Long Pond: Newman, Wallace interview

Ryan Newman, driver of the No. 12 ALLTEL Taurus, is in second place in the Raybestos Rookie points race and in 15th place in the NASCAR Winston Cup standings. He appeared in the Pocono Raceway infield media center, along with his Penske Racing ...

Ryan Newman, driver of the No. 12 ALLTEL Taurus, is in second place in the Raybestos Rookie points race and in 15th place in the NASCAR Winston Cup standings. He appeared in the Pocono Raceway infield media center, along with his Penske Racing teammate, Rusty Wallace, driver of the No. 2 Miller Lite Taurus, Friday morning and talked about his season to date.

Friday's qualifying session was later postponed because of wet grounds. The field for Sunday's Pocono 500 was set on points.


WHAT ABOUT YOUR SEASON SO FAR? "It's had its ups and downs, but overall we've learned a lot as a team. We've gone to race tracks and done well where we've struggled in the past, and at the same time exceeded some of the runs we had last year that were so great. I'm glad to be part of the Raybestos Rookie of the Year challenge, and going against somebody as talented as Jimmie [Johnson] and the teams that we got with Hendrick Motorsports and Penske Racing. I was sitting in the rookie meeting today thinking about, we got Jimmie and Jeff {Gordon], and Rusty and Ryan. We got two Js and two Rs, there's got to be something to that. I'm happy to be running as good as we are. Hope we can redeem ourselves from some of the finishes that we've had, some of engine failures, things like that, just keep running good and having good races, and look forward to the rest of the season. They say, I guess, pattern-wise, sometimes the second part of the season can be turnarounds for some teams, and we're not looking for a turnaround, we're just looking to make things a little better."

YOU'RE IN A LEARNING PROCESS THIS YEAR. HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH BAD LUCK THAT STRIKES? ARE YOU TOUGH ON YOURSELF? "I guess the best thing to do sometimes is just don't deal with it, just go on and go to the next race and do your best to learn and make good of a bad situation, but kind of forget about it at the same time and attack the race track the next week."

RUSTY WALLACE-2-Miller Lite Taurus

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF RYAN NEWMAN AS A DRIVER AND THE LEARNING ABILITY THAT HE'S SHOWN SO FAR? "It's been incredible, it speaks for itself. To go out there and do what they've done, in fact, all these rookies out here this year to do what they've done just blows me away, really. Honestly, I expected them all to run good, but I didn't expect them to run as they've been running. I mean, they're outrunning us, no doubt about that. They're real strong, they're real focused, they're really into their teams, and I think Ryan is just doing a fabulous job. He'd be right up there, but he's had three or four blown motors. Every race that's he's lost an engine, he's been up front and they're running strong. I think they're both doing a really good job. You can't deny it. Very good."

WHAT ABOUT YOUR SEASON SO FAR? "My season has been real quiet. I've had a real quiet, consistent season, so far, and I hope I louden in up a little bit this week, but in a good way. I've been real consistent, a ton of top-10 finishes, we've led a lot of laps this year, but haven't won. It's got me a little nervous. It seems like the last four or five years I've won real early in the year; it hasn't happened yet. But, I've had good shots at doing it. I hate that the race in Texas got away from me, I had a big, big lead when I lost the right-front suspension part there. Richmond's usually been my best race track, and we go there this year and blow the tires out, had a helluva a problem. But, all in all, we've only missed one lap out of the whole year so it's been all real good consistency. Again, the thing I've been struggling with is handling. I'm not handling as good as I want to be, and I'm really working hard and getting our cars handling better. The engines have been super strong. Pit stops have been real fast. Ryan and I got good cars, well-financed. I just got to get the handling package better, and that's it."


WHAT'S THE BEST ADVICE RUSTY WALLACE HAS GIVEN YOU? "Keep the fenders on it. Just be patient, and wait for the last 100 miles of the race, that's when the race will be decided, and just use your head and keep the fenders clean, and if you've got a good race car, things will happen for you."


