Watkins Glen: Dodge - Ryan Newman interview

RYAN NEWMAN (No. 12 ALLTEL Dodge Intrepid) "This is a team sport, and the team has done an awesome job. All the things we've done over the winter, rebuilding our Fords and turning them into Dodges, the engine program, having to get performance...

RYAN NEWMAN (No. 12 ALLTEL Dodge Intrepid)

"This is a team sport, and the team has done an awesome job. All the things we've done over the winter, rebuilding our Fords and turning them into Dodges, the engine program, having to get performance and reliability out of a brand new product all at the same time. After years of development with the Ford, the guys did an awesome job with that. We've had one failure in that department. It was a pretty big one, but nevertheless, it's better reliability than we had last year. It's a teamwork thing. We've been growing together and experiencing different things together. It's turned out not to make the same mistake twice and it's paying off."

HOW DO YOU FIND CONSISTENCY TO PUT YOURSELF IN POSITION TO CONTEND FOR A CHAMPIONSHIP?

"We had a lot of goofy things happen to us at the beginning of the year. We got caught up in a crash at Daytona, a blown tire at Talladega, crashing on the first lap at California - getting caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, those were one part of the equation. The other part was we had an engine blow at Michigan. We had a rear gear that failed at Richmond while we were leading. We were battling for the lead at Michigan. It's just a matter of getting all that stuff out of your system. Hopefully we've done that and we can go on."

WHAT'S AHEAD FOR THE REST OF THE SEASON?

"Thanks to Jayski, I was looking on there and at this time last year we had 10 more points than we do now. It's just that Matt Kenseth's had a runaway year. We've had our problems no doubt, but we've overcome those. We've had bigger problems in the form of crashes, but we've had bigger victories as far as the quantities of wins. We're just going to go out and do the best job we can and let the points lie where they lie. We can't make points. We can just do out best to get what we can."

DO SPONSORS LIKE WINS OR POINTS BETTER?

"A sponsor wants everything they can possibly get. Wins are great. Championships are awesome. That's the ultimate goal for the team and sponsor, but you just do the best job you can and hopefully everybody is satisfied at the end."

ANY CHANGES NEEDED IN POINTS SYSTEM? POINTS FOR QUALIFYING?

"That's my only point that I'd like to bring up. I wish they'd offer points for qualifying whether it's the top five, you give 5-4-3-2-1, something like that. It puts a little more emphasis on qualifying, not that there needs to be, but you could give a little reward for that. Outside of that, I don't think there's anything wrong with it. I think it rewards the win. I think it rewards the consistency. Matt Kenseth has shown that. I think it would have the potential (to make qualifying more exciting). I don't think every team focuses as much on qualifying as certain teams. If that was the case, I think it might be a little more competitive in qualifying - not that it's not competitive, it would just add a little edge to it."

DOES EMPHASIS ON QUALIFYING TAKE AWAY FROM RACE SETUP?

"You get two hours to work on qualifying and an hour and a half to work on race trim. You get to do a lot of shaking down when you come to a track, sometimes with a brand new car. Working through qualifying and watching the track change, I could go 45 minutes with qualifying practice and 45 minutes with race practice. I think that's all we really need. I think it would make it a little tougher on the teams, but I think it would reward the teams that are better prepared for the race itself."

COMMENT ON YOUR COMMENTS AFTER ACCIDENT YESTERDAY

"My heart was beating fast. I said it how it was. The crash itself was very, very minor. I just got up in the foam, and the way it caught the car it flipped it up on its side. If it hadn't flipped it up on its side I could have drove the car back to the pits. The damage wasn't bad. It just looked bad. The response time is something that needed to be fixed, and I'll be vocal about it because it's my butt that's sitting in that racecar. I have a reason to. One of our guys had a stopwatch and he was doing split times. By the time I got out of that car, he had a minute, forty. That's neglecting some time before that when he had already started somebody else's split times. I was at least in the car for over a minute. Once the team got there, they didn't have a clue what to do. They asked me if the power was off. I'm trying to tell them they need to hold the car so I can get out. Communication was not there, and it needs to be there. I'm not trying to shoot down the safety crew. I just want it to be so we can communicate better and they can understand what they're doing. If there's not going to be a team that travels with NASCAR, then there needs to be better communication with the teams that are at the specific race tracks. It just needs to be better. That's all I'm saying.

"The response time at Michigan was quite a bit different. It was a totally different kind of deal. We were on fire and I came to rest close to the safety trucks that were on the apron. Here, I was on the outside of the racetrack. They had a certain amount of time they had to wait for cars to clear the racetrack. I understand all that stuff. It's just the communication part. Once they got there, they didn't have a clue what to do. I'm laying in the car, not knowing if fuel is spilling out of it. The other instance I had in Charlotte after a crash in The Winston, I basically had time to walk back to the pits before the ambulance got there. Things like that need to be worked on."

