Ryan Newman Teleconference Transcript

Ryan Newman, driver of the No. 12 ALLTEL Taurus, goes into this weekend's Food City 500 ranked second in the NASCAR Winston Cup point standings behind Sterling Marlin. The Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate, who is coming off a fifth-place finish at Darlington last weekend, has posted four top-10 efforts in the first five races of 2002. Newman, along with crew chief Matt Borland, were this week's guests on the NASCAR Winston Cup teleconference.

TELECONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT

RYAN NEWMAN --12-- ALLTEL Taurus -- YOU MUST FEEL PRETTY GOOD ABOUT THE START TO YOUR SEASON? "Yeah, we've gotten off to a great start as a team and me as a driver. We've done some pretty special things. The past three races we've qualified in the top three and we've gotten our share of top-10s and top-fives this year and that's gotten us second in points. As a driver, I just need to focus on doing those things and have our race car there at the end of the race so that we can have the top-10 or top-five finish."

ARE YOU SURPRISED WITH THE QUICK START? "Yes and no. We knew we were capable of running where we are, running second in points and finishing in the top 10 and top five as we have. Our qualifying program is a result of the effort we had last year. We learned a lot of things in the Busch Series and the Winston Cup Series and I think we've been able to carry that over pretty successful this year. I think the success that we're having is based off the results we created last year."

DO YOU SEE ANY SIGNS OF THE 40 CAR SLOWING DOWN OR ARE THEY THE TEAM TO BEAT? "I don't see any signs of them slowing down, to answer your question, and as it stands right now they are the team to beat. They're the only car to finish in the top 10 in every race, which is a feat that five races in is pretty hard to do. At some point as the season goes they're gonna have their mechanical failures and we're gonna have our mechanical failures. There are teams that have already had their mechanical failures, whether it's Tony Stewart at Daytona or Dale Jarrett losing two engines. Those are the things that happen at some point in the year and Sterling Marlin hasn't had his yet. Hopefully, as a team, they're trying to eliminate that just like we are because we haven't had any mechanical failures, but, usually, they're destined to happen and at some point they probably will."

WHAT DID YOU LEARN LAST YEAR? "The length of the race was one of the biggest things I had to adapt to last year. I raced in some ARCA races before that, but the 300, 400, 500-mile races, whether it was a Winston Cup race at Charlotte or a Busch race at Dover, that was something I hadn't been used to in my entire racing career. I raced 30-, 40- or 50-lap races and sometimes they'd be over in eight to 10 minutes and that's just not the case in a Winston Cup or a Busch race. That's something I have to adapt to and have had to adapt to as a driver -- to be able to focus on hitting my marks and the competition and pit strategy and things like that -- two-tire and four-tire stops -- that I never had to before. I think that was one of the biggest gainers as far as me getting experience on the race track."

HAS IT BEEN FRUSTRATING NOT TO HAVE A POLE YET BECAUSE YOU'VE BEEN SO CLOSE ALREADY? "It's not been frustrating by any means. We started off and didn't qualify very well at Daytona and we struggled a little bit in qualifying at Rockingham. We came on strong at Las Vegas, Atlanta and Darlington, but it's gonna be difficult, for me, to qualify good going to Bristol for the first time in a Winston Cup car with all of that horsepower. But, at the same time, we've done the same this year as we did last year. We've carried a lot of ideas over as far as qualifying packages go and sometimes when you hit on that one thing you can adapt it to every race track that's ever been made. Fortunately, we've got a good package right now and, hopefully, that will stay until some day we decide to race motorcycles instead of race cars."

WHAT HAVE YOU DONE PHYSICALLY TO PREPARE FOR THIS SEASON? "There are a couple of things I've done both physically or mentally. Whether it's working out once or twice, maybe three times a week, I do that when I can and when I'm not busy or when it makes sense. You don't necessarily want to go and work out, at least I don't want to go work out after racing 400 miles at Darlington on Monday morning. At the same time, I have to keep my body conditioned so I do that. Obviously, diet is a big part and eating good food and staying hydrated is one of the biggest keys about finishing a 500-mile race in 100 percent condition. Mentally, I did a lot of things when I was in college as far as racing on computers and computer games -- racing 400 or 500-mile races on the computer, where, if you crash your car it doesn't matter and if you need to restart the game it doesn't matter. Those are things like that where it's just a factor of time and you can't replace that sometimes."

