DRIVER TRANSCRIPTS FROM TEXAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY MEDIA DAY ON FEBRUARY 25, 2009 *** NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Ryan Newman of Stewart-Haas Racing How is the economy affecting NASCAR and is it hitting this sport more than others? RN: I...
DRIVER TRANSCRIPTS FROM TEXAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY MEDIA DAY ON FEBRUARY 25, 2009
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Ryan Newman of Stewart-Haas Racing
How is the economy affecting NASCAR and is it hitting this sport more than others?
RN: I think the more money that is involved, the more it affects you. It's kind of an expediential scale. I think NASCAR has done a good job with the banning of testing. I think the tracks have done a good job dropping ticket prices, concession stand sales, things like that are huge. I have always said that NASCAR is a family sport and when it's irrational to spend money to come to the race track then something needs to be done. Obviously in these economic times, to me the most important thing that there is is the fans.
What have you noticed differently of Tony Stewart now as an owner?
RN: He's dedicated. He wants to win. That's probably why he got as much criticism in his racing career was he got asked the wrong questions at the wrong time. You guys have a job to do -- don't get me wrong -- but that's the last thing we want to talk about. And that just shows his dedication. That shows his emotion. I think that he's a racer and from an owner/driver, from the things that he sponsors, his race tracks, he's a racer. That's one of the things that I admire.
I'm sure you never imagined Tony Stewart being your boss?
RN: I never envisioned it. I never envisioned Roger Penske being my boss before he was. I just didn't know. You just don't think about those things. If you're playing hockey, you would like to be able to have Wayne Gretzky on your team but you really just want to play hockey. You want to win. You would be just as happy beating Wayne Gretzky. To me, I'm in a position I'm grateful for and I'm proud to have the U.S. Army on the side of my car and on my chest.
Do you feel better about Goodyear?
RN: I felt better about Goodyear after California. But that's behind us now.
How has Texas Motor Speedway aged?
RN: Basically it's gotten wider. It's gotten a bit more character. A little more bumpier which is fine, I like it. The tunnel bump here in [turns] one and two was getting pretty big so I'm glad they took some of the `character' out of it. I think that in general the track has gotten wider and racier. It's got less grip. But that is fine, I'd rather slide around a little bit and be in charge of my race car than be stuck to the race track.
What impresses you about TMS President Eddie Gossage and what he does at Texas Motor Speedway?
RN: I don't know if Eddie would appreciate me saying this, but he's kind of like the modern-day Humpy Wheeler. Humpy was a great promoter and he did a lot of great things for the sport and Eddie does a lot of great things for the sport. He's always thinking of the next thing that is going to set him apart and I admire that because that is what sets you apart. It's not just doing it, but the thought process to do it. He's been successful. He's been here awhile. The trophies make a big difference. From the driver's standpoint, we cash the check and when we say we won the race the trophy is what stands behind and says this was a cool race. From the trophies on up, he does a great job putting on the race.
Has Eddie asked you to do something that you've said no?
RN: We've butted heads on a couple of things, but only because it's our opinion. That's part of it. Like I said, he's done a great job.
What has Tony Stewart said to you about the start of the season?
RN: I guess it was two nights ago we were staying in Vegas and Tony gave me $14 and he said `Here, just put it in your pocket and see if it works for you.' It's still in my pocket. The plane stayed in the air [coming to Texas], everything has been good so far and we'll see how the racing goes this weekend.
Do you approach racing differently knowing you don't have unlimited resources?
RN: It's no different. I drive to win the race and sometimes that gets me caught up in someone else's crash. Sometimes I miss the crash and sometimes I go on and win the race, but that doesn't change anything in respect to that. I don't consider myself a reckless driver. I don't do anything reckless to try and put myself in position to win the race. I race to race. And Tony [Stewart] does the same thing.
Is there a challenge of not having a full-year sponsor?
RN: We obviously have the U.S. Army, and Haas Automation is on board as well. We are still actively seeking sponsorship. We feel fortunate to have names on the car. There are a lot of guys that don't have names on the car. I know this is a new situation and a new team and Tony [Stewart] is in a great situation with Office Depot and Old Spice. I think if we can come out of the box a little stronger than we have in the first two races and get some top fives and earn a couple of poles that will fill in accordingly. No matter what the economy is, there are still people spending money. There are people looking for advertisement. And that is out there.
What were the key factors that helped you decide that you wanted to join Tony and the Stewart-Haas organization?
RN: The biggest thing was I know Tony as a driver. I've always thought a lot of him in reference to that and as an owner I know his experience with the Outlaws team and the USAC teams. I know his dedication as a racer and that's different from being just a driver. I told him point blank after I had actually signed my contract that I just want to have fun. Obviously, I want to win races, lead laps, win poles, all of those things, but I want to have fun doing it. I don't want it to be like working and it had become work where I was and it wasn't as much fun as it should have been. Not that it wasn't fun; it just wasn't as much fun as it should have been. The one trait that I've always said I admired about Tony is he can drive anything, anywhere, any time, any place as a driver and I look forward to being part of the Stewart-Haas team throughout the rest of the '09 season.
Has it been fun?
RN: It has been fun, yes. We haven't had the success that we wanted in the first two races, but it has still been fun so that's nice to say.
You kind of had a stressful Speedweeks, tell us about that time.
