Stewart, Newman - NASCAR teleconference, part 2

Continued from part 1 Q: Kind of switching gears to Ryan, your friendship with Tony has been pretty well documented, at least this year. How important is that relationship right now to the success of this team and you two guys, especially in...

Continued from part 1

Q: Kind of switching gears to Ryan, your friendship with Tony has been pretty well documented, at least this year. How important is that relationship right now to the success of this team and you two guys, especially in this kind of unique situation?

RYAN NEWMAN: No different than anybody else on the team, whether it's Tony Gibbs or Tony Stewart or the guy that's sweeping the floor at the shop, we all have to do our part. Like Tony was talking, it's a people business. People make the big difference in everything that we do. They build the race cars, they work together to do pit stops and everything else.

Our friendship is definitely important. As I stated, our friendship off the racetrack to me weighs sometimes more than our friendship on the racetrack.

We have to compete against each other, which we try to do our best at to make sure we don't penalize each other for the way we race each other, but the bottom line is just getting along off the racetrack, it's huge for me, just gives us something else to talk about besides a right front swing or a sway bar.

Q: And lastly for you, Ryan, what's impressed you most about Tony Stewart the owner?

RYAN NEWMAN: I'd say overall just his ability to manage the people and get the right people, which is not an easy thing to do. But his level headedness, his calmness when it comes to the different situations, just how he's adapted himself from a driver to a driver/car owner is pretty amazing.

I think that's the same thing that a lot of people have asked, just like was asked earlier, what's it like to be a driver/owner in your situation and be successful. It takes a big person to do that.

I didn't mean that size wise, I meant that mentally. (Laughter.)

Q: Tony, my question is for you. I saw some photos from Daytona with Darryl Gwynn in victory lane with you guys after the race, and I'm curious what that meant to you, and as his foundation continues to grow and I know you're still a big part of that, what are your thoughts on the fact that 20 years after that crash now he's still contributing to racing and still doing what he's doing?

TONY STEWART: Darrell is as committed to that foundation as he ever was as a driver or a team owner. You know, I consider him a good friend. But he is one of those people that makes you count your blessings every morning when you wake up, and every time that you see Darryl it makes you put your life in perspective.

You know, I have not been in the situation obviously that Darrell has been in, and it's hard to imagine how life altering is really is. But to see how much dedication that he's put into not making his life better but making other children and adults that really need a wheelchair, a new wheelchair like that, to improve the quality of their life and to see how dedicated he is to that is extremely impressive. I mean, it makes you proud to be a part of anything that he does.

Ryan and I both support the fishing tournaments that we have at Daytona and Homestead each year, and we're proud to be associated with him. I mean, I really respected him as a driver, but once his injury happened and through his foundation now and the work that we've been able to do, we've become closer friends through that.

Knowing that every time that you do an event that there's a lot of times you do charity events and money gets raised and you know what the amount that's going to be donated is, and that's kind of the end of it. But with Darrell's foundation, every event you see a little boy or a little girl or a young person receive a new wheelchair and you see instantly the gratification on their face and knowing that the quality of their life is going to be better. And that's due to Darryl and how committed he is to it.

It's something that I've been very, very please to be a part of and very proud of him and his efforts and his continued dedication to it.

Q: You seemed genuinely pretty upset with the way the race ended the other night. I just wonder if you had a chance to talk to Kyle yet.

TONY STEWART: I did. I got a chance before I went to Sharon Speedway last night I got a chance to catch up with Kyle. I checked first of all just to make sure he was all right.

But when something like that happens, you want to make sure that both guys are on the same page with what happened, and we definitely were. I mean, there was no question on either one of our parts of what happened. I mean, we were instantly on the same page with it. It's just part of racing.

But it was something that happened before that phone call even happened, and I've mentioned it to Kyle and even kind of laughed about it was the fact that everybody has made such a big deal about this all of a sudden happening. A good friend of mine reminded me of the very first TV race, the very first 500 that they showed on national TV, and it was Donnie Allison and Cale Yarborough, same type of incident on the backstretch for the win.

What happened this weekend, what happened at Talladega, none of this is new, and I think it's our responsibility to educate everybody that, hey, this isn't something that this is the first time this has happened. This is something that's been going on for a long time. There's little differences here and there about how the accident happened, but David Pearson and Richard Petty coming off of Turn 4 and both of their cars crashed and who could get it started and get it limped across the start/finish line to win.

There's just so many instances and cases where that's happened in the past, too, it's really no different than what we've got going on other than the fact that instead of two cars being involved, now we have 32 cars in the pack. That's the only variable that's changed. It's a product of superspeedway racing.

Kyle knew that my job was to get to his quarter panel, he was trying to move up to defend his spot, and nobody in his position would have just stayed there and let somebody drive back by him. You've got to do something, and he wasn't trying to wreck us, he was just trying to make me make a move to slow me down.

