RYAN NEWMAN (No. 12 ALLTEL Dodge) "I don't know if it's good or bad, but I guess it's best that we get the most boring test out of the way the first of the year here. It's not a great place to come and test, but nevertheless it's Daytona.
RYAN NEWMAN (No. 12 ALLTEL Dodge)
"I don't know if it's good or bad, but I guess it's best that we get the most boring test out of the way the first of the year here. It's not a great place to come and test, but nevertheless it's Daytona. There's a lot of hype that goes around it. The guys are doing their best to make the car go fast and drive good and be a great racecar. I'm trying to give the input to make the car better. It's pretty uneventful, but I guess that's a good thing after our Daytona 500 last year."
IS THERE A WAY TO CHANGE TESTING HERE TO MAKE IT BETTER?
"There are stipulations to everything. To me, it would be cool if we could run our intermediate cars here and take the restrictor plates off, but that's not the safest thing. I guess we'd get criticized for a big crash in that respect. To me, it's a cool racetrack. We don't get to race it the way we should be able to race it."
DID YOU FIND A WAY TO ENJOY LAST SEASON'S SUCCESS?
"Not really. After one, after two and after three, you forget about, you don't think about what you've won. If you do win a few races, you're more in tune with what you're going to do to win the next one as you are when you haven't won one yet. For me, I was always focused on what we had to do to win the next one. With that in mind, you don't spend a lot of time gloating about what you have done. You think about what you can do."
WHO ARE CONTENDERS FOR CHAMPIONSHIP THIS YEAR? ARE YOU THE FAVORITE?
"I don't know, and it doesn't matter to me. I guess the best way to gauge it is the top 10 from last year, but everything else is just pure opinion. There's some tough competitors outside of the top 10, so I'm limiting it to that, but the top 10 is a good place to start. Favorites are just favorites. It's just like when you go to Internet Explorer. Your favorites are your favorites."
WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITES?
"Jayski. NASCAR.com. Hoseheads. There's a place called slidesideways which is a sprint car site for USAC racing. That's about it."
DISCUSS YOUR RIVALRY WITH JIMMIE JOHNSON
"I'm aware of everybody as a competitor. I know Jimmie is a great competitor. We've had a good relationship until this point, and I hope to continue that. If you look at your competitors and think about that too much, you're wasting time thinking about what you could do to make yourself better."
THOUGTS ON PROPOSED CHANGE IN POINTS SYSTEM
"It's kind of a "what if" right now in my opinion. I could give you a lot of thoughts on proposed situations but if they happen or not is to be determined. We went over it a little bit last night. I hope it remains racing. If they want to relate it to a playoff situation like the NFL or NHL, then that's fine. Everybody has to play with the same rules. I guess my key points is racing is racing and I want it to stay the same. I don't know of any racing series that has done a playoff situation. At the same time, NASCAR is trying to make things better. They could potentially make things worse. It's just a tough situation. I do commend them looking at people's opinions and trying to make it better. They had a great battle in the Busch Series and Truck Series last year. The Winston Cup championship was decided by 92 points I think in 36 races. To me that's pretty incredible to be half a race apart at the end of the season."
DO YOU WORRY ABOUT FANS BOOING YOU IF YOU WIN TOO MUCH?
"It doesn't matter to me as long as I can maintain the image that I go for. I feel like I've done that the last two years. It's just myself. I don't try to be anybody. I just try to stay smart and keep things clean. The fans that boo are the fans that are going to boo no matter who wins."
DO YOU THINK RULES WERE MADE BECAUSE OF WHAT YOU DID LAST YEAR?
"It doesn't matter to me if rules were made because of us. We're here to win the NEXTEL Cup championship, and we'll do whatever we have to to accomplish that If they make a rule because of our situation with eight wins last year, and end up finishing sixth, then so be it, but that doesn't give us any better opportunity."
HAS ENGINEERING CHANGED SINCE YOU'VE BEEN IN CUP?
