a top-five car, you better be aggressive because you need to make something happen. It’s all situational, in my opinion.”
What is aggressiveness here? “It can be going three- or four-wide on a restart. It could be pushing the lights on your tachometer as fast as you possibly can and not busted for speeding but getting everything you can. There’s times to be super-aggressive, there’s time to be aggressive, and there’s times you don’t have to be.”
We ran into (Matt) Borland down in Austin and doing some due diligence in preparation for the Haas F1 deal. What is it about him that will make him a good fit with the Haas F1 group? “I guess Matt’s first real situation like that was his first go-around with me as far as our ARCA start. We started with three or four guys at Penske and built an organization that became a Cup winner in the All-Star race before our rookie season.
He knows how to get things started, and he knows how to put people together. He did the exact same thing last year with a team that took us to a Brickyard 400 trophy. He is the guy I would want if I was doing that to do that. He’s very hands-on and knows how to do everything. At the same time, it’s a huge task so I hope he has some good people around him.”
In 2003 you won eight races and didn’t win the championship. Now you might win the championship without a win. Do you see any irony in that? “Matt Kenseth won the championship that year with two wins, right? He started off the season with two wins and stayed strong but never won again. I suppose you could say he raced 34 races without a win. But in the end and like I said, the championship trophy doesn’t have the number of wins under it. If and when they put you in the Hall of Fame, it doesn’t say that he won the championship without a victory. We’ve got victories – maybe just not in the 2014 season. You just never know.”
Points aside, do you feel like you’re a good enough team to win the championship if you get to homestead? “I feel like we are, without a doubt. It takes us continuing to perform and outperform where we have performed. We’ve gotten stronger as the year has gone. The last two races were nice; to have back-to-back top-fives is something that is much needed at this time of the year for our team. So yeah, without a doubt we wouldn’t be here if we weren’t a contender for the championship. But like I said before, there are no guarantees to anything. There’s no guarantees that we don’t wad it up on the first lap here and don’t make it to Homestead.”
When you moved over to a new team, you expect there to be a little bit of a drop off. How far ahead are you guys toward the end of the year in your first season with RCR from where you expected to be? Also when you look at the standings, you look behind you and all the Stewart-Haas racing cars are behind you. Is that kind of sweet seeing all those cars behind you? “First of all, I’m glad I didn’t meet your expectations. Otherwise I’d be doing worse than I am. I want everyone behind me. It doesn’t matter if it’s an SHR car, a Penske car or a Roush car. It doesn’t matter to me. I want to beat everybody. That’s how you become a champion. We’ve been consistent this year and just look forward to the opportunity to continue to fight for this championship.”
With Gene Hass entering a car in Formula One car for 2016, will that be an important thing for the growth of F1 in the United States? “To me, you’re asking the wrong guy. It’s a fair question, and no disrespect. If you’re talking about short-track racing or open-wheel racing with respect to what I grew up doing, I’d have a better answer for you.
But I’ve never paid much attention to F1 racing. I like watching a good race but it’s not that I DVR it at 3 in the morning when it’s on in a different time zone, so I’m not the best guy to answer that. I would have to say that in the end, it’s probably good for the United States, and to have something diversity-wise back in F1 that used to be there, I’d have to say that’s good. To see a lot of things that at least sporting-wise were a little bit of throwback is a good thing.”
What about other drivers within NASCAR? Do they watch it? “There are quite a few guys that watch it. We’re amazed at the technology that F1 has. But to me, technology doesn’t always mean great racing. We look at it from a technology standpoint of how to beat the other guys in the garage, whether that means how to use carbon fiber or how to use their braking systems or something like that that can give us an advantage. To me, that’s my interest in F1.”
What does formula one have to do to get a NASCAR fan to watch it? “I’d have to say get more cars in the field and have more passing. It’s all about passing. Some of the best racing in the world is a guy who starts last in a 30-lap race and passes the guy at the start-finish line on the last lap. I don’t see that happening too much in F1.”