NASCAR Media Conference
August 18, 2009
HERB BRANHAM: Our special guest today is Ryan Newman, driver of the No. 39 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet in the Sprint Cup Series. Ryan has a very busy week ahead, to say the least, at Bristol. He's attempting to become the first driver to race in a NASCAR touring series event and then three national series events all in the same week. Wednesday night he's going to be in the combination event for the NASCAR Modified and Southern Modified tours, then he'll be in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race. Friday it's onto the NASCAR Nationwide Series event and on Saturday night he'll top it off in NASCAR Sprint Cup competition, trying to solidify his position in the series points in hopes of making the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, that's our playoffs that determine the Sprint Cup champion.
Ryan, you're ninth in the Sprint Cup Series points, but obviously not worried about branching out into some other series. Just how did this really unbelievable schedule for the week come together for you?
RYAN NEWMAN: Well, obviously we were doing the Cup race either way. In the off-season I was trying to find some other things to race. After my experience with Kevin and DeLana Harvick's race at Atlanta last year, we put some truck races on the schedule, Bristol being one of them. Actually, I found out the modifieds were going to Bristol. Turns out, obviously due to great planning it's at the same time and same weekend as the Cup race. We did those three things, had those. It would be nice if I had a Nationwide drive to do all four. We had moved the schedule around a little bit with (indiscernible) Motorsports instead of doing the Kansas City race to go to Bristol and do the Bristol race.
I talked to Tony Stewart, said, What do you think about this? He says, Has anybody done it? No. You got to do it. That's part of the reason. I want to win all races. Bristol is a great racetrack and I really look forward to it.
HERB BRANHAM: Excellent. Thanks for that opener. We'll go to the media now for questions for Ryan Newman.
Q. You certainly have a lot of racing on tap at a very short track. It would make me dizzy. Obviously you haven't done this before, but how do you prepare for four races at such a short track with all those Gs pulling on your body constantly?
RYAN NEWMAN: I just go do it. I mean, it kind of goes back to having good preparation with the racecars obviously, you know, having the car set up right and feeling right. It's 1100 laps of racing, but there's obviously probably another maybe thousand laps I guess maybe in practice session. It's quite a few laps. But it's at Bristol. It's a half mile.
Yeah, it's physical. But staying hydrated, eating right, those are the biggest things. I don't think pure muscle stamina or anything like that is going to be the biggest issue. I think it's just going to be managing the heat and the hydration, just being ready and having fast racecars.
Q. How much do you need to change your driving style depending which vehicle you're racing in?
RYAN NEWMAN: I'll let you know. I've never driven anything but a Nationwide or Cup car at Bristol. The truck I think will be similar, but the modified is going to be a lot different. I've got experience with the modified. At New Smyrna, we won down there Speedweeks. Obviously at Loudon, we've ran there a couple times. I understand what the car feels like. We just put one of my Cup seats in it this past weekend. They put the seat in it this past week. That will help me because it will be the exact same seat in all four vehicles, per se, that Butler built for me. Every car should feel the same. It's just a matter of making them fast.
Q. About these fuel mileage races, do you enjoy being in those kind of races? Seems like a frustrating way to race.
RYAN NEWMAN: No, it's a frustrating way to lose. It's just like any other form of racing: you're gonna have to have some form of energy to propel the racecar. In ours, it comes in the form of gasoline and there's only so much of it. It's the driver's and team's and engine department's responsibility. The car has to hold as much fuel as it possibility can, according to the rules. The driver has to manage the fuel in the situation. The engine company has to tune the engine right so it's optimized for fuel economy as well as horsepower.
There's three or four different ways of looking at it. The bigger the racetrack, the closer you're going to come to running out on a given lap. You go to places like Martinsville and Bristol where you can do 120, 130 laps on a tank on a fuel, the extra three or four you can make up pretty easy. You get to a place like Michigan, where it's two miles, you can't make up two or four typically, if you do, you've done some magic.
It's always been a part of racing. It will always be. As long as we're propelling these things, unless they're solar powered, it's a bright, sunny day, we don't have any kind of issues in that situation. It's a frustrating way to lose, yeah, but it's part of racing. It always has been and always will be no matter what series we're in.
Q. Just looking ahead for a preview, the Atlanta race has been moved to the Labor Day weekend, at night that Sunday night. Your thoughts on the Labor Day race at Atlanta under the lights?