HOW GRACIOUS HAS RUSTY BEEN AS A TEAMMATE? "Very gracious. He came over the radio on Sunday after the race and said, 'Good job. You guys did an awesome job all day today.' He had a great run himself, but he shares a lot of respect and takes a lot of responsibility in us taking a backup car out after qualifying third, starting 41st and finishing fifth. That's something where it's hard to get a top-five sometimes no matter how hard you try with one race car let alone pulling out a backup car before the start of a race."

HOW ARE YOU GOING TO KEEP THAT CAR IN GOOD SHAPE SUNDAY AT BRISTOL? "One of the best ways to start the weekend is to qualify good. If you can qualify good, then you get a good pit stall and a good opportunity to stay on the lead lap and to stay out in front if you have a good race car. When you stay out front you've got a great chance to keep the fenders on that race car and stay on top of your game all day. You can make the strategy instead of having to play along with it when it comes to pitting and trying to stay on the lead lap. That's one of the harder things to do and it's not necessarily my responsibility at some point there, but, as a team, that's what we've got to focus on."

HOW DIFFICULT IS IT TO KEEP YOURSELF IN CHECK AND NOT GET TOO PHYSICAL AT BRISTOL? "Sometimes, like in basketball, you've got to create the foul in order to keep yourself in the game. We try not to do that as drivers because we have a lot of respect for each other, but it's difficult. I learned last year in the Busch race that it's difficult to be able to go out and stay focused on keeping the fenders on the race car and to stay focused on working on your own race car and attacking the race track. Some people have said that racing at Bristol is kind of like getting flushed in a toilet -- you just keep going around and around and, eventually, you sink. It's a fun place to race, but it can sink you at the same time."

WHAT KIND OF MOMENTUM AND CONFIDENCE DID LAST WEEK GIVE YOU? "Not only does it give us confidence for finishing in the top five from a team standpoint, but from a race shop standpoint as well. It's very important to be able to create two cars that are the same. You can go whether it's your Ford, Lincoln or Mercury dealer and have two cars produced on a production line and one might have a problem and the other one won't. They're all built by computers in some respect, whereas these race cars that I'm driving are all built by humans. Everything on that race car is hand-crafted and we try to build them as close as we can. To be able to take that same setup that we raced in practice and carry that over to a brand-new race car with a brand-new body on it and different suspension pieces that were all built by the same people, but in different ways sometimes, it's very gratifying to be able to take that race car and come home in the top five. It's a difficult feat, but it gives the team confidence to know that we're doing things the same and doing them right."

WHAT IS YOUR PHILOSOPHY ON LAPPED CARS AND THE HAND SIGNALS THAT GO WITH THAT? "Sometimes it's difficult. You see the hand signals getting used, I think, more often in the restrictor-plate races where you're trying to talk to people without losing focus on what you're doing as a driver. When it comes to lapped cars it's difficult. Sometimes, as it was at Darlington, when you had eight cars that got involved in that accident -- after they were able to continue after some body and mechanical repairs -- those cars aren't up to speed so they're difficult to work around sometimes. They're trying to use the same race track that you are because they want to go just as fast, but yet they have to get out of the way. A lot of the time their spotters are more of a help than the actual hand signals themselves because you can come up on them so fast that you don't have time to look at the driver's hand and see if he's waving. If you're looking for that, then you're not looking at the marks you need to be hitting as a driver yourself."

IS IT HARD TO SEE THE HAND SIGNALS? "It's very difficult sometimes. As safety has become more of a concern from a driver's standpoint, we've started to put more nets and head braces and restraint systems and things in the car that we can't necessarily get our hand up there. We can't necessarily see hand signals sometimes, even if it's out the left-side window. The spoiler stands up so high that it's hard to see out of the mirror sometimes, so it's difficult to see. If you're looking and you know the other guy is looking or signaling, you can usually see it, but it's very difficult at times."