RN: Speedweeks is something to forget. The one thing that I'll say is people have asked me several times if there is a bunch of risk involved in going with Stewart-Haas Racing and I don't look at it that way. To me, there was more risk involved staying where I was, trying to make something happen that hadn't happened in the last five years and that was winning a championship. I look forward to putting Daytona behind us. We went through two race cars and were on our third and luckily the rain came.
So you didn't have a chance to really finish off the third one...
RN: I know how the last 15 laps at Daytona always go so there was going to be a crash at some point and we had some misfortunes. We actually went from California to Vegas and the guys were actually out there working at one of the guy's shops so I was over there Monday helping them, making sure everything was good with the seat for my Vegas car.
But you've run well in spite of the misfortunes.
RN: We were really fast at Daytona. We struggled a little bit at California for speed, not in qualifying trim, but in race trim. I've always said when the car feels good in qualifying trim you have the speed. It's just the matter of making it fast for those race trim laps. I was happier being fast in qualifying trim, knowing we could make the car go fast than I would have been if we couldn't have qualified well and we couldn't have found the speed in the car and just had an okay race.
What has the transition been like for you to a new team, moving from Dodge to Chevrolet, and with a new crew chief and new crew members and what have you? Do you expect that to be a season-long process, several months or a few weeks before you really start feeling comfortable?
RN: The biggest thing in respect to both Dodge versus Chevrolet and Penske versus Stewart-Haas is people, and it is one of the things I talked to Tony [Stewart] about way before we ever got to the point of signing any kind of paperwork was tell me about the people. What's your plan for the people? And then you have to actually follow through with it. I feel that Tony has done a great job with all the people at Stewart-Haas to get the right people in the right places and the right capacities. For instance, [team director of competition] Bobby Hutchins -- lot of great experience, a great guy, a true racer. He's basically our general manager. My crew chief Tony Gibson and [Stewart's crew chief] Darian Grubb, all the people at the shop. Those are the most important things. Then the difference between the Chevrolet group and the Dodge group isn't just the nose or the tail template here. It's the people that actually make the difference and the insight that they can give you to make your race car go faster. As a whole, I think the biggest difference and the biggest change is just the people from where I have been and where I am now.
Coming from military city USA, we have a huge support system here in San Antonio. How important is it for you driving for the U.S. Army and representing some of our nation's biggest and best heroes?
RN: That's exactly the way I see it. There are a million people out there who I feel are our heroes and I'm representing them with the U.S. Army across my chest so it's a unique situation. Both Tony [Stewart] and I have had good sponsors in the past but this is a different kind of sponsor. You're representing our fight for freedom and their fight for freedom and at the same time for me I have to do my job to help the recruiting process for generations to come so that we can continue to do these things and watch races and have the freedom that we enjoy. I got a little experience going to Fort Bragg. We did that back before the season started and I had an absolute blast there in more ways than one. They had dynamite going off and shooting guns and had us flying in the vertical wind tunnel, so I've gotten to experience some of the things that they do from a safety standpoint and the technology and the training standpoint, but I really look forward to doing a lot more things with the Army to understand it better so I can speak educated about the things that they're doing that we don't see to you guys or other groups.
What are you and your team's goals for the end of the season? Where should you be in the points and all of that?
RN: I'd be kidding myself and everybody else if I didn't say we were here to win the championship, but I feel that with our situation, the testing process and all of that I think that we have all the tools and all the people and all of the things that we need from a performance standpoint to be in the Chase. Once we're in the Chase, we'll be able to determine how good of a championship contender we would be. My ultimate goal is to be in the Chase and give ourselves a shot at the championship, win some races, lead a bunch of laps and just have fun doing as I said from the beginning.
I'm curious to know your thoughts about this drug-testing program and what effect it might have? Don't you, as a driver, have to have kind of an innate confidence to begin with that your fellow competitors are clean to start with?
RN: I think it's great what NASCAR is doing. They are working on their process to redefine it, to take it to the next degree each and every time. For me personally, I don't drink and I've never done drugs so it's kind of different. I don't think about it and that's probably part of why it's important. There are so many things we're doing working on our race cars, doing an appearance, doing a commercial, things like that that we don't necessarily think about. You know the condition of the other drivers as we're competing against them and for that matter it's not just the drivers, it's the crew members, it's the guy that's doing the nut and bolt list on your race car before you go out or the guy that's back at the shop that's welding something together. It's the importance of that from a safety standpoint, not just for the drivers on the race track but for the fans in the grandstands as well.
There was not as much testing coming into 2009. Do you feel that you were prepared better or worse coming into this season as opposed to seasons before?
RN: I feel that after California that was our first true test as a team with the No.39 car. We went to a couple small tests, but they're not like the real thing they're not. I think a lot of people can consider California their first test. As we progress throughout the season, working with [crew chief] Tony Gibson, working with Tony Stewart, working with our communication, and doing the things that we would normally do testing that we will evolve and the successes will come easier. To me, it doesn't change the racing. It doesn't change the end result, but in hindsight I wish we would have a little bit more testing but I don't think it was necessary.
Have you added any new cars to your personal collection? Perhaps a GM product since you now drive an Impala on the Cup Series.
RN: Thankfully my wife when I turned 30 and 31, she got me my newest vehicle, which is not new because of age, but new to me is a 1949 Buick Road Master convertible, which happens to be the only GM product in my entire camp. I have about 13 old cars that I work on and play with. There's no bias to Ford or Dodge or General Motors. I've got a Hudson, I've got a Jaguar, I've got a Triumph. I've got some different things and different cars, but thankfully she got me that so I've got one. It's one of the four cars that was used in the movie, "Rainman."