Rusty Wallace and Ryan Newman join the Dodge NASCAR Winston Cup lineup for 2003. The Penske Racing South team gives Dodge 12 factory-backed drives and six teams for the 2003 campaign. RUSTY WALLACE (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Intrepid) "This race...
Rusty Wallace and Ryan Newman join the Dodge NASCAR Winston Cup lineup for 2003. The Penske Racing South team gives Dodge 12 factory-backed drives and six teams for the 2003 campaign.
RUSTY WALLACE (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Intrepid)
"This race is so special because it's just got the ring to it. The Daytona 500. It is the biggest race. It is the first race. We've been off since November and everybody has gotten kinda fat and sleepy and tired and the Daytona 500 wakes you up. It's two weeks of adrenaline right in your face. It's not just one little race. This is two weeks of ramming it right at you. To me, the Daytona 500 has a special ring to it. To me, it is the premiere race. Everybody says the Indy 500 is the premiere race, but not to me. The Daytona 500 is. No disrespect to the Indy 500. That's a huge, incredible race, but to me the Daytona 500 is also. It doesn't get old for me. It gets old when I have a bad run. There's been many times when I stick my hand out the airplane window banking out left.
"We didn't win last year. I drove for Pontiac, Ford and had good races with both of those guys, but I really think our team got close to the potential of maxing out what the Ford could do -- aero, engine, everything. I think it was time for a change. The contract was up, we treated everybody real, real good. We did our contracts in a respectful manner. I sell Fords. I sell Pontiacs in my dealerships, but we switched to Dodge. We think we can improve the Dodge engines. We think the Dodge people are hungry, excited. Everything I've seen it's been that way. When I was here testing and I pulled in, there would be four red shirts with Dodge engineers asking what they could do to help. At least they were there to help. There's a lot of excitement. It's a good relationship with a lot of invigoration, and I like that.
"I'm real excited about the new opportunity with Dodge. The cars look cool. I was over at the Dodge dealership at Daytona looking at all the cars and trucks, and the things they're coming out with are really cool. A lot of car makes have cool cars. I've got five car dealerships in Tennessee, and I sell 'em all. They're all looking different. Dodge is a breath of fresh air, and hopefully I can win my first Daytona 500 in a Dodge. I'm sure that would make Dodge happy. It would make Miller happy, and we're going to give away a lot of beer when we win, and I can't begin to tell you how happy it would make me to park that Miller Lite Dodge in victory lane at Daytona. We've been close before, so maybe Dodge is the missing link we need to get us there."
RYAN NEWMAN (No. 12 ALLTEL Dodge Intrepid)
"All the cars feel a little bit different, but the change from Ford to Dodge, I didn't notice any big changes. Everything was looking good last year, but our performances toward the end of the year weren't the greatest. I think it gave us a little indication of how the competition would be this season. We're going for all the poles, all the wins, every Happy Hour, we're here to win everything we possibly can. Hopefully we can do that. It's just one of those deals where everything has to work out right.
"I don't think anything favors anything. The same race tracks have been on the circuit 50 years. I don't think it's going to favor any veterans or any young guys. It's just going to depend on who's really got it together. We've got some learning to do with what the cars want in different racing conditions. We've made 'em go pretty fast in testing at different race tracks, but race conditions is what it's all about.
"Rusty and I usually know what the other is running as far as setup. The biggest thing for me is what some of the race tracks do for Rusty. At the same time, I think it likes to get my feedback on what the track's doing. I think our driving styles are somewhat different and somewhat the same at different race tracks. We like a different feel for the race car as far as how we drive it or how we approach driving it.
"Buddy Baker has helped me a lot. We all know about that. One thing that's always stuck out in my mind is that he told me he didn't want me to make the same mistakes he did. I think that paid off in huge amounts with the potential mistakes I could have made as a rookie. Experience with my crew chief and the team has helped as much as anything else.
"Nobody's perfect, but I think everything went pretty well last year with the media and fans and everything else. We'll see how things go this year, but I intend to do things the way I did them last year.
"This place is pretty tough just from the handling perspective. I never thought you'd have to handle so good at a place that's so big. That's one of the toughest parts of racing at Daytona. You can have a good fast car for qualifying, but if you can't get it to handle in the race there's no sense being here. It would be great to win the pole. That's always been a dream starting on the pole for the Daytona 500. In one way it would take the pressure off, but in another way it would add pressure because you know you've got the fastest car and you're supposed to win the race.
"I think we're going to do the same things we did last year as far as the way we approach the races. I don't feel any pressure. I don't feel like pressure is a good thing, and I've always said that, but we're here to do a job and hopefully we can do it right. My expectations for myself and the whole team have been raised just based on our performance last year. Hopefully we can achieve those goals.
"I think NASCAR has really evened up things with the different makes. Days like when Bill Elliott made up two laps under green at Talladega won't happen any more. I think with that in mind, competition with the quantity of drivers capable of winning has increased. There's a downside to the common templates because it takes some of the tweakability away from the crew and the guys at the fab shop and things like that. On one hand it's good and on the other hand it's bad.
"Greg Biffle is coming in as the Busch Champion for the Raybestos rookie class this year, and Jamie McMurray won last year in his second race. They're both going to be tough. I think you'll have a really tight Raybestos rookie race this year just like Jimmie Johnson and I did last year.
"I like to race at Darlington, and places like Michigan and Atlanta. Darlington to me is the ultimate race track because the driver's got to drive the race track. You've got to have a good car and everything else has got to be right. A driver can create a lot of his own destiny at a place like that."