Watkins Glen: Newman - Dodge interview

RYAN NEWMAN (No. 12 Alltel Dodge Charger) COMMENT ON 2007 TEAMMATE KURT BUSCH "I'm not really sure 100 percent what to say. I think that Kurt is a good guy. I think Kurt is an excellent driver, and he's proved that by winning the championship. I...

RYAN NEWMAN (No. 12 Alltel Dodge Charger)

COMMENT ON 2007 TEAMMATE KURT BUSCH "I'm not really sure 100 percent what to say. I think that Kurt is a good guy. I think Kurt is an excellent driver, and he's proved that by winning the championship. I think the situation I've had with Rusty in the past, having a teammate that at least isn't working against me will be a definite benefit, so we'll take it for what it's worth. It's a tough business and sometimes a conflicting business when it comes to teammates. I've seen the way Kurt reacts and acts with Roush Racing, and I think what he'll do with Penske Racing will be just fine and we can all get along and be good teammates."

DO YOU KNOW KURT WELL? "For whatever reason Kurt and I have a lot of respect for each other, and I think that stems back to my first win at Loudon. Just talking to him after the race he said, 'I gave you a little nudge and that's all I ever do. If you can hang onto it after that then it's your race unless you screw up.' We've had a lot of respect for each other. We've gotten into accidents on the racetracks, but it's because somebody else caused them and put us in the wall. We've had a lot of respect for each other. We're clean drivers. You don't see us out there purposely crashing other cars."

COMMENT ON WHAT WILL HAPPEN IN 2006 "I'm not sure what's going on there with that. That's a new thing this year as far as how drivers are signing up. I guess there's for sure a situation where we shouldn't model ourself off every other sport, because there is some question marks. I'm not sure what's going to happen with that. I don't think it would be just a driver. I don't think Roger Penske or anybody at Penske Racing would put a driver in there to fill a seat. I don't think that's the purpose of having a teammate or running for the championship."

YOUR CONTRACT IS SET? "I'm good. I've got no worries for myself, and that's all I'm worried about, but I also have to consider what's going on with everybody at Penske Racing. It's been kinda crazy. You've seen some drivers shop themselves around trying to get the best deal, and you've seen other drivers you never even hear. I'm not 100 percent sure this is right, but you never hear Bobby Labonte signing up or doing things like that. It just kinda happens. He's not in it for that, but some drivers are. The some drivers that are and because they are good drivers they're changing the way owners have to react to the situation of resigning a contract. I don't know if that's good or bad, but it's definitely a change we've seen the last five years I've been in here."

WHEN DID YOU FIRST KNOW KURT WAS BEING CONSIDERED? "I was kept informed by Roger and Roger didn't know for sure obviously until the deal was signed. It was an ongoing process. I don't know a specific date, but I knew some of the things that were going on and I kept it quiet because Roger asked me to and that's just the kind of person I am. It's a tough situation. Almost the same thing happened in reverse with me, not because I was wanting to move some place but because somebody was trying to hire me for something. I've heard some grumblings of drivers in the Roush camp that are kinda upset about Kurt leaving and that's good information for me to know that he's at least wanted as a teammate."

WHY DID YOU STAY WITH PENSKE? "Mostly just Don Miller, Roger Penske, Matt Borland and the cars that I drive and also the obvious with them giving me an opportunity in the beginning to do what I do and do what I love to do. That loyalty is huge, but the people are what make the difference. The cars are built after the people are put together. If you've got good people you'll have good cars. With all the things Don Miller has done for me, and obviously Matt Borland. To have a crew chief who is also the best man in your wedding and do all the things we've done to get to victory lane and win so many poles that's awesome. Obviously Roger doesn't need to be sold. He's been around auto racing for so long and has such a name, that's kinda a given."

WILL THE CREWS REMAIN THE SAME? "I'm not sure, and that's a good question. I know every body on the 2 car now is built around Rusty Wallace because Rusty calls the shots. To me that's not the ideal team sport. If I was Kurt I'd definitely want to understand what I was getting as a team."

DID YOU PUT IN A WORD FOR MATT KENSETH? "A lot of drivers were considered, and I know, I'll say this, from what I was told Kurt thought the Penske organization was an ideal organization. He understands Roger's motivations and motives to try to win a championship. That's also part of the reason I enjoy being part of it."

