RYAN NEWMAN (No. 12 ALLTEL DODGE) NOTE: Fresh off his second win of the season on Sunday at Dover, and his third in the last four starts at the Monster Mile, Newman ranks eighth in the Chase for the 2004 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup heading to ...
RYAN NEWMAN (No. 12 ALLTEL DODGE)
NOTE: Fresh off his second win of the season on Sunday at Dover, and his third in the last four starts at the Monster Mile, Newman ranks eighth in the Chase for the 2004 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup heading to Talladega.
"We were a little bit disappointed with the good run we had going there at New Hampshire, but we turned around and followed through with it. That felt good, especially after the way we ran last year and not be able to come back and do the same thing or at least attempt to do the same thing as far as dominating the race. It was just a good run all day for our ALLTEL Dodge and very much deserving for the guys on the team because they worked so hard all year. Now we've got two victories to claim for it."
DO YOU THINK YOU'RE STARTING ONE OF YOUR 'RUNS'?
"Historically it takes about 10 weeks for us to get off of a run. If we start one right now, we should be in good shape, and that would include the Daytona 500 next year, so all things aside, that's just potential. I think we have a good race team and we have great racecars going into these last eight races and we look forward to each and every lap, no matter if it's at Talladega or Kansas for that matter."
WHAT WOULD FIX THE TALLADEGA FEAR FACTOR?
"I guess just in general having a package we could race and not draft basically, where handling was a little more important or the cars separated out because the car had a handling advantage over another car. That would make it more fun from a driver's standpoint. Obviously it's very fun from a spectator's standpoint, but that doesn't include a driver's feelings."
WHAT SEPARATES DAYTONA AND TALLADEGA?
"Mostly the surface itself. Talladega is a more forgiving surface. Daytona pretty much eats up the tires, and you have to handle at that race track and that's why you saw what you saw this year in the Daytona 500 with three cars separating themselves from the rest of the pack and basically not being able to pass each other because of the handling part of it and the aero part of it at the same time. Talladega it seems like we finish under the checkered flag four wide, four deep no matter what lap it is."
ARE YOU HAVING FUN WITH THE CHASE?
"I'm having fun with the racing part of it. Going back to the point system, I've always said I don't like the point system from the competitors' standpoint, which is what I am. I think that might be a good marketing strategy and we'll see what that turns out to be at the end of the year as far as the stats go, but I think overall we're here to race and we attack each lap at each racetrack with the thoughts of being the fastest and doing our best to be able to win it. The points system is just kind of a separate situation. If we race good, the points will take care of themselves."
DO ATHLETES USUALLY DISLIKE SPORTS MARKETING INTERFERING WITH COMPETITION?
"Yes, I agree with you, but I don't think that was something that NASCAR necessarily needed or the Nextel Series necessarily needed. I think the whole idea of revamping the point system kind of got blown out of proportion. Like I said throughout the entire year, it is what it is this year. We'll take it for what it's worth. Everybody had an equal opportunity. Not everybody has an equal opportunity right now in these last 10 races and that was my pet peeve of it. We'll go on and try to do our best to win the championship."
WHAT'S YOUR CONFIDENCE LEVEL LIKE RIGHT NOW?
"I think your confidence can get too high in some respects, but if you just maintain the focus like I said at Dover when I was doing the post-race media stuff, I said, 'today's victory celebration is over. We have to stay focused on what happens next week and that's Talladega and a different racecar and a different racetrack.'"
COMMENT ON POSSIBILITY OF FUEL MILEAGE RACE AT KANSAS
"The potential is always going to be there for a fuel mileage race, no matter if it's Martinsville or Talladega or Kansas. For us it was just a good strategy race for us last year. We could have run out of fuel at the end of the race, but we obviously had enough to make it. We were in the right position because of the way the yellow flags fell, and that's just part of strategy and that's just part of what they call racing luck. That could happen at Talladega. That could happen at Martinsville, and that could happen at Kansas, all three races in a row or whatever. We're just going to take it one step at a time and I think it's just out of coincidence you're not seeing as many fuel mileage races this year with the exception of Richmond where we were just barely able to make it and that got us into the Chase for the Nextel Cup just because of fuel mileage."
HOW DO YOU FIND THE FASTEST LINE AROUND A TRACK?
"Basically you feel how your car is set up and what the ideal line is. You don't want to bind your racecar up whether it's qualifying at Talladega or Martinsville for that matter or getting the right arc getting into turn one at Kansas which is one of the most difficult corners we race at all year. It's a unique racetrack and you just try to find the ultimate line. Buddy Baker has done a lot for me to figure out those things. It's a difficult process to doing it. It's quite private, but everybody's got their own way of finding their ideal line and their ideal groove and then finding a package -- springs, shocks and swaybar and everything else -- to make that work."
DO YOU THINK MORE RESPECT IS GOING ON BECAUSE OF THE CHASE? HOW WILL THAT WORK AT TALLADEGA?
"I don't know. I think everybody's question going in is it going to be crazy or is it going to be relaxed? I think it has more potential to be crazy, but at the same time we never know. We'll just have to take it one lap at a time and see how things turn out. The biggest crashes we've had at Talladega have been because of blown tires and cut tires because of debris. Those things aren't related to crazy drivers or the point system or anything else."
DID YOU FIND A PLACE FOR THE DOVER MONSTER TROPHY?
