Dodge Teleconference Tuesday, April 25, 2006 RYAN NEWMAN (No. 12 Alltel Dodge Charger) NOTE: Newman heads to Talladega ranked 22nd in the series after accidents in three races this season resulted in finishes of 43rd, 40th and 39th. He's 191...
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
RYAN NEWMAN (No. 12 Alltel Dodge Charger)
NOTE: Newman heads to Talladega ranked 22nd in the series after accidents in three races this season resulted in finishes of 43rd, 40th and 39th. He's 191 points out of 10th place with 18 races remaining to qualify for the 2006 Chase. Newman's best finish this year came in the season-opening Daytona 500. He finished third in that event.
WHO DO YOU THINK ARE SOME OF THE BEST DRAFTING DRIVERS? "I think between Dale Jr., Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Harvick usually has a really good car doesn't always have really good finishes, Matt Kenseth, Mark Martin is sometimes hot and cold at restrictor-plate tracks. That's about it. I'm looking forward to working with Kurt again like we did at Daytona. That's been the highlight of our season still, and that's a pretty good highlight."
WHY HAVE JUST A HANDFUL OF DRIVERS WON RECENTLY ON THE PLATE TRACKS? "I think it's been a combination of DEI and Hendrick. You've got a bunch of Chevrolets and a couple of drivers who obviously know what they're doing at those racetracks. I think it has a lot to do with the car and what car they're taking to the racetrack -- not necessarily manufacturer-wise, but the bottom line is it takes a better car than driver to win those races."
THREE ACCIDENTS HAVE DROPPED YOU TO 22ND IN THE STANDINGS. HOW DO YOU MAKE UP ALL THOSE POINTS? "Just performance. Even though we crashed out there at Phoenix I had a smile on my face because that's one of the first times all year we've been competitive enough to pass cars and move up on runs. We had a car that was easily a top-10 car and I think in the right situation it could have been a top-five car. I don't think it was the fastest car on the track, but it showed a lot of highlights for us this year as far as being able to do things we used to be able to do without even questioning if we could do it."
COMPARE FISHING TO RACING "It's a little bit the same and a lot different. The biggest thing is obviously I get excitement and enjoyment from both of them. Just from fishing itself it's relaxing to me. I get as in depth with it, but I don't have to perform. I don't have to be competitive. I can just relax and enjoy it. I can look at it two different ways, and I know some people do that on the racetrack and that's not good. You can be pretty relaxed on the racetrack, too. That's not a good thing. I just really enjoy sitting out and enjoy the environment. I enjoy sitting out on the water in a boat with a friend or my wife. That's great. If we catch fish, that's great, too, but I just really enjoy the environment."
WHY DO YOU THINK YOUR TEAMMATE KURT BUSCH GETS BOOED AND WHAT'S YOUR REACTION TO IT? "My reaction is not much because I've heard other drivers get booed and that's just part of the sport. Not everybody can like everybody. Kurt's situation, he's obviously had a rough past at times on and off the racetrack. I know he's trying his best to eliminate or minimize the boos I guess you could say and have everybody be positive with him and for him and all that stuff. It's part of the sport. Kurt is a great driver and sometimes when you win repetitively or excessively at certain racetracks they dislike you for that, like Kurt has done at Bristol, but I guess it may be just the way his timing is right now."
WHAT ARE YOUR FEELINGS ABOUT RECENT SLUMP IN PERFORMANCE? "The emotional feeling is obviously, I won't say depression, but sometimes disgust, sometimes frustration, sometimes a little bit just frustrated and upset. The bottom line is I know we had a rough season in the off season at Penske Racing. The closing of one team basically for the second time in three years with the old 12 car folding and then the 77 car folding. Then the entire transition of moving a lot of people around with the 2 car and our situation with losing more people and changing more people than we ever have in the past. I think everything kind of hit us. This is not an excuse, but you asked for a reason. Matt (crew chief Borland) and a lot of people at the shop had been so in depth in meetings and things like that to make the car go fast that we haven't been able to put a lot of emphasis and focus on making the Alltel Dodge go around in a circle real quick. I think that is part of it. I think we're playing catch-up with a few things technology-wise and I see that getting better over time, obviously. Our struggle in race trim has put more emphasis on us doing race trim in practice, which we've got a lot of criticism for whether it was deserved or not. We're definitely to a point where we're struggling now. It's not that we're running fifth to seventh and not winning races and people saying 'you're winning poles and not winning races.' We're struggling to get to seventh on any point in the race and that's put more emphasis on racing and made our qualifying performances less than they've been in the past."
HOW HAS YOUR RELATIONSHIP BEEN WITH KURT BUSCH AND WHAT DO YOU EXPECT OUT OF A TEAMMATE? "The relationship on and off of the racetrack has been fine. We're getting along fine, no hiccups at all. I don't know (what I expect of a teammate). It's been kind of go with the flow and learn. Obviously he's got a lot of experience with Roush working with multiple teammates. With me, this is the first time all over again working with a teammate because of my situation in the past. I'm not bitter about that at all. It's just a matter of a learning process. Going to Talladega drafting, with where we're at, both the 12 and 2 car in points, if we finish 1-2 or 2-1 it doesn't matter to me. We just need to have a good run there and a good run for Penske Racing."