IS IT A PRIORITY TO MAKE SURE EVERYTHING GETS OFF TO A GOOD START? "Yes and no. You can't make sure of that. That's the no part. Yeah, it'd be nice, but there's no guarantee. We could go into the first corner at Daytona in testing and wipe each other out. You just never know. I think as we've had in the past, Kurt and I have a lot of respect for each other."

IS THERE A NEED FOR A LEAD DRIVER? "I don't like at it like that. As I've said before it's three individual teams under one roof and we all act as a big team in other functions, but me being the senior driver at Penske in the future won't be the determining factor in being the lead dog. It's all about each individual driver being with their team and getting along and that's what creates the ultimate results. You go to a dance with your dance partner. You don't dance with other people. In a roundabout way you stay focused on what you have to do as a team to win. The whole idea of what everybody talks about as teams working together is OK, but everybody for the most part -- Roger Penske and Jack Roush -- talk about the resources and getting the money together to have the resources to be able to have the right products to be able to build and the technology to build the best cars so you can hire the best people with the biggest amount of money and create the best teams. Not much is said about the drivers sharing the setups and things like that. I think it's more about the resources part of it and that's my approach."

PEOPLE EXPECT YOU TO WIN. WHY HAVEN'T YOU WON? "We're just building drama. TNT is paying us under the table. (Said in jest). We've no doubt had our struggle points this year and Indianapolis no doubt was the biggest one. We've learned a lot of things. We also had more struggles than we thought we'd have with the Dodge body. If you look at the standings, there's only been one Dodge in victory lane, and that's not the way it's been the past three or four years -- especially at this point in the season. We're doing our best to adapt and work. In a roundabout way I think we're playing a little game of catchup. Once we get caught up we'll splatter a little mustard on 'em. We'd rather be first and have no wins or we'd rather be first and have a bunch of wins preferably. For the season we've had, it's almost amazing we are seventh in points."

TALKING ABOUT DRIVING FOR ROGER PENSKE "It's all about experience, and Roger has huge experience at racetracks with race drivers and race teams and understanding the business from a financial standpoint as well as from a mechanical standpoint. To walk into our new shop and see how it's laid out to benefit the teams, that's huge. The little things he does versus the big things he does like building that new shop, that's what makes the difference as far as building a championship team in my opinion."

DID ROGER ASK YOUR OPINION ABOUT KURT? "Yes, but I don't think he made any decisions off my opinion, but he definitely wanted to know what I thought about certain situations and he thought it was important obviously because of the whole teammate situation. Like I said, I'm better off having a teammate that doesn't even talk or does anything than one that works against me, and that's what I've had to deal with the last five years."

DO YOU LIKE THE WAY KURT DRIVES? "Kurt is a very good driver. He's a very smart driver. I think in some ways we have a lot in common and in some ways we don't have a lot of things in common. Having things that aren't in common you can learn a lot of things from each other."

COMMENT ON KURT'S MATURITY "Kurt has definitely matured a lot. I on the other hand have not had to. I've been mature the whole time. Anyway, Kurt's definitely matured a lot I think off his whole situation with Jimmy Spencer and everything you learn from. If you're not learning you're going backwards. I think right now Kurt is a very mature individual."

WHAT WAS YOUR REACTION WHEN YOU HEARD THEY HIRED KURT? "I kinda knew what was going on, and I knew they were searching for a driver and had worked on getting a couple of deals going and it never happened. When it did happen it was OK, go with the flow."

WERE YOU SURPRISED THEY SIGNED A DRIVER THE CALIBER OF BUSCH? "I wouldn't say surprised, knowing all the things that had been going on, looking at McMurray's deal with Roush and what may happen with Mark Martin and all that stuff. At this point you never know what's going on. We'll talk at some point, but he (Busch) is in a difficult situation with continuing out his contract and doing whatever he has to do, whatever it is. We also have a championship to win and he has a championship to win. We both look at it that way, but it'll be interesting how the relationship begins."

-dodge motorsports-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Bobby Labonte , Rusty Wallace , Jimmy Spencer , Jack Roush , Roger Penske , Mark Martin
Teams Team Penske