RYAN NEWMAN: I look forward to it. I think it will be a new situation for Atlanta. Atlanta has struggled a little bit for their fall race in the past. I think it will be great racing on a night race in general, compared to the day races we typically have there. To me, some of the neatest laps we run all year are night qualifying laps at Atlanta. I've been pretty successful at that. Racing at night there will be I think good for the fans, being that it's cooled down a little bit, fun for the drivers. From what I understand, Goodyear has done some extensive tire testing there and the tire should be a lot better for racing.
Q. Ryan, a brain power question for you. Since your IQ has to be way above average, bigger than mine, you're a great person to ask this question. What does mental toughness mean to you and what is your opinion of the role of mental ability in NASCAR drivers at this level?
RYAN NEWMAN: Well, mental toughness is personally about overcoming adversity. You can be tough in the first place, but if something knocks you down and you're no longer tough, you're not as tough as you should have been. That's where the adversity -- it's where you have to overcome that adversity. That mental toughness has to be recuperating, rebuilding at the same time.
For me driving the racecar, it's what they say about being Army strong, you have to be mentally tough, physically tough, emotionally tough. If any one of those three lets down, the other two are going to go right behind it. That mental toughness is just the same. It's 33 and a third across the board. They each have their own independent responsibilities or groupings I guess you could say. If one gets weak, it will take the other ones right down with it.
Bristol is a place that you have to be mentally tough. We've always talked about how the emotions can run high and hot at Bristol. Part of that is one bleeding over to the other for lack of a better term.
Q. Your take on the mental ability of all drivers at that level.
RYAN NEWMAN: Well, I mean, there's definitely stronger drivers when it comes to mental ability. You'll see that no matter what series you're watching or a part of. Then you get to different racetracks, you see it come out and shine a little bit differently or reflect a little bit differently than other racetracks.
There are drivers that are smart, there are drivers that are mentally smart, and then there are drivers that emotionally can't handle certain things.
Q. Could you talk a little bit about it's been a pretty tight Race to the Chase, can you tell me what you think it will take to make the Chase, what kind of finishes? Could you also address what you've seen in terms of improvement in Kurt Busch's team this year.
RYAN NEWMAN: The first part, I mean, you get top fives and you're in no matter what. But that's not been easy to do. You look at last week at Michigan with the fuel mileage situation, the guys that were running out, the guys that were on the bubble for the Chase, it's a difficult situation. But that's part of racing. We all have to get through those adverse times.
I don't know what it's gonna take exactly. All I know is we're gonna try our best, do what we can with the U.S. Army Chevrolet to put it in the best position at the end of the race. If that means be a little conservative, or risk a little bit, then we'll do it. It all depends on the situation and the points of other people at that time.
With respect to Kurt, he's been a lot more consistent this year on the racetrack. It seems like they've got some better horsepower than they have in the past. They've struggled a little bit at times with reliability. They've been pretty consistent and pretty strong at different times, at different racetracks.
Q. As a guy that is close to all these race teams every weekend, how big of a surprise was it that Vickers won Sunday?
RYAN NEWMAN: I wouldn't say it was a big surprise. I mean, he's won the last three poles there. He's been competitive at those types of racetracks, especially this year. So I wouldn't say it's a surprise.
I mean, I don't think he was the dominant car all day. From what I understand and what I saw, the 48 was the car to beat, especially towards the end of the race. But, you know, it's racing. Not all the time does the fastest car win.
Q. Is that sort of a team to keep an eye on from this point on?
RYAN NEWMAN: From my standpoint and from most people's standpoint, you have to keep an eye on everybody. There's two different ways of looking at it. You don't really keep an eye on everybody, you just do your own thing. You have to be aware that anybody can beat you at any time. That's what I mean by keeping an eye on everybody, because if you sit there and think that you're gonna be okay, you're probably not. You're too complacent.
Q. Ryan, after the recent repavement a couple years ago at Bristol, it went from single file to the double file. Which style do you like better? Do you think the track will wear out to the point where it will go back to the freight train style?
RYAN NEWMAN: I think the racing and the track is definitely better the way it is now. It was fun before, don't get me wrong. It was really fun to hustle the car around there. Running that 1490 was a blast. To me, the racing is better because it's double file. I've seen it and been a part of three-wide racing there for the lead with the Nationwide Series a couple years ago when it was freshly done.
