RYAN NEWMAN (No. 12 ALLTEL Dodge) NOTE: Smart Jones goes for the Triple Crown today in the Belmont Stakes, and Ryan Newman will be gunning for the Dover Trifecta on Sunday in the MBNA 400 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup race at the Monster Mile. A victory by...
RYAN NEWMAN (No. 12 ALLTEL Dodge)
NOTE: Smart Jones goes for the Triple Crown today in the Belmont Stakes, and Ryan Newman will be gunning for the Dover Trifecta on Sunday in the MBNA 400 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup race at the Monster Mile. A victory by the 26-year-old South Bend, Ind., native would give Newman three straight wins at Dover. In four starts at Dover, Newman has two victories, three top fives and four top 10 finishes.
WHY DO YOU RUN SO WELL AT DOVER?
"It's a combination of a lot of things. No. 1, I've always liked banked race tracks. I grew up racing at places like Winchester and Salem. This is a slight remembrance of what those tracks used to be like when I raced at them. Having done well at those racetracks, it's relatively easy to come and adapt to a place like Dover. Obviously the car and the guys on the team have to like it and perform well and have good equipment to be able to do that, so it's a combination of a lot of things."
WHERE DO YOU LIKE TO PASS AT DOVER?
Once the track widens out typically for the Cup race, the corners are the best places to pass. The straightaway are so banked and so narrow compared to the corners, you wait for the corners to let the guy in front of you slip up or have a shot to go around on the outside of him. That's pretty much it. The best race here is typically the Cup race because the track does widen out so much because of the rubber on it."
DOES A THIRD GROOVE WORK IN AT DOVER?
"I've got myself in trouble in reference to other drivers by going three wide here a couple of times, but that's just part of it. The track is susceptible to a third groove. Typically the fastest groove is on the bottom and those higher grooves get started by guys that aren't handling as well and start slipping up. It's whatever is your liking and then try to make it fast."
COMMENT ON RACING WITHOUT POWER STEERING
"Actually last year at Atlanta in the spring race we lost the power steering. I think that was about halfway through and I finished 10th there. The previous year, my rookie year, at Watkins Glen about halfway through the race we lost power steering and I finished second."
COMMENT ON THIS SEASON VERSUS 2003
"I think our finishes have been respectable and good but not great. We've had problems at Texas, Las Vegas, Charlotte blowing the engine that have slowed us down and kept us from challenging Junior and Johnson for the top spot right now, but I think tables will turn like they have the past couple of years and we'll get our stuff together and they'll have a few problems."
COMMENT ON 26-10
"This time of the year really doesn't matter. We were 21st or 27th or whatever it was at this point in the season last year and still ended up being ninth or something at the 26th race last year. You want to be No. 1 no matter what. That 26-10 deal just gives you guys something to talk about."
WHAT HAPPENS IF THERE IS NO HAPPY HOUR?
"We'll rely on our qualifying balance and be able to change our race balance around that and get it pretty close like we usually do before the start of race practice. I've run here four times in the Cup Series, and we'll take those notes and with the combination the track is this year and go from there in reference from us. If we don't get any Happy Hour, we'll just go straight in the race and they usually throw a caution flag at lap 50 or 40 or something like that for some unknown reason."
COMMENT ON POSSIBILITY OF A FUEL MILEAGE RACE AT DOVER
"As long as racecars are carrying gasoline we're going to have fuel mileage races. The new tires really have no affect with what's going on as far as fuel mileage goes. I think it's still beneficial to stay out as long as you can on the tires to be able to not go a couple of laps down in the pits because of pit road speed. It doesn't really changes anything if it changes at all."
COMMENT ON PENSKE HORSEPOWER
"Actually we're a little bit behind the 8 ball as far as horsepower goes. We're not the Penske we were the past couple of years compared to everybody else. We look forward to it because it's great race tracks for us, but it's not like we're going to be killing everybody down the straightaways. I think the bottom line is a lot of other teams have caught up. We spent a lot of time last year working on our restrictor-plate engines because we struggled so hard there, and that's getting a little bit better. Actually it's gotten a lot better, but I think a lot of other teams have caught up and we're kinda maintaining."
