Daytona 500: Second, third, top rookie press conference, part 2

Continued from part 1 Q: Ryan, there were two or three aggressive driving penalties today. The first was to the guy who really asked for something to change. What were your thoughts about that and do you think it will work as we ...

Continued from part 1

Q: Ryan, there were two or three aggressive driving penalties today. The first was to the guy who really asked for something to change. What were your thoughts about that and do you think it will work as we go forward?

RYAN NEWMAN: I mean, I was way back in the pack. I didn't see what happened between the 20 and the 17, so I'm going to decline to comment on the actual situation and circumstances.

Whether that was coincidental with it being Tony, Tony's comment, or whatever that's beside the point. I hope in the future, the drivers can work this situation out as far as the bump drafting or any other situation that we have before NASCAR has to intervene. I think, you know, the days are gone where we can't take each other out back and have a little discussion, get some things done. I'm saying that because of the fact that cameras follow us everywhere and we don't want to be given the image of a "bad boy".

I think in the end, the bump drafting rule is not ideal, but it was something that helped get through the races a little bit cleaner, I think, because of the way it was implemented. Let me correct myself and say it wasn't necessarily a bump drafting rule, what was it called?

CASEY MEARS: Aggressive driving.

RYAN NEWMAN: Aggressive driving rule.

Q: Ryan and Casey, do you think after this week, next week at California, this bump drafting and aggressive driving thing will kind of be an afterthought as far as NASCAR keeping such a close eye on everybody, what they're doing on the track?

RYAN NEWMAN: I think it all depends on how much you guys make of it. It's part of racing. Just like Casey said, it's the way we pass now. If it's fun for the fans for us to be out there side by side, four deep, you know, four wide, four deep, not touch each other, NASCAR has to make some conclusions. Man, I'm stuttering all over myself. Say it, Casey.

CASEY MEARS: I think the rules are fine. I think the racing is fun. As long as NASCAR stays on top of it a little bit, and makes sure that the guys don't get too out of hand, it's fun racing. I enjoy it.

RYAN NEWMAN: We don't like being on the receiving end of a judgment call is the bottom line.

THE MODERATOR: We just got the final results. The 42 car is second, the 12 car is third.

RYAN NEWMAN: Kind of knew that, but I didn't want to say anything (laughter).

CASEY MEARS: I watched my picture go across the screen in second on the TV, and I thought maybe that was a chance.

RYAN NEWMAN: Are you certified to say that? Maybe you're just pulling my leg or something (smiling)?

CASEY MEARS: I think he's pretty certified.

Q: Is it a fair statement from your perspective that if a crew chief is suspended, maybe the driver should be suspended as well in a race?

CASEY MEARS: I don't agree with that 'cause I know that it depends. You got different levels of drivers that have different levels of involvement with their team. You got some drivers that really don't have any influence other than saying the car is tight or loose on what actually goes on the car. Sometimes they know, sometimes they don't know.

I would hate personally to get penalized for something that my crew chief did that I don't even know about. So I don't know. I mean, he might have a different opinion. That's the way I look at it.

RYAN NEWMAN: Some drivers know what's going on with the car as far as what the crew chief's initiatives are. Some drivers don't have a clue. I totally agree with what Casey is saying.

I think the point that should be driven home is if we have repeat offenders or the situation happens time and time again with a certain individual, there's something more that should be done other than suspension. You know, that's I think important to the sport.

Q: Even though you're disappointed with the third place finish, Ryan, still your best finish here in the 500. Talk about how this jump starts your year. How big would it have been to get one for Roger here at Daytona?

RYAN NEWMAN: As I said earlier, it's a great run for the Alltel Dodge. It's a definite booster for the start of the season. Just as we went into the 500 at ground zero, it was another situation going into California where, you know, just because we're third now, we can come out of California 33rd in points. I mean, it's just a situation where you try to make the best of it. As soon as I walk out of this media center, the uniform and everything else comes off, we're already focusing on California.

It's a great way to start the season, no doubt. Thankful for the effort that Roger Penske and everybody at Penske Racing has put forth. We got to continue that, keep striving.

Q: How much momentum did you have after winning the Rolex 24, coming in here? Was that a huge boost to your confidence?

CASEY MEARS: Well, I mean, it was a lot of fun, and it was awesome to win that race. I feel privileged to be a part of it.

