Tuesday, Nov. 9,2004. Dodge Motorsports Teleconference Darlington Advance RYAN NEWMAN (No. 12 ALLTEL Dodge) NOTE: Fresh off a runner-up finish at Phoenix last Sunday, Newman enters the Mountain Dew Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway...
Tuesday, Nov. 9,2004.
Dodge Motorsports Teleconference
RYAN NEWMAN (No. 12 ALLTEL Dodge)
NOTE: Fresh off a runner-up finish at Phoenix last Sunday, Newman enters the Mountain Dew Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway ranked seventh in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Standings, 150 points behind leader Kurt Busch. In the eight Chase races to date, Newman has finished first, second and third, but he has an average finish of 22.6 in the other five. With an average finish of 14.9 in the past eight races, Newman is only 48 points out of fifth and 109 points out of second. Newman clinched his third straight Bud Pole Award last week at Phoenix, but he'll be going for a fifth straight pole on Friday at Darlington.
"I'd really like to win at Darlington, not only because it's the first race under the lights but because it's Darlington. It's my favorite racetrack. I've always said it's not my favorite racetrack to race, but it's my favorite racetrack to drive. Driving is what you've got to do to win there. You're competing against the racetrack more than the competitors. I look forward to going there for the last Southern 500. It's going to be an important mark I guess in the history of NASCAR and it'd be really nice if we could come away with a win."
COMMENT ON LAST WEEK AT PHOENIX
"It was a good weekend for us in general. To win the pole, four in a row this year and three in a row at Phoenix was a big deal for the team. We clinched the Bud Pole Award for the season, which was a big deal for me as well as the team. To finish second coming back from a lap down and legitimately earn our way back on the lead lap, to come home second was a good effort for us. It was unfortunate we were in the position we were being a lap down, but we were happy to fight back and do it on fair terms without having to use the Lucky Dog and get another top five."
WHY SO MANY CUT TIRES AT PHOENIX?
"I'm not real sure. Casey Mears had a left rear tire going down way before he ever blew it going into turn three. I told my spotter to tell his spotter because they thought they had a tire going down and it was definitely going down. He stayed out and it eventually blew. I don't know any outside of that that were huge. I think maybe Mayfield cut down a left rear, but you never know if it was contact with other cars or what. Sometimes it's just circumstances."
COMMENT ON YOUR CHANCES TO CATCH KURT BUSCH
"I've always said the last two years as long as we're not mathematically out of it count us in. We're going to be there to win the race at Darlington and Homestead and lead the most laps and try to get as many points as possible just like everybody else. It's just a matter of what team can do it."
COMMENT ON RUNNING UNDER THE LIGHTS AT DARLINGTON
"It'll just make every car stick better. That's the same advantage for everybody is my point. The transition from light to dark with the lights on will be negligible. The lights are usually so bright that it's just like racing during the day as far as drivers go. Unless there's some kind of hiccup with the pit crew not being able to see as good or something like that because it's a newly lighted surface, I don't think there's going to be any big transitions whatsoever."
WOULD YOU LIKE TO HAVE A PRACTICE UNDER THE LIGHTS?
"It would be nice, but I don't think it's going to be pivotal. Everybody is going to have to deal with the same situation and same set of circumstances, so let's just run it."
WHY DO SO MANY DRIVERS TALK ABOUT THE TRACK AT DARLINGTON LIKE IT'S A LIVING THING?
"No. 1, it's got a lot of history. It's not like it was born yesterday, so there's no goo-goo, gah-gah about it. It's a mature racetrack and I guess maybe that's one part of it. I guess the other part is it's mentally tough and physically tough to get around. You have to change and adapt your style. Maybe the lady part of it comes from some sort of marriage you have to have with the racetrack as far as being able to understand what it wants and what you have to have to get around it without knocking the right side of the car off. I think the black part of it came when it was resurfaced. I never raced on it when it was freshly surfaced, but I remember it being super black."
