Dodge Motorsports Teleconference Tuesday, May 3,2005 Talladega Recap, Darlington Advance RYAN NEWMAN (No. 12 ALLTEL Dodge Charger) NOTE: Newman, a 27-year-old driver from South Bend, Ind., enters Saturday night's Dodge Charger 500 at ...
Dodge Motorsports Teleconference
Tuesday, May 3,2005
Talladega Recap, Darlington Advance
RYAN NEWMAN (No. 12 ALLTEL Dodge Charger)
NOTE: Newman, a 27-year-old driver from South Bend, Ind., enters Saturday night's Dodge Charger 500 at Darlington Raceway with three top-five finishes in six starts at the 1.366-mile egg-shaped track. In finished third last spring at Darlington.
ARE YOU READY TO TURN YOUR SEASON AROUND AT DARLINGTON?
"We got turned around a few times there at Talladega, but I guess a different kind of turn around would be good at Darlington. We also look forward to racing at Darlington. We haven't been to victory lane there yet, but it's typically a good track for us as far as leading laps and running up front."
COMMENT ON TALLADEGA
"I'd like to figure out how many races in the last 10 there's been a big crash. Of the last 10 races, how many cars have been involved in big multi-car crashes?"
WHY HAVEN'T YOU WON THIS SEASON?
"We've been in a couple of situations this season where we've had cars that are capable of winning -- Las Vegas, California and I thought we had a car that was capable of winning at Talladega, but we've had good qualifying efforts whether it's been at an impound or non-impound track and that leads to leading laps and things like that. In general we're not performing like we'd like to be as far as being a dominant racecar. In general, I think we're still knocking on the door. We just have to maybe open it for ourselves."
IS THERE SOME FRUSTRATION?
"A little bit, but some of the situations are out of our control. We had a car that led five laps out front all by itself at Talladega which hasn't happened in quite awhile for us. You take that in retrospect that we got involved in a big crash that was none of our doing. There was nothing I could do other than be in front of it. You're at the wrong place at the wrong time in that situation. You just have to take the ups with the downs and vice versa."
ARE YOU MORE ON OFFENSE OR DEFENSE?
"We have no specific plan as far as offense or defense. We just continue to strive to do our best every given lap, every given day, every race. I don't think there's a defined method for offense or defense. I think you saw Matt Kenseth in a position two years ago where he had a great defensive strategy, but it almost cost him a shot at the championship by protecting the points lead. In general we do get stronger as the season goes along and we're off to a pretty decent start with the exception of dropping eight positions in points this weekend."
WHO WAS TO BLAME FOR THE BIG ONE AT TALLADEGA?
"I haven't watched the tape, but it really doesn't matter from the standpoint that you put the cars in position like that on a racetrack and drivers are going to be aggressive at some point. If it hadn't happened 80 laps from the end, it would have happened with five to go. That's just the way NASCAR has laid out the rules and the packaging for that type of racetrack. How many races have there been in the last 10 races at Talladega when there hasn't been a big multi-car crash? You just have to go on from that situation. Everybody has to deal with it. It's not fair. It's not safe, but it's part of NASCAR racing right now."
WHAT WOULD YOUR SOLUTION BE?
"A couple of years ago NASCAR had the right idea as far as trying to separate the pack. We don't do it anymore. Once we stop, I think it takes about four laps for the cars to get in one big clump again. Maybe something needs to be done to separate the cars, and the aero package is .... I was talking to Richard Petty after the accident there while we were trying to fix our car, and he said, 'man, it didn't use to be like this. We were so squirrelly back 20 years ago that we couldn't get close enough to race each other. Maybe there's a situation where we can make the cars go faster and at the same time be less susceptible to racing four wide or side by side for that matter."
WHAT WAS IT LIKE OUT THERE RACING?
"For the most part it stayed pretty calm for the whole race. I was trying to stay up front so I could stay in the position where I would be ahead of that crash, but I think someone on our team said I was 10th when that crashed happened, so I wasn't doing too horrible, but I still got caught up in it. Regardless, you have to go on. From the standpoint of driving the racecar, I was thinking about a situation like that happening. You have to put yourself in position to run up front, and we were trying to do that."
WHAT'S SO DIFFICULT ABOUT DARLINGTON?
"It's definitely probably the most challenging racetrack for a number of reasons. No. 1, you run so close to the wall so you've got a good possibility of damaging your racecar. Looking at how the tires usually fall off, it takes a real good driver to manage his tires and manage his racecar and be fast the entire run. Not to mention, the tires change so much and the speed changes so much through the entire run that you have to change your driving style and drive to points as far as when you brake and when you accelerate because the handling changes so much. So many variables change in the entire equation as far as driving that it's the most challenging. For that reason, I like it."
COMMENT ON JIMMIE JOHNSON'S SUCCESS AT DARLINGTON
"He's put himself in the right position at the right time. Obviously he's had a fast racecar. I think he's been better on shorter runs than longer runs. We had a car that was capable of winning last year and ended up blowing up with 130 or 140 laps to go. You've got to be at the right place at the right time and he's done that the last two races there."
WHAT WOULD DRIVERS THINK IF DARLINGTON LOST A RACE?