HAVE YOU AND RUSTY TALKED AT ALL ABOUT THIS WEEKEND? "We haven't yet. There are a lot of things we do with the ALLTEL team that are very similar to what the Miller Lite team and Rusty Wallace does, but from a driver's standpoint we very much take into consideration the things Rusty does as a driver at a race track like that. When I talk to him and Matt Borland talks to Bill Wilburn, they'll compare notes and setups and tire pressures and springs and shocks and track bars and everything else. We'll make the best package for both teams and, whether we share or run the same exact package is yet to be determined, but, yes we definitely sit down and talk about it. Any driver would be crazy if he didn't sit down and listen to what Rusty Wallace had to say about racing at Bristol. Being a teammate, it's good to have that as a resource."

DO YOU FEEL NASCAR IS CHANGING WITH ALL THE YOUNG DRIVERS COMING UP NOW? "Yes and no. I mean, there are two sides to every piece of paper. You've got a transition of a lot of young drivers coming from Busch or open-wheel cars and that's happened quite a bit here recently. Whether it was Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart and Kenny Irwin and Mike Bliss made the transition -- they were all in their twenties, I believe, when they first stepped into NASCAR Winston Cup. Now with me being 24, I think Casey is 21 and Kurt Busch is 23, we've all earned the respect from the more veteran drivers and we've all earned the respect from our car owners to be put in these positions. It's kind of a Catch-22 both ways. We're young, but we wouldn't be here if we weren't experienced."

HAVE YOU BEEN ACCEPTED BY THE VETERAN DRIVERS? "You better ask them that question."

DO YOU FEEL YOU'RE GETTING RESPECT FROM THEM? "Yeah, more often than not -- definitely. Like before the race at Darlington I went over to Sterling and I said, 'Hey, I'm probably gonna follow you up through here if I can and if I've got the car underneath me because they're gonna move over faster for you than they'll move over for me.' So, yes, I think there's a lot of consideration and respect given, but maybe not as much as if I was a veteran driver."

MATT BORLAND, Crew Chief --12-- ALLTEL Taurus -- ARE YOU SURPRISED WITH THE START TO YOUR SEASON? "We knew we should be able to run pretty well, but we didn't expect to be running this well so early. We figured it would take a little bit longer than it has, but we've been pretty fortunate with some of the results and some of the things that have happened on the track with other teams as well."

HAS THE ENGINEERING BACKGROUND YOU AND RYAN HAVE HELPED? "I think it's definitely helped. Obviously, with Ryan having an engineering degree, they wanted to get an engineer to be his crew chief because we kind of talk the same language. I think that's been the biggest help is that we're able to communicate fairly well and that's always a big help for the races."

DO YOU SEE THAT AS A WAVE FOR THE FUTURE? "I'm not sure. I think it definitely helps to have an engineering degree, but I think there are a lot of other teams that have drivers and crew chiefs that are very good mechanically and they can bring a lot to the table that Ryan or I might not necessarily be able to bring, so it's just a different approach."

HOW DO YOU AND BILL WILBURN WORK TOGETHER? "We work real well together. Billy helped us out quite a bit last year and it pretty much just flowed into this year. We share all of our notes on everything that we do. We run the same chassis and the same bodies, so it's been a really good relationship."

HOW MUCH DO YOU STUDY TRACK SURFACES? "We do quite a bit of that. Obviously, there are a lot of different track surfaces that we go to. Bristol or Dover is concrete and then you go to a Darlington or Rockingham that is a very rough surface and tears up the tires pretty good. A lot of the other tracks are probably more similar, but the temperature plays a pretty big role on how the tires grip the track and that's something we always monitor even during the race itself, but during the weekend as well."

DO YOU ACTUALLY WALK ON THE TRACK OR STUDY IT THAT CLOSELY? "Sometimes. Usually when we go testing we'll walk the track, not necessarily for the type of asphalt but more for bumps that might be on the track or different surface characteristics that would make the setup be different or challenges for Ryan to make the setup work around them. But we don't do as much as far as the chemical makeup of the asphalt."

Related Topics:

NASCAR Sprint Cup, 2002

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