But I think really if we had any momentum, it was gained from the pre season testing we did in the Cup car, the adjustment to the 42. I mean, we had a test at Nashville that went absolutely awesome. We had a test at Vegas that I thought went really well. We knew that our car was going to be pretty good in the draft here. We didn't have overall speed that we wanted, but we knew it was going to handle pretty good.

If there's any momentum coming out of this, I would say the majority of it's coming from the running that we've done with the Cup team. But as an added bonus and for the guys to hold their heads a little bit higher in the shop, to win a race at the beginning of the year for Ganassi as a whole was a big positive feel in the shop that really helped everybody, I think.

Q: There was a lot of talk earlier in the week maybe they would take Jimmie's primary car from him. If they had done that, would there have been enough time during the week, with the practice, that that backup car could have been as strong as his car today?

RYAN NEWMAN: That's totally "could have, would have, should have" from our standpoint. Totally too hypothetical for us to even say.

I don't think anybody on the 48 team could have even answered that one.

Q: Ryan, you just said that if a situation happens time and time again with a certain individual, something ought to be done besides suspension. Can you be more specific? What do you think should be done?

RYAN NEWMAN: You know, there's been suspensions for more than one race by certain crew chiefs. You know, NASCAR is the governing body. We can call them the government. The government makes the rules. It's up to them to enforce them.

You know, to see the repetitive situations of question ability or legality of certain crew chief's work, or his team's work, I should say, that just brings up a lot of questions. You know, like Casey said, it's not good for the sport, it's not good for any of us to have that question mark out there.

You know, I don't have a specific example of what could or should be done other than something a little more strict than a suspension 'cause, you know, that didn't seem to slow him down too much.

Q: Do either of you believe that Chad had nothing to do with the racing here today or yesterday?

RYAN NEWMAN: Go ahead, plead the fifth (laughter).

The crew chief assumes the role of the parent of the team.  That's the
bottom line.  Whether it was Chad's fault or not, Chad is responsible for
what goes on with that race car.  That's what the crew chief's role is,
at least with our team.  That's why I say it that way.

Q: I meant, do you think he was in communication with his team today?

RYAN NEWMAN: Hell, I don't know. I got an Alltel phone, he's got a Nextel. We can't even communicate.

Q: Is this race going to go down in history as the race that was won with an asterisk behind Jimmie Johnson's name?

CASEY MEARS: Jimmie is going to be here in a little bit. You can ask him all kinds of questions. Honestly, I mean, I'm happy I got second. If you want to ask me something about that, I'll answer it.

I mean, all this stuff is so hypothetical, just like grasping at air.

RYAN NEWMAN: Ask us questions we can answer. Ask the hypothetical questions for anybody else.

CASEY MEARS: Don't mean to be rude.

RYAN NEWMAN: We'd like to go home, too.

Q: Are you upset this could have been taken away from you, the win?


CASEY MEARS: That, I don't know.

RYAN NEWMAN: The rules are the way the rules are. Jimmie was put to the back of the Gatorade Duel. I mean, he finished his car passed inspection from that point on. There's no questionability as far as that.

Q: Casey, there was a lot of talk leading into the season, people expecting you to have a breakout season this year. You won in the Rolex race. You finished second/third here. Can you talk about the momentum that builds and explain you're not driving the same car next week, a completely different kind of track, are you confident you guys will be good on the intermediate tracks, too?

CASEY MEARS: What's exciting about that is those are the places we were most competitive at last year, the intermediate tracks. The test that we had in Vegas, if it's indicative if the California track is anything like the Vegas track, which it's very similar, I feel pretty good about going into it.

You know, we'll just have to wait and see. The California race is totally different than what we just got done doing. It was great to win the 24 hours, it was great to have a good finish here. I'm very confident that we can have a good finish at California. We just got to put all the pieces of the puzzle together and do it right.

Q: With the bump drafting being such an issue all week, what were your thoughts today with the zones and everything that has been going on?

RYAN NEWMAN: I'll take this one.

Just to reword your question a little bit, I don't think it was necessarily an issue as it was more of a question, you know, as far as how it was going to be enforced, the questionability of the judgment call.

All in all, obviously there was a couple, at least one that I know of, penalties throughout the race. There was definitely aggressive driving up towards the front in order to stay up front. That's part of this package.

You know, I thought that all in all I've been through I think five of these now it was pretty much the Daytona 500 that I've seen in the past.

THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, thanks a lot.


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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jimmie Johnson , Roger Penske
Teams Team Penske