COMMENT ON FREE PASS RULE
"I'm 70-30 on it, 70 that I don't like it and 30 that I do. If I'm running fourth and spin out and go a lap down because I blew a tire or something like that 20 laps into the race. I come into pit and I'm the only car a lap down. I get my lap back even though I had a problem. It's too free. It's beneficial to one team during every caution, but it's too free. In my opinion, and I don't know how to do it, but if it was more refined to the point the person that really earned the free pass because we don't race back to the yellow got that free pass every time then I think I would be 30-70 the other way. Just calling it a free pass in racing doesn't sound right. We should have to earn everything out there. To a certain degree you earn the free pass, but there are so many situations where a guy just gets the free pass. If for some reason you go three or four laps down at a big racetrack right off the bat... say for instance Pocono. If we come in and have some kind of mechanical problem more cars typically don't get lapped very often. If there are three or four cautions in a row, I'll get my three or four laps back every time if no other cars a lap down. That's just not right, so there's different situations I like and dislike."
COMMENT ON NOT RACING BACK TO THE YELLOW
"I think racing back to the yellow is a bad thing no matter what the situation is, if it's the last lap or not. I think we should continue what we're doing with not racing back to the yellow, but I do wish we raced back to the checkered flag, green-white-checkered finish like the truck series."
WHAT'S IT LIKE FROM A DRIVER'S PERSPECTIVE ON THE HIGH BANKS OF DOVER?
"The more banking there is the more it tries to push you out the bottom of the racecar. The less banking, the more it tries to roll you out the side of the racecar because of the G forces. Here you feel a lot at 45 degrees. At a place like the old Homestead you felt like you were just going to roll over the top. Places like Rockingham, Bristol and here are pretty similar because of the banking. You get kind of sucked down in the seat. It's so constant here. You're in and out of it so quick. It's so repetitive you just don't realize it."
IS DOVER A BETTER TRACK FOR A PATIENT DRIVER OR AN AGGRESSIVE DRIVER?
"Both. At certain times, you've got to be a little of each. I watched David Green's interview yesterday. He said, 'you won't see me until the last 50 laps of the Busch race and then I'll be racing.' I think that's more of a veteran, experienced driver talking. I think in order to be able to get to victory lane and not knock a fender in and have a good car at the end you've got to have a little bit of both."
WERE YOU OFF IN CHARLOTTE BEFORE THE BLOWN ENGINE?
"We had a problem where the left rear jack screw unwound itself, about 14 rounds actually. That made us really loose. We kept trying to compensate and tighten it back up, but we underestimated the problem not knowing there was a problem. That made us off speedwise for quite a while and eventually we lost the engine. We struggled there for quite awhile on top of the fact that one pit stop we had we only got one can of gas and that got us off cycle, and with our luck the yellow came out after we pitted because we pitted off cycle."
DID YOU GET CAUGHT IN THE SAME SITUATION AS THE 24?
"Not really, we were in a lot better shape than the 24 was. The biggest problem was we didn't know what was happening to our car before the engine blew. For a long time we were one lap down waiting to get the free pass. We had an engine problem before the engine blew, and that got us two laps down."
IS COMPETITION BETTER NOW THAN WHEN YOU STARTED?
"Not really, maybe five percent, but not really. I say that based off our times in qualifying and practice. It's usually six tenths from first to what used to be 36th in qualifying and also the same type of situation in race practice. You don't really see that change, and I think that's the best reference to competition and how close they are, that one fast lap. The racing is pretty much the same as far as the competition level."
DO YOU HAVE TO BE MORE FOCUSED HERE BECAUSE OF THE HIGH BANKING?
"The speed adds to a little bit more focus needed but not much more. It's all pretty much the same. For me, I enjoy those types of racetracks. Banked racetracks usually offer some of the best racing there is versus flat racetracks. When I say banked, I mean really banked, more than 20 degrees. Even places like Michigan that is 18. Of course I could throw in Bristol that says it's 36 but it's really 26. Those racetracks, just the speed, the way you drive 'em, I've always liked it. It's just the way I grew up racing at places like Winchester and Salem and other banked tracks like Anderson and Eldora."
WOULD YOU BE HAPPIER WITH OR WITHOUT A HAPPY HOUR TODAY?
"I don't think it's going to make a whole lot of difference. Subconsciously, I can say that I'd be happier having a happy hour, but I don't think it's necessary."
TALK ABOUT EARLY QUALIFYING DRAWS
"You can only do so much. You can't control what's happening with the other racecars. We just do the best job we can with our car and see what the results are. The last four qualifying efforts we've had, we've been second four times. That kinda gets old, but nevertheless we're still qualifying on the front row. We'll do what we've got to do. It's not that agonizing. It's frustrating to get beat, but it's not that agonizing because you can only do so much."