HAS SHE (DARLINGTON RACEWAY) EVER DONE YOU WRONG?
"It's never done me wrong. I bounced off the walls a couple of times, but I had a really good string there of two or four races in a row when I never touched the wall once, so hopefully I can continue that."
WAS IT A WISE DECISION FOR CASEY MEARS TO STAY OUT AT PHOENIX?
"It was his call or his crew chief's call, which ever way you look at it. Obviously they chose to stay out because I'm sure enough people told them they had a tire going down. With that many laps left it was a risk and he was not only risking himself or his car, but other cars and other drivers. I'm not saying it was the smartest move, but I understand him wanting to stay out and get a top five finish, which was important to his team."
DOES THE CHASE CONSUME EVERY IDLE MOMENT?
"It's not on my mind. I've always been the type person to let the points take care of themselves and the results will take care of the points. If we put the effort into getting the results we don't have to worry about the points. Unfortunately, we've been trying to come from behind all season and that's still true for these last two races, but all we can do is to continue to try to do our best."
WOULD YOU LIKE FOR THINGS TO GET CLEARED UP NOW WITH YOUR TEAMMATE RUSTY WALLACE?
"It's not that big a deal to me. I'm in a difficult position where my teammate is also part owner of my car, so I think he understands he put himself in a difficult position in reference to that at the same time. I just keep it business as usual. I wish the situation wasn't the way it was. I still don't feel I did anything wrong. Maybe he'll advise me of something else, but I'm just focused on doing what I have to do to get the ALLTEL Dodge in victory lane."
WOULD YOU TAKE A DIFFERENT STRATEGY WITH THE CHASE IF YOU'RE IN THE SAME POSITION NEXT YEAR?
"I think you've got to go out and try to win every race and stay focused on that. The points will take care of themselves. If we can do that, we'll be the champs whether it's this year or next year. Our chances aren't as good this year as we wish they would be, but we still have a chance. That's all we can ask for."
IF YOU WERE GOING TO BUILD YOUR OWN RACETRACK, WOULD DARLINGTON BE THE MODEL?
"It'd look pretty similar. I just enjoy it. It's a place where you have to be mentally on top of your game and for that reason physically you have to be on top of it. You have to adjust your driving style to the racetrack as the tires fall off, and that's what makes it so difficult. I think that it's great it's got oddly shaped corners, meaning one is shaped different from the other. In general, I don't think you could make a racetrack much better. I think Rockingham would be the second closest racetrack to it, that's racy and has all the similar characteristics. Nobody ever complained about Rockingham being a bad racetrack They just complained about it not being in the right location. Maybe a combination between Rockingham and Darlington would be the perfect racetrack."
A LOT OF THE FUTURE TRACKS ARE PATTERED AFTER RICHMOND. WHY HAVEN'T WE SEEN MORE ODDLY SHAPED TRACKS LIKE DARLINGTON?
"Racecar drivers don't design the racetracks. It's more about the guys that are spending the nickel. The guys that are spending the nickel have their own ideas about that they want. They're probably race fans, too. They might like the races at Richmond. They might like the races at Bristol. You just never know. The bottom line is everybody's got their own opinion."
ARE YOU SURPRISED HOW CLOSE IT IS AT THE TOP OF THE STANDINGS WITH TWO RACES LEFT?
"Not at all. I know that it's close. I wish that we were on that level right now. We still have a chance. With 10 races to go, you're leaving yourself open to having a closer battle at the end, which is what I guess what NASCAR wants. In the grand scheme of things I don't think it's fair for all the competitors."
WOULD IT MEAN MORE TO YOU TO FINISH FIFTH RATHER THAN SIXTH OR SEVENTH IF YOU CAN'T FINISH FIRST?
"The numbers still equate with one being better than the other, but our main goal is to be No.1 and we'll have that in sight until that's not in sight any more and then we'll go on. We'll try to do the best we possibly can, whether that's seventh or first or third, then let it be."