Las Vegas: Newman - Friday Dodge interview

RYAN NEWMAN (No. 12 Alltel Dodge Charger) WHAT DO YOU EXPECT THIS WEEKEND BASED ON THE TEST? "We were okay. We'll make some changes based off California and what we've seen on some of the bigger tracks. This was our first test of two here in the...

RYAN NEWMAN (No. 12 Alltel Dodge Charger)

WHAT DO YOU EXPECT THIS WEEKEND BASED ON THE TEST? "We were okay. We'll make some changes based off California and what we've seen on some of the bigger tracks. This was our first test of two here in the West and in California I think we actually learned some things that we could apply here, so between the race, the 10 laps that we got in practice last weekend and in our test out there, hopefully we'll come back with a little better package. I look forward to the race. I kind of liked the way the track was last year. It actually separated out and had multiple grooves in the first year, which we don't typically see. I don't know. I think our Penske Dodges will be good. I think the Gibbs cars and the Hendrick cars will be strong as well. From what I've seen at the test Carl Edwards had a really good package."

YOUR PIT CREW SEEMS LIKE A LAID BACK, FUN GROUP OF GUYS. HOW IS YOUR INTERACTION WITH THE GROUP? "We've got them programmed that way. They are the same group of guys that we had last year, which I think is good. We had a good ending to the season last year. They did a good job in Daytona. They did a good job in California, between everybody not just the pit crew guys that go over the wall but everybody. They're having fun and that's what we're here for, it shouldn't be like working. I mean, we're working, but it shouldn't be like work. I think 99 percent of them have that attitude. That's a good thing for me and for the team."


NEWMAN FROM SEINFELD? "Oh -- no, I didn't know about that. At California?"

YES. "No, I wasn't offended. He's the original Newman. You guys copy him. Newman is only famous because of Seinfeld. If it wasn't for Seinfeld, Jerry Seinfeld, if he wouldn't have called him Newman then he wouldn't be famous -- he'd just be another character. I'm not copying him -- you guys are the ones that call me Newman. You are the ones that copy him. I don't call myself Newman."

WHY DO YOU CONSIDER RACERS ATHLETES? "Because we are. Are poker players athletes? Yeah, they are. Because it is a sport. Not just poker players, but any thing that requires physical and mental characteristics to be able to beat your competitors, if you're shooting a basketball through a hoop or driving a golf ball down a fairway -- it's athleticism and therefore it defines it as a sport and a sport makes it's competitors an athlete. I don't think that there is any sport out there that doesn't have athletes competing in it. Obviously some athletes are better than others, but what we do mentally and physically behind a wheel is true athleticism. Now, am I in the same tip top shape as Tiger Woods or Tom Brady? Probably not, but we are for what we do. I think it would take those guys some training to do our job as much as we would theirs."

IS QUALIFYING GOING TO BE A CHALLENGE WITH THE NEW CAR? "I think with qualifying you do the same thing just with a different car. This track changed more with weather conditions back when it was the original configuration to the point that we had to drive the car differently more so then, then we would with the old car compared to the new car. I don't see it as a big difference other than the fact that you have to adjust. You have to adjust to the track, to the bumps, to the grip -- those types of things with this new car. A qualifying run is no different than a race lap; you still try to do the best you can. You can move around a little bit more and there is an ideal line as we've always talked about and that's what you try to take in qualifying. I don't see it as being any more difficult. It's not going to be easy. The cars are going to have to be on edge. The track is fast. It's a quick race track and the tires are sticking pretty well, so you have to hang it out there."

HOW DID YOU THINK YOU DID ON THE LETTERMAN SHOW? "It's unique. That's the first time that I'd ever met him. We were late getting there. We had some tailoring issues at a specific location and I had to get my suits fitted to me, because I didn't have any. I had to go up there and get suits and get fitted and all of that stuff, so that took some extra time. I didn't get to do the pre-interview stuff with him personally to kind of rehearse a little bit, so when I first met him is when I first met him. You saw it on TV. He's a unique individual. I learned why they call it the Letterman Show. I learned why it's his show because he runs it and no matter what anyone says or anyone does they follow his lead. As a guest you are kind of suckered into following his lead up until the point when you can kind of punch him a little bit. That was one of my goals was to make him think about what he was saying even after he said it."

"I enjoyed it. It was fun. I didn't want to offend anybody, but it was fun."

HAVE THE ISSUES OF THE TRACK RECONFIGURATION DISAPPEARED DUE TO THE NEW CAR? "We as drivers will complain anytime there is a change -- when they change the tires, when they change the cars, when they change the track, when they repave the track -- we always complain. There's never a time when I think someone has said, 'man, I think this is the greatest thing since sliced bread' when they make a big change like that. It was tough last year for sure with the tire combination, because we came back with a harder tire than we had in the test. So as a driver you think you can come back and approach the track a certain way as we were talking about in qualifying and when they change the tire or change the setup of the car to go along with it, it takes some time to get used to. I thought the race was good.

"There was a lot of cars that crashed in practice and I remember almost crashing quite a few times, but we're reluctant to change as drivers, as teams, as people that are basically basing everything off of the past when it comes to cars, and setups and things that we do -- we don't want to see change. It's difficult to take it for what it's worth. I think that the tire, the car, and the track are better this year than they were last year, mostly because of the tire. The tire that we ran last year, because of the new surface it had to be that way just to make it on a fuel run which I commend Goodyear for. That's something that we obviously had trouble with in Daytona, but as long as they make a tire that lasts a fuel run and we don't have any tire issues going into and out than that's all great. When we are boarder line crashing the cars because the tire is so hard it's just difficult. That's the frustration that comes out."

ON JIMMIE JOHNSON'S SUCCESS AT LAS VEGAS: "We have to knock him off his thrown and I think that he knows everyone is looking at him for that, because I would be if I was in his position. It's a new year with a new car and we've had a good start to the season with the Alltel Dodge and we're just going to go out and do our best."

IS JIMMIE JOHNSON THE DRIVER TO BEAT? "Everybody is the driver to beat, and more importantly you can't beat yourself."

WHAT KIND OF POKER PLAYERS ARE YOU? "I haven't played in quite a while. We did a couple of those TV shows and stuff and I used to play all the time. When Matt was the crew chief basically anytime we flew anywhere we'd play cards up in the front of the plane, so I've played quite a bit. To answer your question, probably conservative. I play the odds probably more than I should versus just playing the player."

COULD YOU PICTURE YOURSELF IN A HIGH-STAKES GAME OUT HERE? "I could picture myself -- yes. I watch it quite a bit on TV. I like watching those guys. It's pretty interesting. It's a good people skill."

HOW WOULD YOU DO, DO YOU THINK? "How would I do? I couldn't tell you. You can think that you're going to do well and then lose it all on the first hand because you're over confident."

YOU HAVE MORE MONEY AFTER DAYTONA SO YOU COULD GO TO A HIGH STAKES GAME: "The money to play with comment is kind of like, what do they call it, an oxymoron. To answer your question I don't like to play with money."

-credit: dodge motorsports

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Carl Edwards