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NASCAR Media Conference

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Stock Car Racing Topics:  NASCAR

NASCAR Media Conference

Ryan Newman
September 28, 2004


THE MODERATOR: Hi, everybody who's called in. This is Denise Maloof. I'm your substitute host this week because TJ can't make it. I just wanted to let you know that I just found out Michael Waltrip has a scheduling conflict and he will not be joining us this morning. However, his PR Rep does have some information, quotes, etc., that she is going to make available to us later this afternoon, is going to send us, and we can offer that up to you guys later this afternoon, the transcript of it, about Talladega. I apologize so much for the conflict, the fact that we won't have Michael joining us for a few minutes, but do hang on and wait on Ryan. He should be calling in in just a few moments. We will try to make some sort of quotes and information on Michael available to you a little bit later this afternoon when we get it. Thanks for hanging in there with us, and I'll talk to you in a few minutes when we get Ryan. Welcome, everybody, to the NASCAR NEXTEL teleconference today, and thanks for being patient and standing by today. We do have Ryan with us, but let me give you a couple of things real quick before we get to Ryan. The NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series is at Talladega Sunday for Round 3 of the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup. NBC will carry it live beginning at 1:30. The NASCAR Busch Series is taking a week off; I think it might be their last one off. The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series will take its championship battle to California Speedway this Saturday night for a 10:00 p.m. eastern start live on SPEED Channel. This week the NEXTEL leader bonus is at $90,000 for Talladega, and it will go to the race winner if he is also the points leader at the end of the event. The NEXTEL Wake-Up Call is at 8 a.m. Saturday in the media center at Talladega, and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. is the scheduled guest. Our guest this afternoon is Ryan Newman. He is the driver of the No. 12 ALLTEL Dodge. He is also fresh off a victory at Dover, his second win this season, I think, Ryan - if I do my math right. He ranks 8th right now in the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup heading into Talladega.Ryan has two top ten finishes in five events at Talladega. He finished 11th in the spring race there. Ryan, thanks for joining us today.

RYAN NEWMAN: No problem.

THE MODERATOR: You've definitely got some momentum going, thanks to Sunday. It looks like you and Crew Chief Matt Borland and the entire team are clicking right along heading into Talladega. Is that pretty much the case, do you think?

RYAN NEWMAN: Yeah, we were a little bit disappointed in the good run we had going there at New Hampshire, but turned around and followed through at Dover. That felt really good, especially after the way we ran last year, to be able to come back and do the same thing - or at least attempt to do the same thing as far as dominating the race. It was just a good run all day for our ALLTEL Dodge and, you know, very much deserving to the guys on the team because they work so hard all year. Now we got two victories to claim for.

THE MODERATOR: You guys seem to, once you get ahead of steam, you don't let it go for a few weeks. You can get on these runs, it seems like. You think you might be on one?

RYAN NEWMAN: Well, historically, it usually takes about 10 weeks for us to get off of a run. If we start one right now, we should be in good shape, and that would include the Daytona 500 next year. All things aside, that's just, you know, potential. But I think we have a great race team, and we have great race cars going into these last eight races. We look forward to each and every lap, no matter if it is at Talladega or Kansas for that matter.

THE MODERATOR: Sounds good. Let's get some questions for Ryan.

Q. Heading into Talladega this week - and I know this is an overly-simplistic question - but there's always that fear and somewhat trepidation of going to Talladega. What would fix that? What would make that more pleasing to you guys to not really not look forward to hitting that track?

RYAN NEWMAN: I guess just in general, you know, having a package that we can race and not draft, you know, basically, or handling what's a little more important or the car separated out because the car basically had a handling advantage over another car. That would make it more fun from a driver's standpoint. Obviously, it's very fun from a spectator's standpoint.

But, you know, that doesn't include the driver's feelings.

Q. When we talk super speedways, you know, you don't hear that much discussion over Daytona. What separates these two tracks?

