RYAN NEWMAN (No. 12 ALLTEL Dodge Charger) NOTE: Newman, a 27-year-old driver from South Bend, Ind., ranks fourth in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Standings with five races remaining in The Chase. Newman has recorded four straight top-five finishes at...
RYAN NEWMAN (No. 12 ALLTEL Dodge Charger)
NOTE: Newman, a 27-year-old driver from South Bend, Ind., ranks fourth in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Standings with five races remaining in The Chase. Newman has recorded four straight top-five finishes at Martinsville, and in seven starts at the .526-mile track he has two poles and has never started outside the top 10. Newman leads the circuit with six poles in 2005 and is going for his fourth straight Bud Pole Award. He has four top-10 finishes in five Chase races and trails co-leaders Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson by only 17 points entering Sunday's Subway 500 at Martinsville Speedway.
OPENING COMMENTS "We used to be absolutely horrible there (Martinsville Speedway) and that was because the driver would burn off the brakes. After we talked to him, we got him to settle down and drive the car right. We've always had fast cars there and that shows with our qualifying effort, but recently we got the package together for racing and I think we'll be better yet than we've ever been this time."
RECAP CHARLOTTE. HOW TOUCH WAS THAT RACE? "It wasn't tough physically other than the guys that hit the walls had to go to the infield care center. It was more mentally tough than anything because you sat in the racecar contemplating how hard you could push it before you were going to injure yourself because of a tire. I'm a firm believer in that I don't think the racetrack was the blame. I think the racetrack was a part of the entire equation, but it's Goodyear's responsibility to bring a tire to any racetrack that is safe. They didn't do that, and it was obvious in the Busch race Friday night (Newman's fifth straight victory) and as well in our race Saturday night."
HOW HARD WERE YOU DRIVING THE CAR? "I started driving the car pretty hard and after I saw all the tire problems I backed off. I can't really put a number on it, but I think everybody had a little timidness in their right foot as far as the situation with the tires went."
ADDITIONAL COMMENT "Just so you know I'm driving my Dodge Ram Pickup with a Massey-Ferguson on a trailer behind me. I've got a little farm here and going to get some grass mowed down. That's what I do to relax sometimes."
COMMENT ON SATURDAY NIGHT'S RACE IN RELATIONSHIP TO THE CHASE "The battle is still in our hands. We don't have a good grasp on it because of the situation. We could slow down as drivers and tune the cars so we never have tire failures, but that's not what we've done in the past. If Goodyear wants us to start changing the way we do things because they're going to build a tire that's going to blow out, then yeah, it's going to change the way we race and it's going to change the outcome of who might be strong one week to the next, but The Chase itself, I've never liked it because of the situation with eliminating competition and eliminating drivers and teams and sponsors from being able to sit at the table at the awards banquet in New York. Outside of that, it's just like anything else. It's only 10 races and it takes 26 to get in The Chase."
IS THE CHASE NOT A GOOD INDICATOR OF THE TRUE CHAMPION? "I don't think so. I think what you just saw was a random bad race. A race that we say is typically not random is Daytona or Talladega or sometimes Bristol. We just saw a situation where Charlotte turned into a randomly different race and that's part of racing. It's no different than if we go Sunday and on lap 251 it starts to rain and the outcome is totally different than it would have been otherwise. It's just random differences, but there's blame to be placed in certain areas with this one."
WOULD SHORTENING THE CHARLOTTE RACE HAVE HELPED OR MAYBE PUTTING ON RESTRICTOR PLATES? "It may have helped. I think we would have had potentially the same situation. We would have just been running wide open in the corners instead of lifting. It wouldn't have been good racing, not that it was in the first place because of all of the accidents. At least we saw some good racing with the 48 and 01 at the end, at least I did from my seat. My point was on lap 100 or whatever was to shorten it to a 400-mile event and for NASCAR to tell everybody what we were going to do because of the situation. At that time it was more of a situation that we didn't have tires. The only reason we got more tires and had more tires at the end of the race was because more teams were popping them. They had DNFs so they could give up their tires, and that's not a good equation."