"I think they would feel the same way as they did when we lost Rockingham as far as the racetrack goes. It's a racetrack I always look forward to. I know Matt Kenseth always liked both of them (Darlington and Rockingham). They're drivers' racetracks. They offer great racing and they're not super dangerous with crazy high speeds. There's a little bit of everything involved -- braking, horsepower, downforce, everything a racecar should be about. A driver is a big part of the percentage when it comes to the entire package whereas when you go to a track like Michigan or Indianapolis, it's more about the racecar than it is about the driver. A driver is more weighted at Darlington, and I would not want to lose those racetracks by any means. In the future, I wish it was possible to put Rockingham back on the schedule."
HAS RUSTY WALLACE'S COMMENTS AFFECTED YOUR PERFORMANCE?
"Not at all. Rusty has voiced his opinion in a lot of areas. I've maintained a pretty calm stance, and basically our performance has been related to our performance as a team in the No. 12 ALLTEL Dodge. We've had our goods and bads throughout the season and none of it has been anybody else's fault except ours."
HOW DO YOU FEEL BEING LABELED A FAVORITE?
"It doesn't matter whatsoever to me what everybody decides or picks or chooses or views as a favorite. To me, all I can do is my best job possible for myself and my team. That's our main focus. Whether people pick me to win races or championships, that's cool and I feel honored to be in that position, but it has no effect on our performance whatsoever."
COMMENT ON RICHMOND
"It's definitely going to be a more important race the second time around, but you're right. In being able to learn things, I don't think the track has changed at all this year as far as any type of resurfacing or tire changes. In one way it'll be just another race on the schedule, but in another way it'll be a foresight to what's going to happen in September or whenever the second race is."
WILL IT DETERMINE WHETHER YOU TEST THERE OR NOT FOR SECOND RACE?
"It all depends on our points position later in the season. Last year we used quite a few tests just before the 26th race trying to get in position for the last four or five races and make sure we were going to get in The Chase. I think that paid off. Richmond was one of the tests we used later in the season to actually have an advantage going into that 26th race, so it all depends on your points position."
WILL IT BE TOUGHER RACING UNDER THE LIGHTS AT DARLINGTON?
"I don't think so. From what we dealt with last fall with the sun setting and basically being blinded going into turn three, I think it should be easier than what we dealt with last fall. I was fortunate enough to win the first Michigan race on Father's Day and it was a nice Father's Day present for my dad. Celebrating on Saturday night would be a good way to celebrate Mother's Day."
YOU WERE THE LAST DODGE DRIVER TO WIN LAST YEAR AT DOVER. IS THAT JUST A FREAK THING?
"I wouldn't say a freak thing. I think the Dodges aren't necessarily struggling but having to deal with more variables right now with the new nose and the tail section than the Chevrolets and Fords. The big aero change with the spoiler was a big change for everybody this year. To have an additional change on top of that has been a learning curve for all of us, but some of that might be pure coincidence and some of it might be performance. I think we've proved we've got a car that's capable of getting to victory lane and leading laps. There's no excuse in saying we haven't been to victory lane yet. I think the best time for it to happen would be the Dodge Charger 500. It usually works out opposite, but we'll see what we can do here."
WHERE IS YOUR TEAM WITH THE TIRE?
"I don't think the tires are hugely different from last year. I think in general some teams have struggled with it and some teams have nailed it. I think those are pretty easy to figure out because they've been to victory lane, but in general I think we've learned a lot. You always have more to learn, and I can't say if we've learned 20 percent or 90 percent of what we need to learn this year so far."
SO WHAT'S THE PROBLEM?
"My generic and best answer is that it's a combination of everything. We've struggled with the tires at times and we've struggled with other things at times, but I think it's been a combination of everything and bad luck is a part of that and good luck is part of that and everything else."
IS THERE AN AERODYNAMIC PROBLEM WITH THE CHARGER?
"The whole design process and application process with the new nose and new tail section was something that happened mid year last year and I think it might have happened before they chopped off the rear spoiler. I think an aero balance situation could be the case. It also could be a situation of where we've seen Dodges run up front. We saw the three Chip Ganassi cars run awesome at Texas and had a shot at winning the race there. We had a shot at winning the race at Vegas and other teams have been shut out of victory lane basically. I don't think there's a distinct advantage by any team right now. To answer your question, I think some of the Dodge teams are struggling with some of the balance situations."
CAN DRIVERS UNITE AND TALK TO NASCAR ABOUT CHANGES AT TALLADEGA?
"I think there's potential for that. I think NASCAR has to look out for themselves at the same time, and they've got plenty of people working for them that can figure it out at the same time also. It's kind of a Catch 22. You can say one thing and it'll be an ingenious idea and they take it and run with it and everything works out good. Or you could upset them because they think what they have is great and it's awesome for the fans and everything else and you make them upset. Obviously safety is the biggest and most important situation we go to bat for and we don't want to put anybody in a situation where there's a 27-car pileup or call it what you want, where there's a greater risk of drivers getting injured."
DO YOU THINK THERE MIGHT BE STRENGTH IN NUMBERS FOR A PROTEST?
"I think the last time that happened some guys never got their licenses back from NASCAR. It's a tough situation to put yourself in if you were to do that. I don't see it as a situation right now where it needs to be done. I think a little one-on-one situation to come up with some ideas would be a good way to start. Maybe some NASCAR officials could approach us so we don't have to go approach them."