Daytona Preseason Thunder - Dodge: Newman interview

Wednesday, January 16, 2008 Daytona Int'l Speedway Preseason Thunder RYAN NEWMAN (No. 12 Alltel Dodge Charger) "It was somewhat boring but you still need to see where you're at in reference to everybody else. Our Alltel Dodge shook out in...

Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Daytona Int'l Speedway
Preseason Thunder

RYAN NEWMAN (No. 12 Alltel Dodge Charger)

"It was somewhat boring but you still need to see where you're at in reference to everybody else. Our Alltel Dodge shook out in the middle of qualifying runs. That's just satisfactory. We tried to improve on what Kurt had done here last week with the 2 car and not do the same things they had done so we could be a better, stronger team. I think we have. I thought our drafting run yesterday was a good run. The speed itself, being on top of the charts, was alignment in the draft as far as who got the tow, and I did. Even what drafting practice we get in today is going to be nice. I look forward to coming back for Speedweeks to get a better feel for the car and have fun."

ON WHAT IT WOULD MEAN TO WIN THE 50TH DAYTONA 500 "It would be special, no doubt, to win it all in any part of Speedweeks. The 50th one is pretty big. I was around for NASCAR's 50th and I saw how much emphasis went into that, so I get an idea of how special it is. 10 years ago I was sitting in the Seagrave section watching the cars go by and sneaking into the garage area. Now to be here for the 50th, it's definitely cool."

ON LOOKING FORWARD TO THE VEGAS AND CALIFORNIA TEST "The biggest thing is making that car right. That's what everybody complained about at the first Bristol race last year, was the way the car rode compared to the old car. Now it's not even fair to compare it to the old car because there is no such thing. Last year was tough because as a driver you go out there and want to drive as fast as you possibly can and have a good, smooth handling car. The COT at the time was nowhere near the ride quality and the feel that the old car was. We complained about it a lot. This year we have no ground to stand on. We can't complain. The bottom line is we have to go to each test, each practice session, each race to make the car drive its best and be competitive. Vegas and California, point blank, is about being fast, getting the car to ride good and figuring out ways to create advantages that are becoming fewer and fewer over other teams."

ARE YOU GETTING TIRED OF SEEING YOUR CAR BARREL ROLLING DOWN THE FRONTSTRETCH ON THE DAYTONA 500 PROMOS? "The promo deal, it gets kind of old in a way but it's still kinda cool. It was a rough ride but fortunately, I wasn't even hurt. I [didn't] have bruises you could see. I was just a little sore. That's understandable."

ON TOYOTAS PERFORMANCE "They're strong. They were super strong back at Talladega. I think a lot of that went under the radar because of the whole qualifying deal. You know, who made the show and who didn't. It's not surprising to see them fast here in qualifying trim. The draft mixes things up a lot. I still think they're a strong competitor as far as their speed and horsepower under the hood. [I think that] is due to the car that we have and how many changes you can physically made to the outside. We'll see how everything shakes out. Hopefully with our Dodge effort we can come back and be strong in qualifying and race trim."

ON HIS FAVORITE DAYTONA MEMORY "Finishing third, going for the win on the last lap with Johnson, and Casey Mears choosing friends was a good memory. I would say my first Daytona 500. I remember I finished seventh. I don't even remember where I started, I know we didn't qualify very well. Our Gatorade 125 at the time was marginal. We were like 13th or 14th or something like that. In the 500 we ended up finishing seventh. I know on the restart, with all the drama with Sterling Marlin and all that stuff, I tried go to the outside going into turn one and I was running fifth going for fourth. To be here for the very first time, never really experience true NASCAR drafting racing. [It] was really awesome to, number one, finish in the top 10 but to be going for a top five."

DO YOU THINK THE NEW CAR PUTS MORE OF THE DRIVERS DESTINY IN HIS OWN HANDS? "I wouldn't say it's any different then it used to be. The only exception to that is, from a competition standpoint, the cars are more similar and they're more competitive then they ever have been. In saying that, if you look at the speed charts there's still probably eight-tenths to a second difference between the fast car and a slow car in qualifying trim, at least here. You're going to have that at other places but the areas that we work on are minimized now, due to the fact that the body and the chassis are so mandated by NASCAR to the point that we have to choose other areas to work on. The teams that were strong are always going to be strong if they keep doing what they were doing. As far as putting in the drivers' hands more, I wouldn't say so. I think you're still at the mercy of the speed of the car and I learned that in 2006 for sure."

ON THE OPEN WHEEL INVASION "I wish we could redefine the word rookie when it comes to NASCAR because they aren't any anymore. These guys that are coming in are rookies in NASCAR but they're far from rookies. Because they're open wheel drivers, to me it makes no difference. I was an open wheel driver when I came in, I just wasn't an Indy Car driver. The bottom line is they're drivers, they're competitors. Whether they're male or female, open wheel drivers, or late model drivers from the local short track. If they're deserving to be here [they] will learn and will see. In the car owners and sponsors eyes they feel that they are. You go out there and I wouldn't say you're scared to be with them but they have to learn as far as drafting, passing, racing and things like that. I have a teammate that's one. Part of my job is to help him out. Part of his job, I told him, is to help me win at Indy. We'll see how things go."

