Stewart-Haas Racing Press Conference to Announce Ryan Newman as Team's Second Driver in 2009 AUGUST 15, 2008 An interview with: TONY STEWART: Two-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion RYAN NEWMAN: Reigning Daytona 500 Champion JOE CUSTER:...
Stewart-Haas Racing Press Conference to Announce Ryan Newman as
Team's Second Driver in 2009
AUGUST 15, 2008
An interview with:
TONY STEWART: Two-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion
RYAN NEWMAN: Reigning Daytona 500 Champion
JOE CUSTER: General Manager, Haas CNC Racing
MIKE ARNING: Moderator, Vice President of True Speed Communication
MIKE ARNING: "Good morning, everyone. We want to welcome you to this morning's press conference. Obviously you pretty much know what it's all about. We'll go ahead and introduce our folks. Ryan Newman, Tony Stewart and general manager of Haas CNC Racing, Joe Custer.
"Tony, it's pretty obvious why we're all here today. It's capped off a month-long bit of announcements, but today another important piece of the puzzle at Stewart Haas."
TONY STEWART: "We were joking about it before we came over here. This is the best kept secret. I'm like, are you kidding me? I don't know that anything I've done in the last eight months has been a secret.
"But this is an exciting day. I mean, it's very important to Stewart Haas Racing obviously. You know, being able to announce that we've got Ryan on board is something that we've all been looking forward to since the day that we first spoke with Ryan and Krissie about coming over here and joining the team.
"So we're just more excited to be able to let everybody else know. We know what it's done for the organization once we announced that I was coming over. The flood of personnel that have come over and wanted to join the team since we made that announcement has been huge. With the addition of Ryan coming on board now, I think it's even going to make that list even grow larger.
"It keeps giving us a greater depth of people that we have as an option now to get over to the race team and add to the people that we have right now. It makes this team even stronger than what it was a couple weeks ago already."
MIKE ARNING: "Ryan, this brings together two Indiana natives, two guys with a lot of deep USAC roots. Why make the decision to move to Stewart Haas next year?"
RYAN NEWMAN: "Just a great opportunity. I think a lot of Tony, from a personal standpoint as well as a driving standpoint. I've seen the success from an ownership standpoint with the USAC cars and the World of Outlaws cars. I've seen him get the job done at other venues. I just look forward to the opportunity.
"He's a hard-nose racer, become a good friend as an opposing competitor. So it says a lot about that. I just look forward to the experience. Hopefully our main goal is that we both achieve our goals, and that's winning championships and both being in the Chase."
MIKE ARNING: "Finally, Joe Custer, general manager of the team. Joe, you've seen this team grow a lot in the last month. Talk about this latest development to the operation."
JOE CUSTER: "It's overwhelming in ways. You know, to have Tony come on board obviously, and now Ryan, it's just unbelievable. We welcome Ryan, of course -- Haas Automation, General Motors, all the supporters of our efforts, key players in this. We're thrilled. Tony's led the charge. The program's growing. It's exciting to be part of it. To have Ryan part of it, I mean, what can we say? The Rocket Man is on board."
MIKE ARNING: "Just to note, Tony of course is from Columbus, Ind. Ryan is from South Bend, Ind. The two of these guys bring together a combined 57 USAC wins and 45 Sprint Cup wins. We'll make this easy and simple. We'll open it up to the media."
Q: Tony, Ryan is joining your team next year from a very successful racing operation, Penske. How hard was it to convince him to join your team for 2009? How long did it take to convince him?
TONY STEWART: "We only had to sedate him for about four straight days (laughter), at which point you have the subliminal messages you just replay over in a loop. After four days of that, I was really surprised, it took really well. Woke up and seemed to think that the week went by really quick (laughter).
"You know what, I think the big thing -- talking to Ryan and Krissie, these guys -- was just explaining to them how the organization was going to be. Obviously we're not exactly, this year, with the teams where we want to be right now. But the big thing was showing Ryan what we're doing, what steps we're taking, how it's going to be different next year, and why I think it's going to be successful.
"The thing that impressed me the most about Ryan was he asked all the right questions, from day one. You know, the thing with Ryan was it wasn't about, we've still never spoke about a dollar in the contract. I mean, from day one, the questions that he had for me were all about how are we going to win races, how are we going to win championships, how are we going to get the right people in place to do the right jobs.
"Those were the questions that really impressed me the most with Ryan. It was first and foremost about how he was going to run and how we were going to ensure that we were going to give him quality cars and equipment and people to surround him to give him that opportunity."
Q: Ryan, I just wonder if you had any reservations coming to a new team after being with an established team? Also could you give a little background? How long have you and Tony been friends? Were you friends when you started out, enemies? What maybe turned the tide there, how your friendship has developed?
RYAN NEWMAN: "I'd say the biggest reservation kind of happened back in Daytona when we won that race. You know, I was in a situation where I was talking to Roger about the contract. Didn't really materialize to the point. It didn't, period. Just from Tony's standpoint, he was announcing his plans and I was in limbo about my plans and things just kind of came together.
"As far as answering the part about Tony and my history -- from racing USAC midgets, Silver Crown cars, he was, I'd say two to three years ahead of me as far as where his curve was, moving up, getting to NASCAR and racing in what was the Busch Car National Series. I went to him for advice. He actually -- I don't know if he remembers this -- he asked me to come out to an IRP test when I was down at Indy when he was racing one of his Nationwide cars then. Just to come out and be a part of it as somebody that knew where I was and where I wanted to go, where he was and where he was going. He's always been a friend. He's looked out for me. That said a lot even back then."
