RYAN NEWMAN - No. 12 ALLTEL Taurus (Finished 6th) RAYBESTOS ROOKIE OF THE YEAR PRESS CONFERENCE "I didn't know about the Raybestos Rookie of the Year deal, but that's cool. All season it's been a great season. Even when we struggled we struggled...
RYAN NEWMAN - No. 12 ALLTEL Taurus (Finished 6th)
RAYBESTOS ROOKIE OF THE YEAR PRESS CONFERENCE
"I didn't know about the Raybestos Rookie of the Year deal, but that's cool. All season it's been a great season. Even when we struggled we struggled as a team and we fought back. Whether it was an engine failure or me punching a hole in the radiator, we constantly fought back and that's important to me as a rookie. To run so well at all the different race tracks, that was important to me. Some of the race tracks we had never been too, especially the road courses, so to accomplish some of the things we did there was really great. I just want to thank everyone from ALLTEL, Mobil and Sony and Penske Racing and all the people in the shop. It's a great team and a great honor for me to be able to drive and sit in that seat."
WHAT ABOUT STAYING OUT AT THE END?
"The hardest part was Roger was on the radio telling me, 'Why don't you think about coming in.' I had to come back and there are usually few people who will stand up to Roger Penske and say, 'No, we're not doing that,' but I actually said, 'No, there's no way we're coming in,' because track position was just so key. I told people afterwards that we had two of the three things - we had enough fuel to go the distance, we had track position which was definitely important, but the third thing we didn't have was the tires. I think the tires was a little bit of what helped the other guys get around us. We had a pretty decent car for most of the race, we just never got good track position. We were good enough to get sixth. It wasn't a great day, but a good day for us."
HOW HIGH IS THE BAR SET FOR FUTURE ROOKIES?
"It's as high as you guys think it is. All year, everybody from the media and drivers and sponsors commented on how we were raising the bar. You look back to the second Charlotte race and Jamie McMurray won in his second race. He raised the bar one step better for everybody else, so next year is gonna be a total learning experience for us as Winston Cup drivers as well as the rookies coming in. You look at Biffle and he's got great talent. He would have won the race had he been in position there at the end. We'll just have to see how things go, but that's a different race within itself."
HOW MUCH DID YOU KNOW ABOUT JIMMIE AND DID HIS STRENGTH SURPRISE YOU?
"I didn't know a whole lot about him. We raced together the 15 times last year in the Busch Series and a couple times in the Cup Series, but, overall, I knew that he beat me in Chicago and I beat him in Michigan. We were never enemies. We never had any contact on the race track or off. We've always admired each other's position this year as far as the respect we had for each other's team. I know my crew chief, Matt, and his crew chief, Chad, got along really well despite the competitiveness on and off the race track. As a whole, I think everybody on the 48 team and everybody on the 12 team had a lot of respect for each other all year."
DID YOU NOTICE ANY POSSIBLE MANIPULATION FOR THE TITLE TODAY DURING THE RACE?
"I didn't notice anything to answer your question. At the same time, I think he (Mike Helton in the pre-race driver's meeting) was re-issuing a statement that comes at the beginning of the year. There are so many team cars out there that the same situation could have occurred or has occurred at some point during the whole season. But I don't think there was anything on the track today that would go against what he said."
ARE YOU THINKING TITLE NEXT YEAR?
"We thought about it for this year and there's no reason why we shouldn't think about it for next year. That's the bottom line. Like Mark (Martin) said, you never know, next year I may not even be in the top 10, but we're gonna try just as hard as we did this year."
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON TONY?
"It kind of brightens my light bulb because Tony and I came from the same background and knowing that he achieved his goal as far as a Winston Cup championship. Like I've said before, once the road is paved it's a little easier to drive on. It's something for me that we were in position at one time this year to be the Winston Cup champion. It didn't materialize, but we tried hard and, hopefully, things go well next year. But Tony is a great guy and a great driver. I think he's one of the greatest driver's that I think has ever lived as far as being able to drive so many different kinds of race cars as well as has and has the championships underneath his belt. I'm happy for him and I'm happy looking into the future as far as myself."
WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM WATCHING TONY?
"Pretty much the same thing I learned from everybody else. I mean, you take as much information in as you can without corrupting the system. As a driver, you just go out there and do the best job that you can and that's all we did. Tony does drive a little different at some race tracks and you can take that into consideration as a driver."
DO YOU FEEL YOU ESERVE THE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR AWARD?
"Maybe (laughing). Closing out the season, to me, wasn't the performance, the performance was all year. Everybody from Penske Racing, whether it's the guy that sweeps the floor or the guy that runs the shop, they did an awesome job of giving me the tools that I need as well as the rest of the team to do the things that we did. It wasn't the way we closed out the season that iced the rookie of the year championship, it was the performance as a whole I think. Jimmie had a great year. He won three races and we had a great year, too. Fortunately, we evidently had a little bit better one than him."
HOW IMPORTANT IS YOUR STREAK OF WINNING EVERY ROOKIE OF THE YEAR RACE YOU'VE BEEN A PART OF?
"I guess you could probably compare it to Jeff Gordon's first provisional this weekend - it's something you keep going, it's a goal and it's something you don't want to lose at. It's very important to us and to me as a person, and I know it's equally important to the whole team because they knew that stat and were aware of it and didn't want to let me down. That's what I'm getting at as far as a team effort. They definitely pulled through and I commend all those guys for that."
HOW WILL IT FEEL TO GET THE ROOKIE STRIPE OFF THE CAR?
"I guess it would be different if they put it in the windshield so you really knew that you were a rookie, but they put it on the bumper so everyone else knows you're a rookie. But it'll be good. I know for a fact that it makes a difference, I guess maybe in the way other people look at you. And, like I said before, if we have the same year performance-wise next year as we did this year, then we weren't working hard enough and didn't do more things right. That's what's important to me is being better."