RYAN NEWMAN: Mostly the surface itself. Talladega is more of a forgiving surface. Daytona pretty much eats up the tires, and you have to handle at that race track. That's why you've seen what you saw this year as far as the Daytona 500 with the three cars separating themselves from the rest of the pack and basically not being able to pass each other because of the handling part of it and the (inaudible) part of it at the same times. Talladega, it seems like we finish under the checkered flag usually four wide, four deep, no matter what lap it is.

Q. You're on record as not liking the championship format. That has absolutely nothing to do with my question except as setup. But, considering the fact that in the two races, you have run so well with that one win and then ran so well at Loudon only to go out late, is this fun? I mean, are you having some fun with it despite your misgivings?

RYAN NEWMAN: I'm having fun with the racing part of it, you know. Going back to the points system, I've always said that I don't like the points system from a competitor's standpoint, which is what I am. And, you know, I think that might be a good marketing strategy, and we'll see what that turns out to be at the end of the year as far as the stats go. But I think overall, we're here to race, and we attack each lap at each race track in the thoughts of being the fastest and doing our best to be able to win. The points system is just kind of a separate situation where if we race good, the points will take care of themselves.

Q. Isn't that something that all athletes go through, though, because there is that line between competition and marketing, and a lot of athletes don't like to see the marketing end of it come into their competition?

RYAN NEWMAN: Yes, I agree with you, but I don't think that was something that NASCAR necessarily needed, or the NEXTEL Cup Series necessarily needed. I think the whole idea of revamping the points system kind of got blown out of proportion. Like I said throughout the entire year, it is what it is this year. We'll take it for what it's worth. Everybody has had an equal opportunity. Not everybody has an equal opportunity right now, in these last ten races, and that was part of my pet peeve of it. But we'll go on and try to do our best to win the championship.

Q. Confidence still as high as it was two races ago, or even higher?

RYAN NEWMAN: You know, I think your confidence can get too high in some respects. But if you just maintain the focus - and I said it at Dover, you know, when I was doing the post-race media stuff - I said today's victory celebration is over. We have to stay focused on what happens next week and that's Talladega, and it's a different race car, a different race track.

Q. I was hoping you could spin ahead. You mentioned Kansas. Talk about how you think the race there might be different from last year. We haven't seen the kind of fuel mileage races that we did last year. I was curious about your take about that.

RYAN NEWMAN: The potential is always going to be there for a fuel mileage race no matter if it's Martinsville or Talladega or Kansas. So, you know, it was, you know, for us, it was just a good strategy race for us last year. We were in a position to run out of fuel at the end of the race, but we obviously had enough to make it. We were in the right position because of the way the yellow flag fell. That's just part of strategy. That's part of what they call "racing luck." That can happen at Talladega, that can happen at Martinsville, and that can happen at Kansas, you know, three races in a row or whatever. So we're just going to take it one step at a time. I think we've, just out of coincidence, not seen as many fuel mileage races this year with the exception of my instance there at Richmond where we were just barely able to make it, and that got us in the Chase for the NEXTEL Cup just because of fuel mileage.

Q. Another question a little more about Talladega and other tracks in general. Your team is known as, you know, the "engineering team." All you guys have engineering degrees. Yet when you go to a track, I've heard you talk about, "It's the driver finding the fastest way around the track." Can you talk about how you determine what the fastest loop is.

RYAN NEWMAN: Just, you know, basically just feel, you know, how your car is set up, what the ideal line is. You don't want to bind your race car up, whether it's qualifying at Talladega or Martinsville, for that matter, or just getting the right arcs, getting into turn one at Kansas, which is one of the most difficult corners that we race at all year (inaudible). You just try to find that ultimate line. Buddy Baker has done a lot to help me to figure those things out. That's (inaudible) the process of doing it, which is quite private. But everybody's got their own way of finding their ideal line and their ideal groove, and then finding a package of springs and shocks and sway bar, everything else, to make that work.

Q. Last week's race at Dover was very, very clean, especially for a Dover race. I don't even think there were any two-car cautions there. Going to Talladega, it's a different animal. Do you think that there actually is a lot more respect going on because of this title championship, and how is it going to affect Talladega?