Q: Tony, could you talk a little bit about the sponsorship situation for Ryan's branch of the team? In your new role as an owner, are you finding that sponsors are very gettable even in this economy for the team? Are you seeing effects of the economy, too?
TONY STEWART: "We're all seeing effects of the economy from the sponsorship side obviously. But there are sponsorships available. It's just finding the right packages and the right combinations. Instead of seeing one company come in and just take the whole car, you're seeing a lot of deals being made where organizations are sharing the car over the course of a year. I think that's something that you'll see a lot more of in the future.
"We're currently working on sponsors for Ryan's car. We were hoping to have them done for today, but we didn't get it done in time. So hopefully in the next couple weeks we'll have something locked down on that side.
"But it's just making sure that we put the right partners together. When you're working with multiple sponsors, it's making sure that you have the continuity between the two to make sure it works for both parties. It makes it a little harder and the process is a little harder to get the contract it is done."
Q: Are you close enough that it's down to fine details?
TONY STEWART: "I'm not sure we're down to fine details yet, but we're getting close."
Q: Ryan, can you tell us what other teams you talked to? Did you seriously consider other offers? What about this made it better than the others?
RYAN NEWMAN: "Yeah, without naming names, there were an easy three other teams that made me offers on offer sheets.
"To answer the second part of the question, it was mostly Tony. Obviously I saw the shop. I saw the backbone, the foundation that Haas had laid with their efforts. You know, talking to Tony and his people, it seemed to be the best decisions for the right reasons. That's what it was all about. I always said I was fortunate having options, to have that option to go what I thought was the best place to do the best thing for me and my long-term goals.
"When Tony's situation came to light and those things became more public, it was easier to understand those things for me."
Q: Tony, 10 of your last 12 Sprint Cup races have been top-10 here at Michigan. What are your thoughts going in to this weekend?
TONY STEWART: "I'm excited. Obviously the last two weeks we've had runner-up finishes. That's the kind of momentum you want getting ready for the Chase. It helped us a lot with the points last week. It was more than a second-place finish. Obviously, when it's a place you've had some success at, and we haven't had a lot of wins here, but we've had a lot of consistent top-five, top-10 finishes. So right now, with the situation that we're in, I shouldn't say comfortable, but we're in a little better spot than we were a couple weeks ago in the points situation, having a good race this weekend would be very huge to us.
"You know, obviously getting to run both cars this week, I'm excited about trying to help continue that streak with the Nationwide side, that team, and at the same time maybe hopefully getting our first win of the season here this weekend."
Q: Ryan, how hard has it been or how frustrating has it been for you to be at an organization where you have one of the most successful owners in all of motorsports, but he's kind of an absentee owner, and now you go to a guy who is the ultimate wheel man, the ultimate racer, and looks out for other racers? Did that have a lot to do with your decision to have a guy that you knew is as devoted as Tony?
RYAN NEWMAN: "Absolutely. And I think, if you look at the history of Roger Penske, and Roger didn't have the ultimate stats that Tony Stewart does, but Roger was a racer. You know, that I think is extremely important to me to have somebody that understands the driving part of it, the ownership part of it, the teammate part of it, the personnel part of it, which is extremely important nowadays. That meant a lot.
So, yeah, Roger, I still have a lot of respect for him, and look forward to the rest of the season, fulfilling my obligations. But I definitely see the true racer and the potential future businessman in Tony Stewart."
Q: Tony, I see a bunch of new team players. Obviously we recognize Ryan and some of the PR people here. There's a lot of team to be put together. Can you have any comments on where you're at putting together the rest of the team at this point?
TONY STEWART: "Yeah. We've been in a lot of meetings in the last four weeks with a lot of different people from different organizations that have come to us wanting to be a part of this. Joe has been a huge part of that. You know, it's just talking to the right people.
"You know, it's like I was telling somebody, you don't have an option until you have at least two people. You know, we've had more than that in a lot of categories that have come to us. So we have options with people, it's just now sitting down and trying to figure out, just like what I've learned from Joe Gibbs Racing and Joe himself, sitting down and taking the time to figure out which of these people is the right person, making sure that we're picking people that personality-wise are going to match and work well together, and just being smart about it. That's where Joe comes into play with helping out with that.
"You know, like I say, it's nice having options. With the announcement today, hopefully even more people are going to come out and want to be a part of the program because of Ryan. That just gives us that many more options and people to choose from hopefully.
"But it is coming together. We are getting people hired. We have commitments from people that we're currently working on contracts right now that are some key people that we think are really going to be able to help us build this program."
Q: Ryan, how does this change your relationship with Penske Racing? If it does, how do you reassure them this year things are going to continue how they've been -- your lame duck status with the team.
TONY STEWART: "Easy. Don't knock him down (laughter)."
RYAN NEWMAN: "When Roger and I shook hands, saying I wasn't going to come back, he knew from my standpoint that I was going to be the dedicated driver I've always been, and I will do my best for myself, most importantly, but as well as the sponsors and Alltel, Kodak -- people that have obviously been a big part of my career.
"I've focused just as much on driving the No. 12 car as I will be next year driving the No. 4 car. You know, like I said, I still have a lot of respect for Roger. I believe Roger still has a lot of respect for me. We'll continue on. As I said to Roger, it's going to be business as usual. That will end at the end of '08."
Continued in part 2