"I don't think engineering has changed. I think the way it's been applied to the sport has changed. You see more computers. Whether it's just keeping track of data instead of using a notebook, it's been a big change. Just understanding the cars and designing things have been a big transition. I have seen a big change in those respects. I've been with the same people the past three years, but I've seen many more computer batteries around."
"A lot of it is basic. A lot of in-depth engineering is going on, but a lot of it is basic. People tend to mislead engineering with a person who carries a computer around, and there's a big difference."
IS IT IMPORTANT TO DO WELL AT DAYTONA?
"It is and it isn't. We're going to do the best job we possibly can. Whatever happens, happens. Two years ago, Stewart won (championship) after finishing 43rd (in Daytona 500). We had a chance to win the championship last year after finishing 43rd. It makes a difference, but it doesn't make a difference. I don't know the last time someone has gone through the season without a single DNF, but nevertheless, we do the best we can. Wherever that lands us in the Daytona 500, so be it. I'm not a big fan of it (restrictor-plate racing). I've never seen any other series have an out of bounds line in auto racing. To me, it's not true racing because of that. It's something we have to deal with. This sport has a lot of entertainment value, and the restrictor-plate races are great entertainment. There's different ways of looking at it, but for me personally, you can't beat Rockingham and Darlington and Michigan, Atlanta and places like that."
CAN YOU COMPARE STARTING THIS SEASON TO LAST?
"I can give it to you in numbers. We got our first top five at a restrictor-plate track. We got our first top-five at Martinsville, which was pretty big for us. We had three or four finishes in the 30s and 40s there. Those things we can take into this year, and we couldn't do that last year. It will make a big difference. We're four times at the restrictor-plate tracks and two times at Martinsville. That's a sixth of the season that we have better mentality and momentum to approach. Other than that, the basics of just learning more, experiencing more, having more seat time and Matt and I have more of an opportunity to work together another year."
WOULD WINNING DAYTONA 500 CARRY A LOT OF PRESTIGE FOR YOU?
"I've got huge memories of watching the Daytona 500 when I was young. It was something to look forward to the entire winter when I was a kid, just to sit down with Mom and Dad and friends and family and watch the race and have fun. To me, it was a little more like racing then than it is now. To me it's not the greatest racetrack when it comes to pure racing, but it does have a lot of value when it comes to the Cup series. I have souvenir programs from all 10 years I came here as a fan. I have a Richard Petty placemat from '70 something. I'm not just some unrespectable newcomer that came to the Cup series. It's huge. It might mean more to me after I win it, but I don't think I'd act any different in victory lane."
IS THIS CAR ANY DIFFERENT FROM A SAFETY STANDPOINT?
"It's not much different at all, if any different. The guys have done a great job building safe racecars and a lot of thought goes into it. Some people don't exactly know because they don't go to the shop, but I see what goes on in the car. Between car seats, seat belts, I know a lot of thought and desire goes into making the car safe. After Talladega last year, I thought of myself as the crash test dummy of the year. I went through a lot of things. I talked to the Gatorade people. They had a new in-car drinking system. I told them not to worry about it. I've crash tested it, and it's good. I went through a lot last year, and knock on wood, I hope we don't have another year like that in that respect. I don't think of one thing that's changed from a safety perspective from last year."
DO YOU REALLY NOT PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT OTHER TEAMS ARE DOING?
"How many times at Daytona has the pole winner won the race? Going faster isn't always the answer. It's not the answer when it comes to winning the race, and winning the race awards the points. I don't think poles are going to earn any points this year."
TALK ABOUT THE CONFIDENCE YOU HAVE IN YOUR CREW CHIEF
"I think in our different respective categories when it comes to our occupations, he's learned a lot about places like Daytona, and I've learned a lot about places like Daytona that I can apply and be better than we ever thought we could be. You go into your first season and you think you've got a shot to win, and now we have even more confidence. Matt was the best man in my wedding. Most of the time when we hang out away from the track, we work on old cars together. He's got an old '59 Corvette, and when he's working on it I make it a point to go over and help him. I've got more experience working on old cars, but he's learned a lot."