NASCAR Media Conference
October 11, 2005
DAN PASSE: Welcome to the 2005 Chase for the NASCAR Nextel Cup teleconference. Thank you for joining us. One quick housekeeping note as we head back to Charlotte. The NEXTEL Wake-Up Call will be at a special time and day, Thursday at 6 p.m. in the Lowe's Motor Speedway media center with guest Carl Edwards. Today we're joined by Ryan Newman, driver of the No. 12 ALLTEL Penske Racing Dodge Charger. As you no doubt know, Ryan is also part of the second Chase for the NASCAR Nextel Cup currently in second place in a 10-race competition, a mere 75 points behind the leader. Ryan kicked off the Chase in an explosive style with a win in New Hampshire, followed by solid runs in Dover and Talladega. Ryan of course is known as the King of the Pole Positions with 33 career poles, six of those gotten this year. This year he's also had eight top fives and 13 top tens. A little sponsor news from Ryan as part of the ALLTEL's Go Racing With Ryan Give Away, last week in an ALLTEL retail store in Tampa, Ryan awarded one ALLTEL customer, Joe DeCorte of Tampa, an all expense Lowe's Motor Speedway. That includes putting Joe's name under the ALLTEL logo under the deck lid of the No. 12. Also Ryan is hosting his annual Fan Club Day at Concord Mills. That will be tomorrow. Ryan has been a busy guy. He will be returning to Busch action this weekend. Ryan, back to Nextel Cup. You started on the pole and finished fifth at Lowe's in the spring. Tell us how you feel your team and car are set up for this weekend.
RYAN NEWMAN: Hopefully in better shape. We got involved in the spring race at the Coke 600 in one of the big crashes going into turn one and knocked the front nose in, still finished fifth with I think about 20 or so laps to go there. Really feel we had a car that was capable of winning. We should hopefully be able to go back. I know the track has changed a little bit, but I think the conditions are going to be very similar for speed and grip. Hopefully be able to repeat in our qualifying efforts, barring any damage, hopefully be able to improve upon a top five as far as the race goes.
DAN PASSE: We'll open it up to questions from callers.
Q. With the win at the open for the Chase, last week's situation at Kansas, do they kind of even each other out in some respects?
RYAN NEWMAN: In a way, yeah, you could say that. I mean, we were disappointed obviously with our finish at Kansas, and super elated with our finish at New Hampshire, especially with how much of a struggle it's been with our team this year as far as performance up until that point. We hope to be able to turn around what didn't happen at Kansas with a top five run at Charlotte. We feel we're plenty capable of doing that.
Q. There's going to be a CNN special coming up about NASCAR drivers as athletes, what their body goes through. I was wondering if you could kind of put into perspective what it's like after a full Nextel Cup race, what it's like on the body trying to do both a Busch and a Cup race in the same weekend, how it affects performance.
RYAN NEWMAN: I think if you're in the right condition, you don't feel any of it. I'm not in the right condition (laughter). When I say "feel it," I say feel it maybe a day or a day and a half afterwards. Just basically kind of like achy bones, you rode a horse all day long, got off, you kind of feel it. It's that type of feel. Basically, you have to stay hydrated, you have to be flexible, you have to be in good condition in the first place. But racing the Busch race is kind of just a good warm-up for the Cup race the following day. If you're not in good condition, it can actually tire you out. Most importantly, have to stay hydrated. It depends on the racetrack and it depends on the time of year how physical and for that matter how mental the stress is as far as how tough the racing is. In saying that, you just have to go out and do the best job you can. There's time to do training and there's time to work out and things like that throughout the week. I'm not a big fan of it, even though I should be. I feel at the end of the race, whether it's a Busch race or Cup race, I didn't give anything up because of my strength or stamina.
Q. Do you like how this Chase format is set up or maybe if you think the drivers in the Chase maybe should be scored separately in their own points system?
RYAN NEWMAN: I think all that's water under the bridge as far as the other competitors and a different points system. I mean, in the grand scheme of things, it would be like having - what do you call it - the losers bracket playing in the playoffs. It's kind of beside the point. But that's the way the point system is structured as far as having the Top 10 compete for the championship. Maybe yes, maybe no. It all depends on who you are and what your outlook is. In the grand scheme of things, it doesn't make a difference as far as the outcome of a championship.
Q. What is your take on NASCAR's proposal to limit the number of cars a team can own? Is there a certain number that's okay but crosses the line into too much?
RYAN NEWMAN: That's kind of a loaded question because I don't exactly know how they intend on doing that. I know they have a situation now or a scenario now where Rick Hendrick doesn't own all four or five whatever teams he has. He splits the names up to different names. I don't know if they're going to try to do a situation. The obvious benefit is having so many teams under one roof, sharing the same information. I don't exactly know how they'll be able to limit that. That's why I said it's a loaded question, because I don't exactly know what they're proposing or would propose. I know the situation already is kind of contorted in the first place.