It was good to have that conversation with him yesterday. I was glad he wasn't hurt. And I got a chance to see Kasey last night and make sure he wasn't hurt, as well. It was good to touch base and make sure we were all on the same page, which we were.

Q: Thinking back to when you started racing as a young boy and how hard it was, do you wish that these young racing leagues were easier, like stick and ball sports, like summer league at Blackwell Park in Columbus?

TONY STEWART: Easier in which way?

Q: Maybe not as expensive, maybe more accessible for all families and not just families that have connections maybe to racing industries.

TONY STEWART: Absolutely. I think there's plenty of organizations out there. I mean, we're going to have a chance here in a little bit to go see a bunch of kids that are here at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. They're running quarter midgets right now. I wouldn't be surprised if at some point I would be surprised if Ryan does, but I want to try to squeeze in one and make a couple laps.

RYAN NEWMAN: I don't know if I'll fit. (Laughter.)

TONY STEWART: But there's a lot of whether it's go kart racing or quarter midget racing, the hardest part is technology is the factor that keeps growing and getting better, and it makes racing better. But with that comes a price of cost. It would be nice to find a little better way at some of these beginner levels to control the cost to where it is more attractive for families to get involved. And I think that can happen pretty easily, just the sanctioning bodies like USAC has taken over some of the quarter midget stuff, and if they can get involved and find a way to not necessarily spec everything but to control the boundaries enough where they can control the costs, that would definitely make it better and you're going to attract more people that may not have the finances to do it like some of these teams do it now.

Q: And my last question would be in your opinion, Tony, how young is too young to start racing? Do you think five is too young to start racing these days?

TONY STEWART: I mean, the quarter midget kids out here, they get I think five is the age

RYAN NEWMAN: I started driving when I was four and a half and I started driving quarter midgets, racing them when I was five.

TONY STEWART: You were doing illegal stuff at four and a half?

RYAN NEWMAN: Yeah, my parents had an influence on me. That hasn't changed.

TONY STEWART: I'm going to have a talk with your mom.

Anyway, I've watched kids go through their what's the test that they go through before they're allowed to race?

RYAN NEWMAN: They have a novice division and quarter midgets.

TONY STEWART: Isn't there a test deal that you have to pass as far as official on the track and going between cones?

RYAN NEWMAN: I don't know what that's called, but yeah.

TONY STEWART: They have a process of making sure that even at the age of five that you know where the gas pedal is, that you know how to use the brake and all that. I think it establishes boundaries early.

But you know, I think at some of these bigger racetracks I think there is and you're seeing it now, even the United States Auto Club is talking about bumping up the age of some of the racetracks so that they go to up to 18 years old. You have to be 18 to run some of the larger racetracks with these cars. NASCAR has had the same discussions about upping the age to 18, I think, for the touring series. I'm guessing on that, but I'm pretty sure that's where it's at.

You need a little bit of that just to maintain you don't want a 12 year old kid out there trying to go race at Daytona.

RYAN NEWMAN: It's not that you don't want a 12 year old kid out there because there are 12 year old kids that are just as good as we are, but it isn't every 12 year old kid that is capable of doing that. When one family sees the opportunity for a 12 year old kid to do it and he thinks his kid can do it but the kid can't, that's when we get in trouble, and we have to monitor that.

Q: I wanted to ask Ryan a question. The restrictor plate, Tony mentioned that we've seen this style of racing at Daytona and Talladega for quite a while, but what would make you comfortable as a driver in terms of changes? Is it the yellow line rule that's causing problems? Is it the blocking that's allowed? Is it the plate itself? What would make you feel better about racing at those tracks?

RYAN NEWMAN: I'd say in general the biggest thing for me, and it was kind of in all ways in more ways than one, no pun intended, an eye opener at Talladega when the cars got airborne. That's the biggest thing is we don't want to be up in the catchfence. Knocking off the wall or trying to knock down the wall is one thing, but being in the catchfence is something you don't want to do for yourself and for the fans.

The line is kind of a product of the situation that we're in with restrictor plate and a big pack of cars. You know, it's and some of the crashes that we've seen, just for instance Tony and Kyle's crash, you go back to some of the other crashes, Dale, Jr., and Vickers at Daytona, to me those were just blocking incidents where a guy is trying to block and it's not the best choice to make and you end up getting turned around and end up causing a crash because we're in a pack of it seems 13 cars every time.

It's just a product of the environment. NASCAR has done a good job of making the field more competitive for every car, and when you do that you put the cars more in a pack. The fans like that. The racing is a little bit more exciting that way, and it's just a product of that.

It's up to the drivers to not put ourselves in positions to end up turned around or turn somebody else around at the same time.

Continued in part 3

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Tony Stewart , Richard Petty , Donnie Allison , Cale Yarborough , David Pearson