RYAN NEWMAN (No. 12 ALLTEL Dodge Intrepid) NOTE: Newman was second fastest in Wednesday morning practice session at 182.604 mph. Dodge driver Sterling Marlin posted the fastest lap at 182.697 mph. "To start off, it's been pretty good. I didn't...
RYAN NEWMAN (No. 12 ALLTEL Dodge Intrepid)
NOTE: Newman was second fastest in Wednesday morning practice session at 182.604 mph. Dodge driver Sterling Marlin posted the fastest lap at 182.697 mph.
"To start off, it's been pretty good. I didn't have a clue what to expect. I go back to this time last year, I think we were 30th out of 35 in testing and we qualified 42nd. I think the bottom line is we've learned a lot as a team, as well as the performance has been pretty good from the people at Dodge as well as the product itself.
"It all depends on what race track you're at. Here, I don't think it's a whole lot. It's pretty much stand on the gas and see what happens. You go to a place like Las Vegas where downforce is so critical, you've got to change the way you drive a little bit and that's where the adaptation comes in. Overall, I'd say it's not huge by any means.
"I think some people are trying to change. I don't know how much you can justify what they're saying. It's not just the team. It's not just the people. It's the chemistry. If you've got the best engineer in the world, the best driver in the world, the best crew chief in the world, the best car or whatever, if they don't get along together then you have nothing. You've got to have good teamwork and communication. They might be making the right steps. With the engineers on our team, that's the right thing to do.
"It's good that we can be here at different times to experience the entire field and know the caliber everybody is. Rusty has two different cars and we have two different cars. It's hard to compare those things because they are built by humans.
"It's everybody else's loss (if the car isn't ready when it rolls off the truck). They have the same opportunity. I know Matt (crew chief Borland) does a great job preparing and the rest of the team does a good job preparing the cars so when we unload fast and get to Happy Hour we've already got the plan. That's what Roger Penske always said, effort equals results.
"I think one of the things we struggled with last year, and don't get me wrong. It wasn't necessarily a struggle, but we ended up with 14 or 15 top fives. I guess the biggest thing for us is we're here to win and win the Winston Cup championship. Both of those kind of go hand in hand. To be able to maximize our performance, but what it comes down to is getting the checkered flag first.
"It's a relief. I couldn't quantify it for you, but it's just a better feeling. It's just like anything else. If you're better than everybody else on a given day, you feel better about yourself. I guess that's just human characteristics. It's a relief, but at the same time you can't be relieved because everybody else is out there working hard. That's how we got to this point.
"I guess the biggest thing is just to keep your head on your shoulders, whether you win a race or you're four DNF's in a row. We started off the season (last year) pretty good. We were second in points. Then we went through a slump and dropped to 17th. I guess almost the highlight and lowlight, the good and bad of what we had to deal with, but you keep your head on your shoulders and it's as much the team as it is the driver.
"I've seen a few of them (Saturday Night Live shows), and I think anybody could host it. I think I answered your question.
"A lot of what the driver does here is back up the information the computer might lose. You do in a sense feel that way because there is no competition to speak of (in testing). You're out there trying to duplicate everything to make it simply for the team to figure out what's good or bad. It's tough in that respect, but overall it's still a lot of fun to go out and learn a lot about the cars.
"Don't get me wrong, it was 20 years ago (when Dale Earnhardt won rookies honors one year and the championship the next), but we're going to try. That's the goal of our season, the Winston Cup championship. Our goal in 2003 is the same as it was in 2002. Every team here should have that goal.
"I think it does for several different reasons. Elliott Sadler came in here and talked about engineers. To me it's as much a mind game as anything else. We might mentally have them beat just thinking they have to have engineers. They might have gotten rid of some of their good employees to get the engineers. This sport is as much mental as it is physical.
"Our goal is to maximize the top 10s. We've got to make it better. We can't have the same season we had last year because that was only good for sixth. I know one thing's for sure, this team, the ALLTEL Dodge, learned a lot of things last year and we'll be able to carry them over. I think we might surprise ourselves a few times."