Q. Going into the Chase for the championship, you knew what was at stake, what you had to do. Did you change anything at all in terms of how you approach each race? Every driver has their own different formula on how they're going to go into this thing. Did you change anything in terms of talking with your crew, trying something a bit different, or stay the course from the season?
RYAN NEWMAN: We kept doing the exact same things that we were doing. Obviously, just tried to make them better. We kind of proved that at Loudon. You have to stay focused and do the exact same things over and over again. That's the repetitive cycle of 36 consecutive races or roughly consecutive races for the championship. You're always trying to fix the things that you do wrong. You're always trying to do the things that you do right better. I don't think that we do a complete regroup or a refocus going into the last 10 races as much as people would maybe do a regroup or a refocus through the off-season getting ready for the next season.
Q. 2 through 8, you're all bunched up there, 41 points separate you and Tony Stewart, that maybe if you have a voodoo doll. If he has a problem, it would be one heck of a battle coming down the stretch.
RYAN NEWMAN: Yes and no. I mean, there's no point in doing that. We have to stay focused as a team, go out and do the best job we can. Nothing that we do, aside from the obvious, would benefit us as far as Tony Stewart and his situation. There's nothing that we can do outside of what Tony is in control of, the situations that happen on the racetrack. Obviously, we didn't want to be involved in the crash that we were at Kansas. You never know what's going to happen.
Q. Do you think it's almost impossible to go 10 races without having some kind of problem?
RYAN NEWMAN: I wouldn't say it's almost impossible. I think the problems that you have, you become a championship team if you can overcome those.
Q. Can you talk about your jack-man, what happened there, and also about Charlotte. A lot of people are worried about Charlotte, will the tires hold up, are the speeds too fast. That seems redundant, except people are concerned about the tires and the speeds. Also mention what happened with your jack-man.
RYAN NEWMAN: Mitch, our jack-man, he was jacking the right side the car when the 11 car driven by Denny Hamlin was coming into his pit. It just basically hit Mitch in the heel, his right heel. I know he has severe bruising. It was potentially a cracked bone. I'm not sure if it was or not. Just basically swollen foot. He told me actually, I should know this, but he's definitely got some sort of rehab he's got to do. Brit Goodrich will be jacking this weekend. I will say this, that Denny Hamlin did call first thing Monday morning and get ahold to Mitch to, first of all, apologize, let him know that it wasn't intentional, and make sure he was doing the best he could be. I appreciate Denny doing that. Secondly, the track itself, I think because of all the rain that we had, it's going to be very imperative that the track gets some rubber laid down on it because of the speeds and because of the grip. I know that's part of what the Cup cars struggle with in their testing there, the track was very, very green, and the Busch cars, when I was there, didn't have near the problem. I know that because some of the drivers that were there the first week were there the second week with their Busch cars. Hopefully the track will be rubbered in somewhat and we can go about business as usual. I think the track will be in good shape as far as speed grip and passing ability.
Q. When you look at the Chase so far, is there anything that surprises you?
RYAN NEWMAN: Not really. I think Tony's doing the same thing Tony did before the Chase. We put together a string of top fives back in the first of the season there at Charlotte, Darlington and Richmond. We did that again at the start of the Chase. Hopefully we can keep it up. I feel that we have the team and potential to do that. The Roush cars are running good at mile and a half tracks. It seems to be business as usual this year, these last four races or whatever it's been, compared to the first 26.
Q. Beginning of the year there was a lot made about some kind I don't even want to use the term "rift" between you and Rusty Wallace. Rusty said he has had no problem with you. You said you had no problem with him. I think Rusty is having a spectacular Chase. Could you comment on that?
RYAN NEWMAN: We both are. That says a lot about what Penske Racing has done. I feel we struggled a lot this year in performance, and I think part of it is in relation to the Dodge Charger itself. We're doing our best to work with that car. As a whole, both Rusty and myself, and Travis for that matter, have done well at times. Rusty has been I'd say more consistent and consistently in the top 10, where we've been a little more hot and cold. We're more top fives and top 20s, which we're not happy about. The whole situation with myself and Rusty is just an ongoing situation.
Q. Has it been a bit of an impediment in this chase using the Dodge? You have to run what you're brung. Has it been more of a struggle with this car than maybe with a Ford ?
RYAN NEWMAN: That's total potential prediction. I don't know. It's obvious that the Roush guys had their Fords figured out. Between the 20 and the 48, they're pretty good at times with their Chevrolets. Basically it's not an option, so we don't think about it. You never know because you know how much different they still are. The cars are very much different between the Chevrolet, the Ford and the Dodge, even though they have so many common templates.
DAN PASSE: Ryan, we thank you for helping us out today. We look forward to seeing you at track Thursday.
RYAN NEWMAN: Thank you.
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