WHEN YOU'RE THE ESTABLISHED MEMBER OF A TEAM, DO YOU OFFER ADVICE RIGHT AWAY OR WAIT UNTIL THE NEW DRIVER ASKS QUESTIONS? "You can only do so much because right now there's two different crew chiefs - I've got Billy Wilburn, he's got Matt Borland. The approaches of the two teams have been quite different, they really have. We've got the same car, same engines, stuff like that. They practice their own pit crew, they do their own setups. And they have seemed to do a much, much, much more technical approach than we have. I approach it more of a seat-of-the-pants, been-there-done-that type attitude. And kind of what Jeff Gordon's been alluding to the last couple days, some of these guys that haven't been at these race tracks don't get stuck in the old way of doing things. They'll get real aggressive in trying something that when we look at the setup we go, "That's never going to work." But they get real aggressive with their thought process and sometimes it works. I had been bit many times this year so far, I've been real too conservative, and Ryan's done some setups that I thought, 'What are they doing?' and they seem some success with it. They're doing a lot of that with their instrumentation from their test sessions, they're using a lot of computers and stuff like that, and I'm just, more or less, saying, 'Change the spring, change the shock,' and doing what we've been doing. It's a different approach."

SO, YOU CAN LEARN FROM HIM, TOO? "I can learn from him at this particular point probably more than he can learn with me because I tell him everything I'm doing and they've got the sheet and they go, 'Well, if they want to use it, they can use it.' And then there's times that I look at their stuff and I go, 'Man, I don't know if I can try that.' If you're running, say, a pair of 800-pound springs, I might look over at Ryan's car and he's got a pair of 500s, and I'm, like, 'What? Where did that come from?' or something way different. And, I think that's what Jimmie's doing versus what Jeff's doing."

WHAT ARE YOUR IMPRESSIONS, SO FAR, OF RYAN'S FIRST SEASON? "He's fast. He's got natural speed. He's had some unfortunate crashes, testing, stuff like that, but he's learned a ton. A lot of guys come on a little slow and you gotta get 'em going, but this kid's come on real, real fast and strong and real aggressive, and like I say, he's got a lot of speed in him, and now he's tailoring his speed."


WAS THAT BAD STRETCH A COUPLE OF WEEKS AGO FRUSTRATING? "Oh, it's frustrating, but you got to let it go. It could still be frustrating today, but we think about Dover, finishing fourth, and coming back from almost a lap down, and crashing in qualifying, you know, there's so many things that we did to redeem ourselves there. It's just no different than blowing a motor or anything else throughout the season."

CAN YOU ASSESS YOUR SEASON SO FAR? "Before we turned our first lap at Daytona, we thought that we had a good potential for doing well this year, throughout the year, every race, and we've done that. We've had our problems, we've blown some engines, we popped a radiator at Martinsville, things like that, and those are expected, but the excess amount of them isn't always expected sometimes. We've done well, we've met some goals and we've struggled in other areas, but the season's not even halfway over yet, so we just need to keep our goals in thought. I think overall we've done well. We won The Winston. We've run up front. We've been there, and for some drivers it takes forever to even get their first top-five or first win. Overall, I've enjoyed it. I've had a lot of fun, and just keep doing it."

MOMENTUM IS TALKED ABOUT IN OTHER SPORTS. IS IT APPLICABLE TO AUTO RACING, TOO? "It's applicable in life, I mean, in everything momentum is so important. Once you get your chin down, it's hard to pull it back up, gravity takes over. I guess that's part of everything in life, and it's no different in NASCAR Winston Cup or any kind of racing. Momentum's a key to doing well."

AS FAR AS BEING A TEAMMATE OF RUSTY WALLACE, DO YOU ASK A LOT OF QUESTIONS? DOES HE OFFER A LOT OF ADVICE? "It's kind of sporadic sometimes. Sometimes I'll go up to him and say, 'Hey, Rusty, what do I expect here? The first turn at Richmond, we get the green flag, two-wide, what do I expect?' Things like that. But it's not something where I sit down and write this list of notes and say, 'Hey, Rusty, answer these questions for me because I don't know.' At the same time, he'll come up to me and say, 'Hey, what do these springs feel like?' or 'How are you driving the car here?' and things like that. It's about being teammates. We're different drivers, we're different people, but we can apply the same thoughts and apply the same race cars to different race tracks."

-ford racing-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Rusty Wallace , Ryan Newman
Teams Team Penske , Hendrick Motorsports