Changes Ahead For Newman

Ryan Newman and the No. 12 ALLTEL team are preparing for a season of change, not only for the team, but for all of the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series.

The 2004 NNCS season was defined by the inaugural "Chase for the Championship" and will continue to change NASCAR's premier series. A big move, new bodies, a new teammate and qualifying restructuring are only some of the challenges the ALLTEL team will face in 2005.

"Just when we think we have everything figured out, another thing changes," Newman said. "In all reality, none of the changes should affect the performance of the ALLTEL team.

"The NASCAR rule changes and scheduling changes are equal for everyone, so the playing field remains equal. The changes within the Penske organization will benefit everyone involved."

On Dec. 16, Penske Racing South's administrative staff packed boxes and moved the entire racing operation into a new, state-of-the-art facility. The Penske organization moved out of Lakeside Business Park in Mooresville, N. C., to the former Matsushita Compressor Corp. of America facility approximately five miles northeast of the current buildings.

The new Penske Racing South headquarters, located on Penske Way, is a 440,000-square-foot building, which will house the 2, 12 and 77 teams. The building also will house the Penske Racing South business offices. The building features wall-size graphics, depicting the history of Penske Racing South and a 300-foot fan walk overlooking much of the racing operation.

As a Dodge team, the ALLTEL crew members are busy adjusting to the new Dodge Charger, which will be used starting with the Bud Shootout at Daytona in February. A body change as great as this one, will greatly affect the race team, from set-ups, to testing, to on-track racing. Dodge teams have already begun testing the Charger both on the track and in wind tunnels.

"Anytime the body style changes on a race car, it's big," Newman said. "We just concentrate on how we can make it the fastest car on the track. We take the changes in stride and work with the car to prepare it for both qualifying and racing."

On Dec. 8, Penske Racing South announced that 2003 NASCAR Truck Series Champion Travis Kvapil will take over driving duties of the No. 77 Penske-Jasper Racing entry. Kvapil will join crew chief Shane Wilson, who remains with the team, for the team's second year of NNCS competition under the Penske-Jasper banner. Kvapil competed at Martinsville Speedway, Atlanta Motor Speedway and Homestead-Miami Speedway in the No. 06, a fourth entry for Penske Racing South and its driver development car in the season's last few weeks. Kvapil has already begun testing with the No.77 team.

NASCAR officials announced late in the 2004 season that qualifying for the majority of the 2005 NNCS events will be moved to Saturday morning. The traditional "Happy Hour" Saturday practice sessions for the Cup Series have been canceled. The series will now hold two hours of practice for the Cup teams on Friday. Saturday will host the series' qualifying, with the field impounded until race time. With this change, NNCS teams will be forced to qualify in race trim, as opposed to the faster qualifying trim, a change that media members believe will most affect the ALLTEL team.

Newman has won the annual Bud Pole Award for the past three years in Cup Series competition. Clearly, the series' most prolific qualifier, Newman doesn't believe the changes will alter his qualifying success.

"While the rules may have changed, the playing field is still the same," Newman explained. "We won poles while everyone was in qualifying trim, and we'll win poles when everyone is in race trim. Collectively, our goal is to be the fastest car every time we're on the track. That won't change with this rule."

Following a short break for the holiday season, Newman and the ALLTEL team will settle into their new home on Penske Way. Testing for the 2005 season, and the unveiling of the new Dodge Charger, will take place at Daytona International Speedway during the week of Jan. 10-14.

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