HOW MUCH WILL GETTING THE THIRD PENSKE CAR ESTABLISHED THIS YEAR HELP YOU? "I think the third car is going to help us from a financial stand point, from a team input standpoint. It's just like I always said when Buddy Baker was helping me, he didn't always tell me what do to, he told me what not to do as well. When they're here testing things, they can tell us what not to do, what to do and vice versa. As long as the people are good, the effort is good and the performance is there then it will be beneficial for all the organization. On top of that, as I've said in the past, the more people you have; when things are good they're great and when things are bad, they're really bad."

SOME OF THE GUYS ARE SAYING THIS TRACK IS TOO BUMPY AND MIGHT NEED TO BE REPAVED "I hope they don't even think about repaving it. The character of Daytona is in the race track as well as the entire facility. To me, it's just like Darlington where it's nice to have the character and manage through the bumps. It's nice to have that challenge of making your car handle and as a driver, make the difference. The bumpier the race track the more the driver does make a difference. It's kind of like the icy road thing. The icier the road, the guys [parked] on the shoulder are the guys that don't have the talent."

WHAT IS THE DRAFT REALLY GOING TO LOOK LIKE WHEN YOU GUYS GET UNDER RACE CONDITIONS? "I think it will be typical. I think the cars are sticking a lot better than I thought they would. Typically here, you deal with getting tight through a run. You have to start way loose, you get tight and whoever can handle the first part of the run is usually good at the end of the run. You have to have speed to go along with that. We were strong last year. We were strong the last couple years here. I think that it is going to be a lot of handling. The bumpy part of it is more of a factor of the car than the actual race track. I don't know when the last time it was paved but I don't think it got way rougher this past six months than it ever has."

HOW IMPORTANT IS IT FOR YOU AND ROY TO BE ON A LONG TERM RELATIONSHIP? "It's extremely important. That was one of my goals, personally, when I was with Matt Borland was to stay with him, have that strength of consistency and knowing, sharing and that relationship. That didn't happen. Obviously the next goal is to have that with Roy McCauley.

"I just want to say that Mike Nelson had a great opportunity to be in a manager's spot. That was one of his life-long dream, and goals since he was at Penske Racing. We didn't get to achieve the things we wanted to last year. By all means it was on good terms that he did what he did. I felt like when I was down here I was the only driver with two crew chiefs."

DOES MCCAULEY PUSH YOU A LITTLE MORE? "Roy is what we refer to as, on the chip. He's up there at nine thousand the whole day and all the time. Not to say the Mike Nelson or Matt Borland never were, it's just Roy stays there and he's determined. He gets the job done and that's why I look forward to a great 2008 season with him. Roy is a great team leader. I saw that when I was in the Busch Series with him when we won those races. He took that team over to the Cup Series and won Bristol with Kurt Busch. I think that he can get the job done and I'm glad to have him."

HOW MUCH HAS THE COMING OF ENGINEERS INTO THE SPORT CHANGED IT? "There are a ton of engineers in the sport now. There were a few. Hendrick has always been the dominant engineering team, as far as having the most. The bottom line is they have brought technology, Toyota has brought a ton of technology and engineers to the sport, the series and the garage area. I wish that more drivers were engineers, that more drivers had an education. They could be good for the sport. I think that the interest mostly lies in the age of drivers. People aren't wanting to wait for kids to be out of college to hire them to be a race car driver. I wish that weren't the case. I wish that was some kind of stipulation. I'm glad that I have my education and I'm glad there are so many engineers in the garage. For me, having the engineers on the team makes it easier to communicate and do all the things we have always talked about that make us a stronger team. We haven't won a Championship so we have some work to do. I guess that is one of the things on my wish list.

"I just wanted to say, just for the benefit of NASCAR and the affect that we have on kids and people that are in high school, instead of saying, I want to go to NASCAR, I want them to say, I want to get an education then go to NASCAR. I think that would be nice."

HOW DO YOU THINK YOUR EDUCATION HAS HELPED YOU? "It all started when my parents asked me, 'where are you going to college?' I said, 'what? I don't know, I haven't really thought about it.' This is [when I was] in high school. I just eventually decided to go to Purdue. If it wasn't for them I wouldn't of had the ambition to push myself, to pay for myself to go to college. They helped in both respects. My dad specifically, always said that you're going to get your education before you go full-time racing, period. The second person that was highly involved with that was Roger Penske. He wanted me to have my diploma before we started racing and racing hard. That makes a big difference. That I think, says a lot about Roger Penske as well as my father."

OTHER SPORTS, YOU HAVE TO GO TO COLLEGE TO GET INTO THAT PIPELINE TO GET TO THE PROS, IN NASCAR IT DOESN'T SEEM THAT WAY. IS THERE ANY WAY TO CHANGE THAT CULTURE? "As far as Indy car racing goes, I don't specifically know of any drivers that have a [college] education. I don't know how you can make it mandatory or anything like that. In general, if people had that idea or that principle;lf in life that it would be better for them and NASCAR. "

-credit: dodge motorsports

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Sterling Marlin , Casey Mears , Roger Penske , Buddy Baker
Teams Team Penske