DO YOU SEE THIS HAPPENING AGAIN? "I don't necessarily foresee it, and I don't think we foresaw it going into Charlotte as much as we should have. When we tested there we had a couple of tire issues, but they were kinda different issues than what we saw in the race on both Friday and Saturday nights. I think the next question mark will probably be Atlanta as far as are we going to have any tire problems there because of the speeds. I believe there might have been a tire compound change there for the upcoming race. It's a different situation. At Atlanta the tires wear out. At Charlotte the tires didn't wear out. They wore, but they didn't wear fast enough to keep the heat out of them to keep them from blistering. It was kind of a difficult situation on Goodyear's part they had to get through. They had to build a tire that was strong enough but would not blister because it held heat in it because of the high speeds we were dealing with there. Goodyear definitely had a difficulty task, but I don't think they were satisfied with the outcome."
HAVE YOU EVER SEEN SO MUCH CONTROVERSY FROM WEEK TO WEEK? "I think the closest thing I've seen to so much controversy is on the Jerry Springer Show. It's hard to be able to guess what's going to happen. We probably wouldn't have been able to foresaw what happened at Charlotte or Loudon or a couple of other tracks up until this point in The Chase. In saying that, I think the only thing that can happen at Martinsville is just the beating and banging at Martinsville and guys getting crazy and attitudes and egos getting carried away in the cars and pushing other cars around. That's the only thing I see right now. I think we had a good tire in the spring race and I don't foresee any other situations other than just typical short track racing."
HOW MANY DRIVERS WILL BE CONTENDING FOR THE TITLE IN THE FINAL RACE AT HOMESTEAD? "I think at the most you'll see three, at the very most. We're coming up on tracks where there's going to be engine failures and things like that."
TALK ABOUT MULTI-CAR TEAMS IN THE CHASE "First of all we're not loners (2 and 12 teams). We're part of a great multi-car team at Penske Racing. I think as a team, and I know this is a Dodge teleconference, but I think the Dodge teams have struggled at times this year whether it was debris on the grille, or performance or balance or whatever. I'm not saying that other teams haven't. I'm just saying that for sure we have. As far as The Chase goes, the Roush and Hendrick cars started out real strong, but Jeff Gordon fell short. He didn't even make The Chase. I'm not saying that about him. I'm just saying the guy who looked so strong at the beginning of the year isn't even a contender right now. Hendrick has one car in The Chase which is far from their mega-team infrastructure to win The Chase. In a roundabout way I don't think the multi-car team is anything, and I think it's getting blown out of proportion."
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT LIMITING TEAMS? "Let me say it this way. As far as I know, Jack Roush, since maybe 2000 or 2001 has had four Nextel Cup teams. Until this year, when he's performing at the ultimate peak in his NASCAR career, has anybody mentioned anything about multi-car teams. It's all based off his performance. He may be a product of his own destiny as far as what happens with the multi-car team situation, but I saw him struggle as a team with his engines, his cars in 2001 and 2002 and nobody said anything about that when he was struggling."
SO YOU THINK THIS IS AIMED DIRECTLY AT HIM? "I don't think it's aimed directly at him. I just think it's got blown out of proportion. I don't think he's the one who brought it up. I think someone else brought it up and is trying to fizzle it out a little bit."
WHERE WILL NEW OWNERS COME FROM? "I didn't know there was a problem with the ones we have now. You should be asking the question to Brian France and Mike Helton because I don't foresee there being a problem with owners in the future. It's all based off sponsors. It doesn't take an ingenious owner to run a program. It's more sponsor-driven than anything as far as potential new team owners."
DO YOU SEE PEOPLE INTERESTED IN BECOMING NASCAR TEAM OWNERS? "I think a ton of people are, but I don't think there's a ton of people who have billions of dollars behind them whether it's sponsors or their own little kitty in the bank to be able to do it and afford to do it. The person that comes to mind is Beth Ann Morgenthau. I don't know her situation. I think she does it for the love of the sport. She eventually got a good sponsor like Schwan's to come on and help her out, and use the marketability of the sport to help her with her passion. I think there's potential for plenty of other people to do that, but it's all based off sponsors or people who have millions and millions of dollars. I don't know Beth Ann. I've talked to her once and said hi, but I don't think the target is Jack Roush and Rick Hendrick as far as the multi-car teams. I just think it's something to talk about."
