Phoenix: Newman - Thursday Dodge interview

RYAN NEWMAN (No. 12 Alltel Dodge Charger) WHAT DO YOU EXPECT HERE SATURDAY NIGHT AT PHOENIX? "I would speculate just a lot of what we saw last year. I think the racing will be similar. The guys that are strong are going to continue to be ...

RYAN NEWMAN (No. 12 Alltel Dodge Charger)

WHAT DO YOU EXPECT HERE SATURDAY NIGHT AT PHOENIX? "I would speculate just a lot of what we saw last year. I think the racing will be similar. The guys that are strong are going to continue to be strong. I wouldn't look for anything outside of what's happened other than maybe what Carl Edwards is going to do. He's strong and definitely likes this race track. He qualifies well and races well here. We're just going to go out and do our thing and see what happens."

WHAT HAPPENEND WITH THE PENALTY ON THE 12 CAR LAST WEEK IN TEXAS? WHAT CAUSED THE REAR END TO BE TOO HIGH? "We basically just misjudged -- we had something go wrong with car. We misjudged and were off an eight of an inch in the right rear. We did some adjustments throughout the day, but something happened in the car. The fact that it was an eighth high caught us off-guard. We fully accept the penalty. We understand NASCAR's position and we'll go on.

"Points wise, we made up seven spots in the last 10 laps at Texas. That's close to the number of points (that he lost due to the penalty). You have to put it out of your mind -- those 25 points are gone -- you go on. It's a learning experience for us. We don't look at it as a situation where we were cheating. We looked at it as a situation that we screwed up and we'll try and make it up."

YOU STARTED THE SEASON OFF WITH THE BIG WIN IN DAYTONA. SINCE THEN YOUR TEAM HAS BEEN A LITTLE QUIET. HOW WOULD YOU ASSESS WHERE THE NO. 12 TEAM IS CURRENTLY? "I was satisfied with Texas in the essence that we got a fourth place in qualifying and a fourth place in the race. Obviously, the fourth place was a bit of luck in the last closing laps.

"To me, it felt more like the performance we had in Daytona. We've had bit of a learning process when it comes to the bigger tracks with this new car. I feel that we've improved each time -- from (Las) Vegas to Atlanta to Texas -- I feel that we've made pretty big gains competition level wise. I think that we're getting better. Obviously our restrictor plate program was strong at start the season. Our short-track program was off a little bit in Martinsville until we had a potentially a winning car in Bristol and got caught up in a wreck. Points wise, we need to make some improvements, but we've been a little bit quiet, but not because we haven't been trying."

HOW HAS THE RACING CHANGED AT TALLADEGA SINCE YOUR ROOKIE SEASON? "I wouldn't say a whole lot. I'd say that the drivers have smartened-up a little bit to the point that come 50 (laps) to go up until about three to go, we're going single file now which we didn't use to do. The racing has changed a little bit since the track has been repaved. I wouldn't say the cars have changed the racing other than the fact that we can bump draft a little bit more aggressively now. (Talladega) used to be a track where even on those tires back in '02 --'03 you would single file out a little bit and separate the cars still had to handle. Now the cars don't have to handle whatsoever. The bottom line is, it's a track where the driver means less than the car does. And the car can determine very easily if you're going to be capable of winning."

HAVE YOU EVER HAD A CAR THAT WAS PRETTY DECENT ON BOTH SETS OF TURNS HERE AT PIR? "No, you can actually make a car that is pretty good at both ends. The track is different on both ends here. For one (turn) being tighter - the one that's tighter has more bank or the one that's wider -- is less-banked and that complements each other. If they were to be opposite, it wouldn't work near as well. If you had a flatter-tight corner, and a higher-banked flatter corner, it wouldn't work as well. I've had plenty of race cars that have been really good on both ends. It's still important -- even though it's a mile race track -- it can be really good on the straightaway too."

WHERE DO YOU FALL ON THIS NEW CAR IN TERMS OF HOW IT WORKS IN TRAFFIC? "I think it could be better without a doubt. I can't even really say if it's better yet (as compared to the old car) because we haven't raced it a full season. Different race tracks bring different things. You get to Michigan you might have an entirely different feeling or package. Even a place like Indianapolis or Pocono compared to the old cars, so it's a little early to give a final answer. But, the racing is up to the fans to say if it's better or worse. They're the ones that are giving us jobs.

"Honestly, it's been different. It's been difficult. It's been a lot more difficult physically to be able to control the car for 500 miles. I read Denny Hamlin's article on Jayski (talking about how he almost passed out after the race) and he was close to passing out. You do that for 500 miles -- you work so hard -- it's not like you're whipped or tired. It's just an entirely different physiological change where you have to adapt and your brain doesn't want to do that. It's kind of like motion sickness in reverse. We've had to deal with that a little bit just because it seems like we're working a little bit harder. (Texas) was an 85 degree day versus a 100 degree when we go back to California for the second time. So we've got some things we've got to make better in the race car to make the drivers more comfortable."

"It's different. I would say it doesn't flow as much air. But as teams, we purposely don't flow as much air as we could. We try and keep the air on the car instead of the driver. It makes the car stick. The better the cars sticks because it's less the driver has to work. So the crew chief and the driver always have that battle. We have our air conditioners every one in a while that always don't work like we want them to. In the end, you have to be in shape. The part that I was talking about, there are times when we have a green-white checker at the end of a race or a red flag -- you'll stop up in Turn 1 and the car's in gear totally stopped, and you swear the car is rolling. It's like reverse car sickness. When we get out of the car and (you guys) are standing there and want to talk, it's the last thing we want to do. We'd rather go relax, drink a Gatorade and head to the house. We have to totally refocus again and start talking"

IF NASCAR WAS GOING TO HELP ADJUST ON THE FRONT END, WHAT WOULD YOU RECOMMEND? "We just need two day shows so we can spend one less day complaining (laughs).

"There are several things that you can do to make the car 'racier' and maybe not as hard to driver. In my opinion, it's good that they're hard to drive. I don't want a car that is easy to drive. I'd rather have my talent be more important that somebody that comes in and has less talent sitting in a good car and comes in and beats me. I don't want to shoot myself in my own foot.

"We could change the center of gravity so the car corners better so it won't be as hard on right-side tires.

You could change the splitter height so the cars travel a little bit more and not bouncing as much. Places that are bumpy, it's going to be interesting when we go to Pocono in May to test up there to see what the bumps are going to be like in Turn 1 in this car. Because at 205 mph that we are (in Pocono) going into Turn 1, going across some speed bumps is going to be interesting. If you had more travel, a higher splitter, the car would ride better and therefore drive better. There are several different things, but its too early, you have to go to your first dance before you learn how to dance. Then you can come back and step a little bit better."

WHAT ARE YOUR IMPRESSIONS OF AARON FIKE'S REVELATIONS ON JAYSKI THAT HE WAS DRIVING IN RACES WHILE UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF HEROEIN? "I didn't read it yet. I guarantee that he's not the first guy and probably not going to be the last guy. I don't know what to tell you other than that.

"It's not a good thing. There are people out on the highway that we go across 55 mph on a two-lane road coming head-on at us that are doing the same thing.

DO YOU FEEL NASCAR NEEDS TO STEP-UP ITS DRUG POLICY? "That's one of the things that has been good about NASCAR that we've hadn't to worry so much about those things like other sports have. I'd plead the Fifth and just let NASCAR handle their policies."

-credit: dodge motorsports

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Denny Hamlin