QA With Ryan Newman

ALLTEL Ford driver Ryan Newman held a question-and-answer session with members of the media Saturday at Michigan International Speedway. The following is a transcript of that conversation.

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT SUNDAY’S RACE?

“This is a great race track, not only for me, but just the race track itself. This is a place you can pass on because there are three or four grooves in the corners. Sometimes places click with a driver or a team with setups and we’ve had that so far at this place, so we’re looking forward to Sunday -- although we realize we can miss the setup just as easy as anybody else.”

HAS WINSTON CUP BEEN WHAT YOU EXPECTED?

“It’s been a little bit of everything really. It might be like walking into a championship game in a basketball tournament where you think you’re gonna win, but you don’t know and then you get to the last second and get beat. There’s so much hype around it, that you can never really expect or try to figure out what’s gonna happen, but, for me, I’ve enjoyed all of it and it’s been a lot of fun. Outside of that, it’s just what I want to do so I’m going to keep doing it.”

WHAT ABOUT THE DEMANDS ON YOUR TIME. IS THAT CONSTRAINING?

Sometimes yes and sometimes no. I guess it depends what kind of mood I’m in. That’s not the fun part of it, but it’s part of it and I accept that.”

WHAT’S THE FUN PART?

“Just driving -- sitting in the car for 500 miles and attacking the race track and the competitors, that’s the fun part of it for me. I like going to test and trying to get a head up on everybody else and then going back to the race track and kicking everybody’s butt.”

DO YOU HAVE THE URGE TO GET BACK TO SPRINTS OR MIDGETS?


“I’ve got the urge and I’ve got the offer, but it just doesn’t make sense for me to go back and do that right now. It would be fun, don’t get me wrong, I’d like to do it, but I don’t want to take any time or effort away from what I’m doing in Winston Cup.”

YOU’VE ALWAYS WANTED WINSTON CUP AND NOT INDY CAR?

“My goal has always been NASCAR Winston Cup. Kind of like the open-wheel deal and sprint cars, I wouldn’t want to take away from doing what I’m doing. Doing something like that would take a lot of focus away from the Winston Cup program, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t be managed.”

WITH YOUR ENGINEERING DEGREE YOU CAN UNDERSTAND WHAT’S GOING ON WITH THE CAR?


“Yeah, I guess that’s not always a good thing. It helps a lot. It helps me as much with understanding how the car works as it does being able to communicate with the guys. Sometimes as engineers we get way over our head when we’re trying to diagnose a problem, but, overall, it’s just a language and form of communication that helps me communicate with the guys.”

HOW ARE YOU AND RUSTY GETTING ALONG?


“Pretty good. We have our differences because we drive differently sometimes and we adapt differently to certain race tracks. I get along better on the mile-and-a-half and 2-mile race tracks, and he’s always been the short-track ace, which is sometimes just the way things go, but overall it’s been good.”

BESIDES WINNING TOMORROW ARE YOU DOING ANYTHING SPECIAL FOR FATHER’S DAY?


“In Pocono, when the motor failed, my dad said, ‘I guess you’re just gonna have to win on Father’s Day next week,’ so that’s my main goal. That’s what I’ve got to do.”

WHAT DOES YOUR DAD, GREG, DO ON THE TEAM?


“He’s multi-functional. He drives the coach and then he spots for me Friday and Saturday, unless John Erickson comes, who spots on Sunday. Plus he’s the second gas can man on Sunday.”

HOW DO YOU ATTACK THE SECOND HALF OF THE SEASON?

“That’s something, as a rookie team, we’re going to have to adjust and adapt to. We got to do it a little bit last year in the Busch Series, but, overall, it’s gonna be a learning transition for us, whereas other teams have experienced it. It should make things easier, but it’s gonna make things easy for everybody. We adapt to new rules, whether it’s getting an extra inch kickout from last year and things like that -- that we’ve had to adjust to all year. Hopefully, we can go back and do better, but, overall, we attack it the same way and do the best we can every day -- every practice session, every qualifying session, every race.”

EXPERIENCING LAPS AT ALL THESE TRACKS MUST BE BENEFICIAL.

“Definitely. I was talking to my crew chief, Matt, and I said that one of the biggest things I’ll take from this year into next year are green flag pit stops. You go to a race track like Dover, where we didn’t have a green flag pit stop, but at a place like Las Vegas you’ve got to kind of sweep out and kind of get a right angle to hit pit road. That’s something I didn’t have a clue of last year and that’s one of the biggest transitions from the form of racing that I used to do to Winston Cup. We didn’t have pit stops, so just getting adapted to that and being able to get that extra two seconds down pit lane on a green flag pit stop.”

FOR PEOPLE WHO AREN’T RACE CAR DRIVERS, HOW HARD IS A GREEN FLAG STOP?