I think it's more a combination of the tire that Goodyear brings with respect to the concrete we saw this past spring that the racing wasn't three-wide as it had been in the past at that same racetrack at different times.
I think it's a combination of more the tire and the track than it is the age of the concrete. Concrete doesn't change very much if at all over time. It's more the combination of tire and racing we can do with that tire.
Q. We've been asking all the drivers what their favorite tracks are. The catch is, can you give me one track that you currently run on and one that may be a track you previously ran on or a track that is now an inactive track?
RYAN NEWMAN: In respect to what?
Q. What are your favorite tracks to actually race on?
RYAN NEWMAN: Just favorites in general? My favorite we race on now is Darlington. I think it's one of the best racetracks because it's the most challenging. It was more challenging before they repaved it. It's still challenging now.
But for me, my all-time favorite racetrack is Winchester Speedway in Winchester, Indiana. Running the Midget and Sprint car there was an absolute blast. The one track I would have liked to have raced on, I don't know I've ever seen a picture of it in full, the full racetrack itself, it was Jungle Park - it's called Playland Park in South Bend, Indiana. It was like the original dirt track right up next to the Saint Joseph's River. That's where all the big Indy guys used to come up and play, was right next to the river. They actually had racecars that ended up in the river. So it's gotten some big history. The grandstands are concrete, they're still there, but nothing else is.
Q. Do you think fans understand the physical part of racing Bristol and what do drivers talk about before and after a race?
RYAN NEWMAN: I think any fan that's been in the pits, behind the scenes, seen the drivers, probably understands it. Not necessarily in our pits, but in any kind of racing pits. You know, seeing what the drivers have to go through, how much they sweat, things like that. Outside of that, I'd say probably not. I'd say it's probably 50/50, the fans that understand what the drivers physically go through.
But in my eyes it doesn't matter. I mean, it doesn't really matter. I don't care that the fans know what I go through. I care that the fans enjoy what they're seeing more so than anything else.
Q. And Bristol, does that have its special physical punishment at all?
RYAN NEWMAN: It's not the most physical, but it's right there with some of them. The road courses are probably the most physical racetracks we race on. It all depends, as well, the temperature outside. I've been to Pocono and been wore out at the end of a race when it's 90 degrees, been at Bristol when it's 65 degrees, be totally fine at the end of the day. The ambient temperature means more probably than anything else.
Q. Are you doing the Nationwide race at Atlanta?
RYAN NEWMAN: I don't have any plans of running the Nationwide race in Atlanta, no.
Q. Can you talk about double-file restarts on a track that is that fast. One of the fastest tracks on the circuit.
RYAN NEWMAN: I think when you're talking about Atlanta, I think double-file restarts are more advantageous at the bigger racetracks. For me, Michigan and Pocono, some of the places where there's a wide turn one or turn one and two, you can get pretty wide. You can make some gains. I tried to do some crazy restarts at Loudon and they didn't work out very good just because the track gets so narrow off turn two. I think Atlanta, with how wide, some guys are in the top, some guys run the middle, some guys run up high, you'll see guys trying to go four-wide on some of these restarts. I think it will make the racing really more exciting for the fans.
Q. You were in a unique position because when you went into the Penske farm system, they brought you up with three programs. If you were a guy like Brad Keselowski, you had a decision to make whether to stay in the Hendrick organization or go to Penske, what kind of advice would you give Brad?
RYAN NEWMAN: Do whatever he feels right for himself. I mean, he can only do what makes him happy. We always talk about how stressful and how crazy life is as a NASCAR driver. But it's really not even a job. It's what we love to do. You have to be fair to yourself before anybody else. Don't do something that you don't think you'll have fun at. That's the bottom line.
Q. Would there be advantages of one company over another?
RYAN NEWMAN: It's all his flavor. Some people like chocolate. Some people like vanilla. It's all what he wants, who he wants to be with and who he's associated with.
HERB BRANHAM: Ryan Newman, thanks to you and best of luck this week. Heck of a challenge ahead. Bring it home.
RYAN NEWMAN: Thank you. Thanks for having me on. We'll try our best in all four of 'em.
HERB BRANHAM: Much appreciated.
And to all the media who participated today, we appreciate the coverage.
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