IS OWNING A TEAM ANYTHING YOU'RE INTERESTED IN? "Not at all. I enjoy driving the cars, but I don't enjoy dealing with people and the struggles and things like that. It's just not my bag of tea. Some people love and enjoy it, people like Roger Penske who have businesses and businesses of people that do things. He enjoys it. It's a challenge to him, but I don't look for that challenge."
HOW IMPORTANT IS MARTINSVILLE? "The potential is definitely there and we look at it as one of the highest potentials to be able to do what you just said (move up in standings). For us it's just a matter of getting it done, and it's not going to be easy. It was unfortunate for Tony to have his problems (at Charlotte), but you just keep doing your best as a team and keep focused so you can capitalize on a situation like what Tony went through in Charlotte in these other five races. We feel like we have a really good shot at running well and moving up in the points. I feel we have an opportunity to come out of Martinsville with the points lead if everything goes right."
COMMENT ON IMPORTANCE OF BONUS POINTS "They could play a huge role because all it takes is one point to determine the champion. Then there's an extra five available for each race. It could determine the difference between first and fifth as far as that matters."
HAVE YOU CHANGED ANY TRAVEL HABITS? "Obviously our eyes were opened and opened wide about what happened last year (Hendrick plane crash morning of October Martinsville race). I may not be the best person to answer about how much things have changed because I don't have my own airplane and I don't see some of the things that may have changed. I do know that in the situation when Krissie and I are flying places we do take extra precaution to make sure everything is done right. It's not just a situation where you jump on an airplane anymore and think you're going to get from one place to another without thinking about it. Things have changed and I think they've changed for the right reasons but unfortunately not under the right circumstances."
WILL IT BE TOUGH GOING BACK TO MARTINSVILLE? "I wasn't real close with Ricky Hendrick or anybody outside of maybe Randy Dorton. It'll be extremely difficult for them and everybody else in the NASCAR community. It'll be brought up and talked about and thought about, but in the end we can't bring those people back. We just have to make sure we do the right things for ourselves and our loved ones in the future."
COMMENT ON GAINS THE 12 TEAM HAS MADE WITH THE DODGE CHARGER THIS SEASON "I think it's competitive. I can't necessarily go over the changes with you. That's somewhat unethical, but as a whole we've made improvements at all of the racetracks from an aero standpoint and mechanical standpoint. That's one thing in understanding what the car likes from an Intrepid to a Charger change as well as the spoiler change itself. We've had a big learning curve and learning process. I think we're more competitive. Are we as competitive as we want to be? Never. That's part of racing. You can only swing a ball pin hammer so hard and wish it was a sledge and get more bang for your buck, but that's part of what everybody deals with. I think we have definitely learned a lot and come on strong. We've got some more work to do, definitely on the mile and a half tracks that are semi-banked for lack of a better term. We'll just go out and try to win and try to get the best finish we possibly can."
ARE YOU AWARE OF YOUR POINTS' RANKING DURING THE RACE? "You're racing against everybody. I was aware. I sat there and did the math during one of our 15 cautions. I thought we were probably in the points lead after Tony Stewart had his problems, but we've done that at least three times now during The Chase. We've had the lead at some point in the race and not at the end of the race been the leader -- by inches (four points) at Talladega. It matters, but it doesn't matter. It's cool to know you're up top."
WHEN YOU SEE OTHER CHASE DRIVERS HAVE PROBLEMS, HOW DO YOU FEEL? "At Richmond with McMurray behind us, that was a different situation. Someone was chasing us instead of us chasing somebody. You don't change the way you're driving unless you can give something up and get the end result you want. You're better off just going out just doing the best you can each and every lap and where you end up is where you end up and let the points take care of themselves."
DO YOU HAVE A SPECIAL RACE ROUTINE? "No, it's just hard work, fast racecars, good strategy and pit work and everything else. There's nothing outside of that other than who you're driving for and the equipment you have to work with.?"