Iracingone On One:/I Ryan Newman

Ryan Newman is a young, former open-wheel standout driver, who, when approached by Roger Penske, decided to make the jump this year to stock cars. Newman has already won races in the ARCA Series, and will participate in limited schedules in 2000 in the ARCA Series, the Busch Series and the Winston Cup Series driving the ALLTEL car for Penske South Racing.

RacingOne: A lot of confidence has been placed in you this year by Roger Penske and his organization. Do you feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders?

Newman: I fully intend to handle the situation the way it should be handled, with a lot of poise and confidence. If I wasn’t going to do that, then I had no business being in this situation. I don’t really feel any of that pressure on me at all. I’ve got a great bunch of people around me at Penske, people that are giving me what I need to be a Winston Cup, Busch and ARCA driver. I just want to maintain my focus. Our goal is to go to every race, get experience, lead laps and win races. It’s been the same for me for 18 some-odd years now. Every day I want to win, and nothing’s changed.

RacingOne: It sounds like your future is pretty well mapped out for you at Penske Racing, isn’t it?

Newman: For right now, I guess it is. I’ve developed so many good friendships over the last few months with guys like Roger (Penske), Rusty Wallace, Jeremy Mayfield and Don Miller, and also guys in the shop and the engine department. Right now, I’m just trying to make the best of the best opportunity I’ve ever had in my life. I’ve had so much put before me, now it’s up to me to take advantage of the opportunity and give back to the people that have placed so much confidence in me. Hopefully I’ll keep taking progressive steps after this year… we’ll just have to wait and find out.

RacingOne: You’ll be driving in three different series. How difficult is that going to be for you?

Newman: I don’t really think it’s going to be all that difficult other than just getting used to the cars themselves. The Busch cars are different in that they’re heavier, but that shouldn’t be that much of an adjustment. I really like the fact that I’ll be running in three different series against different levels of competition. I’ll be able to race on different types of tracks and get the experience I need to compete at the Cup level hopefully for a long time to come. Winning in ARCA is more difficult than some people would imagine, but we’ll have the equipment to get in victory lane a couple of times.

RacingOne: A lot of people are looking at you in the same light as a Jeff Gordon or a Tony Stewart, and I’m sure you’ve heard that a lot. Do you ignore such talk?

Newman: When you look at guys like that, and even a Dale Earnhardt or Dale Earnhardt, Jr., they’ve been there already and have been previous champions in their forms of racing. You always want to be those types of people, but you also want to be better than them. So, I just want to set my goals to be the best person I can be with the best team that I can have, and I think I have that. I just need to create the results, and we’re going to do that as a team.

RacingOne: Several drivers in recent years have made the transition from the open-wheel ranks and have had great success, so you’ve got to be confident about your chances, right?

Newman: Some guys have handled it very well, and some guys haven’t been able to do it so well. Of course you’ve got to take a look at Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart, probably the most prime examples of success in that area. Jason Leffler is another one you can look at. He struggled at first in the Busch Series last year, but then that team really got going in the second half and he turned in a pretty decent year. I’ve still got a lot to learn and a lot of seat time to log, but in time, we’ll start hitting on all cylinders and we’ll be running right up front with everybody.

RacingOne: You’ve got a couple of outstanding Winston Cup drivers to learn from in Rusty Wallace and Jeremy Mayfield. They seem to think you’re going to do well, too.

Newman: I’ve got those two, and also Buddy Baker to learn from. Buddy’s been to every test that we’ve had, and he’s been a great help. It gives me the most confidence I can have as a driver to have those guys around me and advise me on important matters. What can you say about a guy like Rusty who’s won 50 races and will be a Hall of Famer when he’s all done. Jeremy’s starting to win races like everybody knew he could, too. So, hopefully I can be another driver Roger Penske can be proud of.

RacingOne: What’s going to the biggest challenge for you in the upcoming year?

Newman: The pure competition of the sport will be my biggest challenge. It’s so competitive in NASCAR, and even the ARCA Series has become extremely competitive and difficult to win races in. It’s so competitive that you can look at past results, with the exception of Jeff Green’s year in the Busch Series last year, there wasn’t very many of what you might call dominating performances. You want to dominate like Jeff Green did and how Jeff Gordon has over the past few years, but doing that will be awfully difficult for anybody.

RacingOne: You’ve run ARCA races and you’ve run a Winston Cup race already, but you’ve yet to get into a Busch car competitively. What will you expect when you run your first Busch race?

Newman: There are so many drivers in that series capable of winning races. It’s incredible week-in and week-out how many teams can get to victory lane. Every driver at NASCAR’s highest levels has won races in their previous endeavors, so you’re dealing with a bunch of winners. But we’re winners, too, at Penske Racing, and I expect to be pretty competitive right out of the box. Those cars are heavier, and that will be a bit of an adjustment, but they’re also getting new engines with more horsepower this year, so I really like that aspect of it. It should be interesting, and I’m looking forward to getting in and mixing it up with those guys, just like I’m looking forward to driving in Cup and ARCA.

RacingOne: What do you hope to accomplish during the upcoming year?

Newman: Right now, that’s kind of a broad idea for me. We’re building cars, we’re building a team and we’re building a relationship with Jeremy and Rusty and their teams, as well. There’s so many things, so many variables to incorporate into the equation. We just need to go out and get laps, lead laps, get experience, finish races and then ultimately, win races. That’s what is going to make it a success. If we don’t get that, then we haven’t been as successful as we’ll want to be.

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