“For somebody that doesn’t know, I guess it would be like driving down a road that’s got an ‘S’ in it and having a stop light right in the middle. You drive it in as fast as you can, to the limits of the car, stop, and then wait for the light to turn green and go down the road as fast as you can. There’s a lot of technique to it because of what you have to do with your feet and the pit stop -- pit road speed and that stuff there -- but it’s just tough to adapt to going from 180 miles an hour off turn four to 45 down pit lane.”

DOES THE TECHNIQUE CHANGE FROM TRACK TO TRACK?

“The technique doesn’t necessarily change, it’s just that the grip in the race track is usually big. At a place like Darlington or Rockingham, it’s easy to slide right through to the first white line getting onto pit road because you can’t stop like you can at Las Vegas or Atlanta. You have to adapt and then again, the brakes on the car are different at Daytona than they are at Bristol, so you have things like that too.”

DOES THIS TRACK FAVOR VETERAN DRIVERS BECAUSE THE GROOVE CAN CHANGE DURING THE RACE?

“I’d say part of that might be right, but I wouldn’t say that a rookie can’t go out and adapt just as fast or still be able to win the race. If you’ve got a good race car, you don’t have to adapt as much, so it’s kind of a catch-22.”

WHAT IS THE SECRET TO ALL OF THE SUCCESS FOR SPRINT CAR DRIVERS RECENTLY?

“I think the biggest thing in my eyes is car control. I know this from being in the garage, but sometimes I’ll run a looser setup than Rusty does and Tony Stewart runs a looser setup than Bobby Labonte does. Bobby will openly admit that. The way we drive our cars, I think, is a little bit different because of the experience we have with a sprint car that has 800 horsepower and 1400 pounds. I think that’s one of the biggest keys.”

WHEN WERE YOU FIRST APPROACHED ABOUT RACING BUSCH OR WINSTON CUP?

“We already had that relationship with Don Miller and Rusty Wallace and Roger Penske when we drove the ARCA Series. The first time I drove Winston Cup in Phoenix of 2000, they gave me an opportunity because we had done so well in the ARCA races just to test the waters and see what it was like. We qualified well, but we had brake problems in the race so we didn’t get to show what we really had. It was just something that they talked about and they said, ‘Hey, if he can do this and drive the same race car in a different series with a different tire, let’s try him and see.’ It was a blessing for me for them to give me the opportunity.”

DID YOU FEEL ANY PRESSURE?

“No, I don’t feel any pressure. Sometimes I get a little nervous, but that’s just all the hype that goes around it. Overall, there’s no reason for any pressure on me or the team or anything else, it’s all about going out and having fun and doing the best job we can.”

ARE THERE OTHER THINGS THAT PUT YOU ON EDGE, LIKE GREEN FLAG STOPS?

“Yeah, it’s different. It’s not like driving a race car to me. Like I said, it’s like coming up to a stop light as fast as you can and then leaving. There’s a lot of skill behind it, but it’s not like going out there and racing a fuel run and going 60 laps and trying to race the car as fast as you can. That’s just a different part of it.”

THE PIT BOXES ARE DIFFERENT EVERYWHERE, TOO.

“That’s part of it. At Bristol, some people come down the wrong pit road because they don’t know where they’re at. Dover is really tough on a yellow flag stop coming in and driving down pit road because tires are sitting there and the wall is really close to you. Then you go to a place like Pocono and you feel like you’re parking on a football field. You can do your deal and leave and not have to really worry about hitting anybody.”

HAS ANYTHING ABOUT THIS YEAR BEEN EASIER THAN YOU EXPECTED?

“No. Some things have come easier than I thought, but I couldn’t name one thing off the top of my head. Maybe getting our setup at Pocono. We tested there, but we clicked as soon as we unloaded off the truck for the test. Things like that sometimes, that are so hard to get. There are 43 teams out there struggling to get the best setup and usually there’s only one that gets it quite right. It’s just things like that, but it’s usually just a constant struggle.”

ROGER PENSKE HAS HAD SOME PRETTY NOTEWORTHY DRIVERS. THAT’S QUITE A LEGACY TO LIVE UP TO.

“Yeah, but they’ve chosen me for a reason. There’s no reason I should treat myself any differently before or after they’ve chosen me to do that. I just go out and attack the race track and everything else the way I think it should be and, so far, it’s not been a bad deal.”

WHO DO YOU CREDIT FOR YOUR COMPETITIVE NATURE?

“I’d say 95 percent of it is my dad. We’ve worked together for so long and he’s always taught me, basically, what’s right and wrong for a race car. We go to races and we’ll watch a specific car for the entire race just because of his driving style. There are so many things that are hidden -- educational moments I guess you could say that he’s taught me from the time I started racing until now.”

Related Topics:

NASCAR Sprint Cup, 2002

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