DID YOU KNOW KURT WELL BEFORE HE SIGNED WITH PENSKE? "I knew Kurt a little bit. We had talked basically from Watkins Glen on last year on and off about what he may or may not do and how things were going to go. We were up front with each other about everything there. The bottom line was you don't know and Kurt had himself a pretty bad off season as well from the first of November on."
WHY IS ONE DODGE TEAM RUNNING BETTER THAN THE OTHERS? "We're not looking at what Evernham's doing. It's a combination of what the 9 car has going on, Kasey Kahne driving it and you can probably just stop right there. For us, we just have to focus on what we need to do and what we're doing and how we can correct the things that we've done wrong and do the things we've done right that much better. We're working on that, and that's why I was happy at Phoenix. It seems like there's an obvious answer out there the way the 9 car has been running, but he's pretty much the soul exception with the exception of Casey Mears early in the season and it seems like they're on somewhat of a downward spiral."
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO WIN IN THE FIRST 10 RACES OF THE SEASON? "It has an effect on the team, but it doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things. You want to be in The Chase. If you're sitting 11th or 34th in the points for that matter and you win the last 10 races it does matter. Mentally it's nice to start the season off strong like we did at Daytona. A couple others haven't been able to carry it through whether it's on the short tracks or intermediate tracks. It seems like we've been better at the Martinsvilles, Bristols and Phoenix than we have at the mile and a half and two-mile tracks, but that's part of our development and working this year with our cars."
DO YOU VIEW THE LOOKS OF THE CAR AS A REFLECTION OF YOURSELF? "I understand the situation with the paint schemes and the sponsors and the promotions and all those things. It makes a difference to me. The most weight I have is what it means to me and what I represent as a driver. I don't want to be out there in a car that looks hideous. Maybe it runs fast, but it runs hideous. The main thing is the confidence a team can build just in if their car looks good. If what they're wearing apparel-wise looks good it makes a huge difference, and I see that. I'm not a big fan of the color purple, but I understand what Alltel's doing and I understand the reasoning behind it. That makes it OK, but it's not ideal to me personally. There's more to the paint scheme than me personally. It's a difficult situation. We spent months working on the paint scheme, trying to make everybody happy with myself, Alltel, Roger Penske, the crew chief, making sure that everything is feasible."
DID THE TIME YOUR TEAM SPENT WITH THE '04 DODGE LIMIT DEVELOPMENT WITH THE CHARGER? "We spent a lot of time obviously working with the Intrepid, yet at the same time we still never stopped working on the Charger back at the shop. Obviously we couldn't dedicate 100 percent to both of them, but with what we knew and what we experienced in testing at the racetrack with the Intrepid, we had a better opportunity taking it to the racetrack. I also don't think the Intrepid wasn't the soul reason why we didn't perform well. I think if we had taken the Charger we would have struggled the same or worse, who knows? That's beside the point. We definitely feel like we took the right car to the racetrack. We had information wind tunnel-wise between the Charger and the '04 car and we knew what we were doing and why we were doing it. There were more things wrong with the pieces to the puzzle than just that."
COULD YOU GO TO EVERNHAM MOTORSPORTS AND ASK FOR HELP AND DOES THE PERFORMANCE OF THE 9 ENCOURAGE YOU? "That encourages us as far as what our potential is. We didn't see that at all last year with the exception of a couple of Ganassi runs at a couple of the racetracks, mostly with the 41 car (Casey Mears). We wouldn't ever consider, at least me personally, going to Ray Evernham or Kasey Kahne or anyone there at Evernham Motorsports and ask them what they're doing. I would expect the same thing in return. I wouldn't expect them to come to us and ask what we were doing if we were winning races. I don't think that's the competitive side of the sport."
COMMENT ON SUCCESS IN TWO MOST RECENT SUPERSPEEDWAY RACES "We've got to the end of races, which is huge for anybody in some of those situations, and our performance has been a lot better. Penske-Jasper engine horsepower is much improved. It wasn't we were out of the ball park, it's just that the improvement has put us in the zone of running in the top five and not 15th and maybe running up to fifth and falling back to 20th. The guys have done a great job with the cars, getting them driving right for places like Daytona and getting them slick for places like Talladega so we can keep our foot to the floor all day."
WHAT'S YOUR OPINION OF THE SOFT BUMPERS? "I'm all for the no bump zones. I don't know what the situation is going to be like at Talladega in respect to that, but the bumpers themselves I know for a fact we weren't doing the things to our cars that a lot of guys were doing. Ours were definitely made to bump, but they weren't made to bend rear clips on other cars. The bottom line is, I don't know if that (soft bumpers) will be a big change for us, but I think it's good. I think it's going to be a big change for other people. I think we can still effectively and efficiently draft the way we used to with the other bumpers. I think it's up to the drivers to control the situation we had, and creating zones like that is not the way I like to race or the way I like racing to be."
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT NASCAR LISTENING TO A DRIVER AND HIS TEAM COMMUNICATE? "To my knowledge they've done that for at least the last two or three years and it could have been the last 10 years, I don't know. I don't think it's bad. I think it's good they have an open line of at least receiving communications to know what's going on, to know if a team is struggling with something. He can keep an eye open and have a bird's eye view of what potentially could be a problem. I don't see any problem with that. When it comes to verbally abusing, yeah, we don't like that. I've always kind of said that NASCAR is the government and they lay down the laws and we have to abide them. One of those things is not to abuse the government. I don't know Robby's (Gordon) entire situation, but I can see that not being out of the question."