RYAN NEWMAN (No. 12 Alltel Dodge Charger) COMMENT ON YOUR CHANCES IN DAYTONA 500 "We did a lot better last year than we did in previous years, and things are relatively unchanged, so I look forward to the Daytona 500. It's a tough question ...
RYAN NEWMAN (No. 12 Alltel Dodge Charger)
COMMENT ON YOUR CHANCES IN DAYTONA 500 "We did a lot better last year than we did in previous years, and things are relatively unchanged, so I look forward to the Daytona 500. It's a tough question to answer because two years ago we never got an opportunity to show what we were capable of. We ended up upside down and right side out. Last year we had some good runs. In the 500 we got caught up on a restart and actually had a shot to win both races here at Daytona. We thought we had a shot to win the Shootout as well as the Gatorade duel, so we look forward to coming back. We feel like we've made some improvements, and I'm sure everybody else has. We'll see how everything plays out."
DO YOU HAVE A FEELING ABOUT THE CHARGER BEING A BETTER CAR THIS YEAR? "There were times and places where the Charger was good last year and there were times and places it wasn't. Honestly, we're still working on how we're going to approach and do some things we were struggling on last year. We ran really well with the Charger at the restrictor plate tracks. We look forward to starting Daytona as strong as ever. We'll see how it works out."
HOW DID IT FEEL TO GET THE MONKEY OFF YOUR BACK AT RESTRICTOR PLATE TRACKS? "Back in 2001, our first race here at Daytona. we finished seventh and basically had a shot to win the race. I was on the outside, and I forget who it was that didn't follow me, and we got freight trained back to seventh and finished seventh. I thought, 'man, this isn't as hard as everybody makes it out to be.' After that it kind of went downhill, uphill and like I said, inside out. It's been a lot of fun recently, especially last year, to run up front and run well. There for awhile it seemed like we got stuck in the middle, and that's where everything was at as far as the crashes and stuff. Last year we turned things around, and hopefully that will carry on through 2006."
COMMENT ON NEW PENSKE SOUTH LINEUP "I look forward to Kurt and the entire team. I'd say 60-70 percent of the team has changed personnel wise. Everybody at the 12 and 2 look forward to working together. We had a lot of conflicting things in the past, and that's all behind us. Basically we're all rookies again as far as us at the 12 and the people at the 2 as far as being a two-car team and being efficient. It's going to take us some time to refine our ways and define our ways at the same time. It's something I look forward to. It's something that could be good for my career and success at Penske Racing."
JUNIOR MADE A TONGUE IN CHEEK COMMENT ABOUT THREE DAYS OF TESTING. IS THAT TOO LONG? WHAT DO YOU THINK? "Six of one and half dozen of the other. Three days is definitely a long time to be down here testing. Some people enjoy it. I'd rather be home. Testing down here, and everybody says it's a handling racetrack, but when it comes down to speed and qualifying and stuff it's not hard to drive around and figure things out. He's tongue in cheek partially right, but on the other hand, teams that are strong can do a lot of their work at home that will show up here on the track. It all depends on how you base your development, whether you base your development on testing at the racetrack versus doing your homework at the shop."
HOW MUCH OPTIMISM DO YOU HAVE ABOUT THE CHARGER FOR 2006? "I think we're definitely more confident. I think we've learned a lot. I think there were times last year when certain Dodges ran good. I remember Casey Mears at Texas, McMurray and the Ganassi guys at the first Texas, Kasey Kahne at Indianapolis. There were times the Dodges ran good, but there was never consistency in the Dodge camp. We were the best Dodge team in the end result in The Chase and points, but we still weren't happy at all with our results. We were capable of a lot more. Matt and everybody at Penske Racing, from everybody working in the wind tunnel to the people at Dodge, are trying to figure out what we can do to get better. Obviously we're doing that all the time, but we're working a little bit behind the eight ball now knowing we struggled in 2005."
WILL THERE BE A BENEFIT WITH ONLY TWO TEAMS INSTEAD OF THREE? "Yes and no. We never depended on the other teams. We depended on ourselves. Talking about the 77 changing, that really doesn't affect the way our season may or will go. We look forward to the opportunity to work with Kurt and his team. It's going to be a learning experience. Actually there are a lot of things I don't have to learn with a defined teammate. Hopefully we'll have all the right morals and those things so when time passes we're still on the same page. It's a team sport, and I've always said it's a conflict of interest when you're helping somebody you're competing against. It's a difficult situation, but in the grand scheme of things if everything works right, if you have an equation that works out the way Jack Roush's did last year, nobody complains about that except NASCAR. It's something we'll have to work on, but in this sport, you don't want to be dependent on anybody else other than your own team."
LOOKING BACK IS THERE A PLACE WHERE YOU WISH YOU COULD HAVE GONE BACK AND CHANGED THINGS WITH RUSTY? "It would have taken a different Rusty Wallace and a different Ryan Newman, and that wasn't the situation. It probably never could have been any different than the way it was. We all know Rusty is the way he is and I'm the way I am. That wasn't the best scenario for teammates. There wasn't a point where we could have fixed it."
DOES ONE RACE WITH KURT BUSCH STAND OUT IN YOUR MIND "That's an easy one. My first win at Loudon in 2001, I was running out of brakes and it was getting ready to rain. Sterling Marlin was leading the championship, and I was getting ready to lap him. Kurt Busch was breathing down my next. We raced 20 laps maybe with him getting his nose underneath me coming off the corner and our Penske engine pulling us down the straightaway faster. He eventually tapped me once in the middle of the corner. I remember after the race he said, 'I tapped you once because I wanted you to know I was there, and I thought that was fair. As long as you hung on to it we were going to the finish that way provided you didn't make a mistake.' I gained a lot of respect for him, and I think he had a lot of respect for me in the first place racing me the way he did and allowing me to win my first race."
WHAT ARE THINGS YOU'RE GOING TO HAVE TO LEARN? "It's not just me. There are things I'm going to have to learn, but the engineers working together, the crew chiefs working together, the people on the teams working together. It was easier for those people to work together because as mechanics they work on the cars. They need help, you crash, you go help 'em. When it comes to information sharing and things like that, that's what we're going to have to work on. I think it'll be easy, but I think it's something that will benefit us at the same time. It's going to be a different situation a different scenario and hopefully the cards will play out differently this time."
WHERE'S THE LINE WITH WHAT YOU SHARE? "That's part of Roger Penske and Roger Penske Management to lay down those guidelines. As a driver I'm not going to sit in a meeting and tell Kurt Busch how I drive my racecar. That's not how it works. It's more talking about if the track changed or if you saw something on the racecar that stands out. He may drive the car totally different than I do. That was the case with Rusty. It's going to be a learning process in a lot of different areas, not just myself or the engineering group or the way I drive."