RYAN NEWMAN (No. 12 ALLTEL Dodge Charger) DO YOU PLAN TO DO ANYTHING DIFFERENT THIS SEASON WITH THE CHASE FORMAT? "Racing is still racing. The way it is now it's just more luck in the last 10 races. In my opinion Kurt did a good job and his...
RYAN NEWMAN (No. 12 ALLTEL Dodge Charger)
DO YOU PLAN TO DO ANYTHING DIFFERENT THIS SEASON WITH THE CHASE FORMAT?
"Racing is still racing. The way it is now it's just more luck in the last 10 races. In my opinion Kurt did a good job and his team did a good job, but he was the luckiest guy. I think he spun out more than anybody in the last 10 races. Jimmie Johnson won four times, and I think Kurt spun around four or five times and didn't hit anything and kept going and got good finishes out of it. You look at the Homestead did. You don't break a right front wheel and not hit the wall, come in and hit the right front tire and misses nailing the wall. That's luck. That's the kind of luck we didn't have, situations like that. The last 10 races are about performance, don't get me wrong. I don't think the championship is determined by 10 races, and you can say it's not. He's got to get in those 10, but still, the champion is determined by those last 10 races. The bottom line is you've just got to do your best, go for the win and focus on getting the best finish you possibly can. For us, that's no change."
HOW HAVE THINGS CHANGED SINCE YOU'VE BEEN IN CUP?
"Personally I see a little bit more give and take. With me specially, I know I'm as aggressive as I've ever been, but I'm a little more forgiving at the same time as far as racing each other so I get the same respect back. I've learned a little bit of that. Mark Martin is the ultimate when it comes to that situation. Race wise, I think the cars back in 2001 and 2002 were super aero sensitive. I'm not saying they're not now, but it's kind of a different situation. You used to hear aero push, aero push. Now it's more about clean air. I think that's a little transition we've been going through. I think with getting more downforce off the cars we're going to have a learning curve through 2005. I still think the best thing NASCAR can do is to keep taking downforce off the cars to create a better race environment for the drivers and the fans. We did one test last year for NASCAR at Bristol which is probably the least effective place, other than Martinsville, for testing the spoiler. It was still something they wanted to do. I didn't notice much difference. We were slower, but the car was still drivable. I think the ultimate thing is we're going to have to work balancing the car out making the spoiler change because we're making rear spoiler changes and we're not making front valance changes as far as taking the front downforce away. We're going to have to try to balance it out and maybe go to NASCAR and say, 'hey, help us out here.'"
COMMENT ON RELATIONSHIP WITH TEAMMATE RUSTY WALLACE
"We're just peachy. It's OK. It's going to be a big season for Rusty. You can't always expect teammates to get along. Even Tony Stewart gets into Mike Bliss every once in awhile. It's just something I deal with and he deals with. I've said this before. I'm in a difficult situation, and Rusty is in a difficult situation. We're not teammates in the way Tony Stewart and Bobby Labonte are. Tony Stewart doesn't own part of Bobby
Labonte's car. It's kind of a conflict of interest in two different ways. Not only does Rusty own part of my car, but he competes against me and we're supposed to be teammates. Usually teammates in any kind of sport don't compete against each other, and that makes it super difficult. When you mix in egos and attitudes and theories behind that you can have a very big source of conflict. That's something we've tried to deal with and sometimes the best way to deal with it is to just ignore the whole thing."
COMMENT ON FIRESUIT
"I haven't experimented with firesuits. I've experimented with the underwear I wear underneath it.... I don't have an elaborate testing facility. I just take a torch up and hold it and see what the burn characteristics are and make sure it doesn't flame up. That's pretty much it. That's the results I've gotten. Other products out there are equal to it, but it's just what I started using."
COMMENT ON HANS DEVICE
"I'll honestly say I've become more adapted to the HANS device than I did two or three years ago when I tried it for two reasons. We're worked with the people who supply seatbelts for our racecars and they've created a new over/under belt. It's a belt that goes over your shoulder and then the HANS device goes on and then there's another belt on top of that. Before the HANS device was underneath your main seatbelt. In my position, I never felt like it was tight. I felt like I was too easily movable if I were to be in an impact. That's one of the reasons I chose not to use the HANS device. One of the other reasons is I've got a pretty short neck, as Kenny Wallace usually points out, and it's hard to turn the wheel because your shoulder raises up. I had to learn to work with it. There is no perfect device out there for head and neck restraint. The HANS device is great for front impacts, but we have more than frontal impacts in what we do. I'm trying to come up with some ideas on what I feel is a perfect device that we can do some testing with. If you put me in a pair of high heels I might yell and scream, but I can still wear them. I'm not saying me. I'm just saying if those are the shoes you've got to wear that's what you've got to do."
IS IT MORE IMPORTANT TO WIN RACES OR RUN FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP?
"If you win races the championship comes by itself if you win the right races. If you're in those last 10, but the bottom line is you still have to not have the DNFs we had last year. That's a big part of winning the championship. You could have nine DNFs in the first 26 races and no DNFs in the last and as long as you're in the top 10 and have a top five points run. That's part of racing luck and part of having the right effort going into a program. Our ultimate goal is to always win the race everywhere we go and hopefully that puts us in a position where we can use our talent to win a championship."
IF YOU WON THE CHAMPIONSHIP AND DIDN'T WIN A RACE WOULD YOU BE SATISIFIED?
"In a way, yes. It's kind of like getting to home base without going to the other three."
WHAT WOULD WINNING DAYTONA MEAN TO YOU?
"It seems to be one of the more difficult races for our team. When we came here as a rookie we finished seventh and had a great race and could have been in the top five very easily. As a rookie I got shuffled out as easily as possible. Other than that, our team has struggled here for some reason. We've struggled to get speed. I don't know if our cars are too straight up or what it is. We can come to Daytona and struggle to qualify and go to Talladega and be a top 10 qualifier. We just try to understand the different parts of what happens here at Daytona, but from a competitive standpoint it would definitely mean a lot to win the Daytona 500. I don't mean this is a bad way, but Michael Waltrip has kinda made a career of his two Daytona 500 wins. That's cool. It also means how important the Daytona 500 is."
WAS LAST YEAR A BUST FOR YOU?
"We've had the punches, but we've also got punched a few times. Last year was the first year we didn't struggle through April and May. We basically struggled last year through the last 10 races. We had our bad points throughout the season, but we haven't put together a complete 36-race dominance which we need to do to be able to be contenders, similar to what Kenseth did two years ago or what Johnson almost did last year with the exception to some of his engine failures. That's just what we have to do. We've looked super strong at some points. I think we had five top-five finishes in a row and lots of other great things happen to us, but you have to put 36 together."
IS THERE A WEAK SPOT IN YOUR PROGRAM?
"Aside from finishes we were the most dominant car in the last 10 races. We led the most laps. We led a lap in every race except Darlington where I was getting ready to pass Kurt Busch and blew a right front tire. We had a good, dominant racecar the last 10 races. I crashed the car at Kansas. We had a hose clamp break at Loudon. We dominated Dover. We were en route to winning at Homestead. We came from a lap down three times at Darlington to come back on the lead lap only to blow a motor when we were running fifth. So many things happened to us in those last 10 races. Talladega is a crap shoot for anybody except Junior. We put it together sometimes and struggle to put it together sometimes. That's the part we've got to work on, the part we struggle at."