DO THOSE INCIDENTS SHOW A NEED FOR A FULL-TIME SAFETY CREW?

"In my opinion, yes. There's a whole lot of things I don't know about for a traveling safety crew. Whether it's the financial part, which should never be an excuse when it comes to safety, but my point is, it's all about communication. If we could have a safety team there every week, just like we know Foster, just like we know John Darby and everybody else, it would make a difference. If we could communicate with those people week in and week out, they'll know where everybody's cutoff switch is as far as power. They'll know that for instance this week the fuel spout is on the right side of the car instead of the left side of the car, things like that. Some of these people don't do that. Some of them are volunteers. Some of them get paid. Some of them it may be the first time they've ever seen a racecar. It might be their free pass to the racetrack to be part of the safety crew. You never know. If we can create a little relationship with the team, I think it would be great for the sport and the drivers.

"It took them a little longer in my opinion than it should have. Things can be done, and to give you guys a heads-up. We're dealing with the cars and gentlemen's agreement and all that kind of stuff racing back to the yellow flag, if there was an instance in practice like this if NASCAR could come over the radio and say 'there's a car upside down, everybody stop on the racetrack.' That could disperse the ambulance right away. There's no delay. There's no reason why when we have practice like that and we're not under race conditions that we all can't just stop on the racetrack and the ambulance gets out there right away. It can be done and implemented if it makes sense for everybody. Once they got there they were kind of slow. I took it upon myself to jump in the front seat of the ambulance and say, 'let's go.' It was time to go."

HOW DID YOU GET OUT OF THE CAR?

"The problem was the car was on its side. I could feel the car moving a little bit. Not knowing what it was going to do, if I climbed out, I didn't know if the car was going to fall down on top of me. When they got there, they didn't come directly to me. I was sitting there with my seatbelts undone and I was signaling them to come here. The first thing he asked me was if I had the power off. I told him the power was off. I just want to get out. I had to tell him to come back over again and I told him to just hold the car so I could get out. That's all I want you guys to do. Finally he got enough guys over there and I was confident that he could hold the car and I climbed out. That's when I scratched my helmet on the rocks. I don't know what all the publications said what happened, but the only thing my helmet hit were the rocks when I was climbing out because there was gravel there. Everything else was fine."

OPINION ON RAIN TIRES

"I can handle it. If that's what we've got to do, then we'll do it. I'm looking forward to it."

COMMENT ON ESCAPE HATCH. WILL YOU VOLUNTEER TO INSTALL IT?

"No. There's no obvious part. Some time in the next two weeks, our team is going to make a trip over the tech center and check out some of the things they're doing. We haven't seen a lot of those things. It's not a defined answer for me right now. Yesterday, people asked me if I'd had an escape hatch could I have gotten out easier. I had no problem getting out. It was just making sure I was going to be safe and the car wasn't going to fall on top of me. All my crashes this year, between Daytona and Talladega, California, here, an escape hatch wouldn't have done me any good. I don't think it's an obvious answer right now. It might be an answer for some people, especially someone like Michael Waltrip who is tall and lanky. I think it has the potential to be positive. I think it has the potential to be negative. It opens up windows for potential problems. We have tethers on our windows, hoods, decklids. Is there going to be a tether of the roof and a potential for a big Frisbee coming off the top of the car? You never know. Everything needs to be considered."

WHAT'S THE STRATEGY STARTING 13TH?

"Get to the front. Track position is very important. We've got to keep our fenders clean. This is a very fast racetrack. It's not like Sears Point. You've got to be patient here. It's just a matter of having a good car and being able to pass."

COMMENT ON THREE TOP 10S IN THREE ROAD RACING STARTS

"We've had good road courses races. In three starts we've been second, fifth and ninth. We've had good performances. Last year we lost power steering or I think we would have been in victory lane. I just look forward to another opportunity. You guys can talk about whatever you want to talk about. We're just going to go out and do the best job we can and you can talk about us Sunday night and Monday morning."

ARE THE CARS TOO FAST TO RACE HERE?

"I don't think that's the case. The speeds yesterday were directly related to the weather. I don't think the speed is that big a difference because of the technology from year to year. I think the weather being cloudy and overcast and not terribly hot lent itself to conditions for high speed."

HAVE YOU EVER MADE LAPS ON RAIN TIRES?

"I didn't do that, but I grew up in the winters in Indiana. I'm sure it's plenty slick, but I'm sure the tires grip better than you'd think. I'm looking forward to doing it. Somebody said Earnhardt got to try them out at Suzuka and he had a blast. I'd look at it the same way."

-dodge motorsports-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Matt Kenseth , Michael Waltrip , Ryan Newman