"That's a funny story. We've got it sitting on our conference table when you first walk in to the shop at Penske's. I brought the dogs in today and Mopar, the one that never speaks, started barking and howling at it. He's part hounddog, so it's kind of funny to watch him go off on the monster trophy. That's where it is right now, and it's definitely a cool trophy."
HOW IMPORTANT IS QUALIFYING?
"It's very important for me both physically and mentally, but basically it's a great starting incentive for the entire weekend for the entire team. We've got guys that come in on Sunday morning or Saturday night, guys that change tires and things like that, and they get pumped up when they realize you're starting on the front row or you've got the pole or you've got a good shot to lead a lap and get five bonus points. That's very important, and secondly track position and pit selection, and those things make it easier for the guys on the crew. We click at it because we work on it. It's teamwork and effort and it takes everybody from the people that hang the bodies to the horsepower we have under the hood to crew chief Matt Borland."
DOES IT MATTER WHERE YOU START AT TALLADEGA?
"Again, if it gives you the opportunity to get a pit selection and get an opening, you might not get caught on pit lane. You might get the opportunity to lead your only lap of the day if you get the pole. Those are five bonus points, and it only takes one point to decide between the champion and second place. It's still critical. It's one of the hardest places to get a pole. "We've yet to get a pole at a road course or a restrictor-plate track."
WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED MOST FROM RUSTY WALLACE?
"Rusty has taught me a lot about short tracks, mostly from just watching him and learning and looking at data and stuff. He's an awesome short track racer. I think equally everybody at the 12 car has taught him and some of his team some tricks about the intermediate tracks. He's done a lot better there than he has the past couple of years. It's going to be a unique situation for me, being in my fourth year and his retirement year as well as what it's going to be like when he's gone. I don't know exactly how it's going to be."
COMMENT ON MARK MARTIN'S SHOT AT THE TITLE
"He's a contender for the championship. He's just another contender and competitor. I don't think he's any different than anybody else in the top 10. He didn't have a bad race, and Matt Kenseth had his this past weekend, and me and Jeremy and Tony had ours at Loudon. If he can get away without having a bad race, he's got a better shot at the championship and so does everybody else. It's still an equal opportunity with eight races left. I just go out there and do the best job I can for myself and the team. Just because Mark Martin is a sentimental favorite doesn't mean anything to me. He's just a competitor to me."
DO YOU KEEP UP WITH PURDUE FOOTBALL?
"Not a whole lot, no. I'm not a big non-racing fan."
ARE YOU GOING TO BE INTERESTED IN THE NOTRE DAME GAME ON SATURDAY?
"No, I've got some other stuff going on this Saturday."
DESCRIBE YOUR SEASON
"It's been the same pretty much the last three seasons. I call it a roller-coaster every time. I guess it's part of the sport when you've got 42 other competitors. Your odds are kind of against you that you're going to finish in the top 10 every week. It's just the roller-coaster part of it. It's something you have to fight through. As in battles and as in wars, the strongest teams survive, and we're doing our best to survive."
HOW IMPORTANT IS IT NOT TO GET TRAPPED IN A PACK OF CARS AT TALLADEGA?
"It all depends on who you're around and what's happening. Odds are you're going to have to be in a pack of cars at some points, especially early in the race. You've just got to hang on and hope luck is on your side."
IS QUALIFYING MORE IMPORTANT THAN EVER IN THE LAST 10 RACES?
"It has a lot of potential to be very important without thinking about it too indepth. Yeah, it is important if you look at it from a numbers standpoint. If you start on the pole in each of the last 10 races, you've got pretty much a 50 percent shot at getting 50 points when only the top 10 were separated by (45) points in the first place. You can create some big advantages there just based on qualifying. It's still only rewarded for leading a lap, which everybody has a chance to do, basically, just by staying out on the lead lap when the pit stop comes. It all depends on where you are on the racetrack, but it's not the ideal pole point award that I would like."
COMMENT ON TESTING THIS LATE IN THE SEASON
"Basically, hopefully you're just fine-tuning at a certain racetrack or with a package you're working with or whether it's tire pressures or whatever. You're just trying to zone in on what's perfect versus what's good or what's a good starting point, which you're usually working at at the start of the year. Some racetracks are good to test at and some racetracks are harder to test at because of track conditions and the time of year you get a chance to test there. It all depends. There's always an edge. The cars can always go faster, no matter if you're the fastest car that day. You can always go faster. You've just got to keep working on it."
COMMENT ON TALLADEGA BEING ONE OF THE FINAL 10 RACES
"I'd rather not have it on the schedule, period. It's part of what NASCAR decided to make one of the final 10 and also decided to make it part of the schedule. We'll just take it for what it's worth. There's still 185 points available there."
WHAT MAKES THE 12 TEAM SO STRONG ON INTERMEDIATE TRACKS?
"Communication and teamwork and understanding. I like the intermediate. I'd say 95 percent of them are banked. Some of the tracks we go to like Loudon and even Richmond to a certain degree are even flatter racetracks. I definitely enjoy the banked racetracks, so that's a big part of it. Being able to have track position be only 70 percent of the day instead of 90 percent of the day. Who would have thought about a 17-car pileup at Dover in the spring race? Sometimes it happens and sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes a crash at Martinsville will take out two cars and sometimes it takes out 12 cars. Obviously I've seen crashes at Talladega, like Kenseth in the spring race when he spun out, it looked like he should have taken out about 20 cars -- not because it was his fault just because of the way it worked out. He ended up spinning by himself. It's just a part of racing luck."