RYAN NEWMAN: I don't know. I mean, I think that's everybody's question going in - is it going to be crazy, or is it going to be relaxed? I think it has more potential to be crazy, but, you know, at the same time, we never know. So we just have to take each lap one lap at a time and, you know, see how things turn out. Some of the biggest crashes we've had at Talladega have been because of blowing tires and (inaudible) because of debris. Those things aren't related to crazy drivers or the points system or anything else.

Q. First of all, did you find a good place for that cool Dover trophy?

RYAN NEWMAN: Yeah, that's a funny story right there. We had it sitting at our conference table here, when you first walk in the (inaudible). I brought the dogs in today and Mopar (phonetic), the one that never speaks, just started barking and howling at it. He's part hound dog. So it was funny to watch him go off on the Monster trophy. But that's where it is right now. It's definitely a cool trophy.

Q. I was asking Matt Kenseth about this last week, you seem to be totally opposite of him when it comes to this. But what is it about qualifying for you? Can you put it into words how important that is for you.

RYAN NEWMAN: It's very important for me, you know, both physically and mentally. But basically it's a great starting incentive for the entire weekend, for the guys on the team. You got guys that come in on Sunday morning or Saturday night that are guys that change tires and do things like that, and they get pumped up when they realize you're starting on the front row or you got the pole or you got the best shot at, you know, the start of a good day to (inaudible) five bonus points. That's very important. You know, secondly, (tech) position as well as pit selection, all those things make it that much easier for the guys on the crew. To answer your next question, we click at it because we work on it. It's pure teamwork, and it's effort. It takes everybody from the people that hang the bodies to the horsepower that we have under the hood to my line to the Crew Chief Matt Borland's setup and so on.

Q. With Talladega, is it as important? I mean, it ends up not really mattering where you start there, does it?

RYAN NEWMAN: Well, you know, again, if it gives you an opportunity to get a good pit selection, get an opening, you may not get caught on pit lane. You might be able to get to lead your only lap of the day on the first lap if you get the pole. You know, you just never know. Those are five bonus points, and all it takes is one point to make the difference in a champion to second place. So it's still critical and, you know, it's definitely one of the hardest places to get a pole. We've yet to get a pole at either a road course or (a short track).

Q. Real quick. Your teammate, Rusty Wallace, retiring after next year. What have you learned from him? How much are you going to miss him?

RYAN NEWMAN: Oh, yeah. Rusty has taught me a lot about short tracks, you know, mostly from just watching him and learning. He's an awesome short-track racer. I think, equally, everybody at the 12 car has taught him, his team, some of the tricks of the intermediate tracks. He's done a lot better there than he had the past couple years. So it's going to be a unique situation for me, especially for being in my fourth year, his retirement year, as well as what it's going to be like when he's gone. I don't know exactly how it's going to be.

Q. At the start of this chase we talked about Mark Martin. Some people would talk about him being like a sleeper, kind of a wildcard guy, or just maybe kind of sentimental that he was in the chase to begin with. He starts pretty strong, runs really well at Dover, now he has all these tracks where he has won multiple races. What kind of label would you give him now? He's 4th place, 50 out of the lead, how would you assess his chances now?

RYAN NEWMAN: He's a contender for the championship. He's just another contender and competitor. I don't think he's any different than anybody else right now in the top ten. He's yet to have a bad race; Matt Kenseth had his this past weekend, and both me and Jeremy and Tony had ours at Loudon. If he can get away without having a bad race, he's got a better shot at the championship, but so does everybody else. So equal opportunity with eight races left.

Q. He's not the one everybody's talking about, but you have to put pretty good odds on him?

RYAN NEWMAN: It doesn't matter because I don't listen anyway (laughing). I go out there and just do the best job I can for myself and the team. Just because Mark Martin is the sentimental favorite doesn't mean anything to me. I mean, he's a competitor to me.

Q. You keeping up with the Purdue football this year?

RYAN NEWMAN: Not a whole lot, no. Not a big non-racing fan.

Q. Oh, really? You're not going to be interested in the Notre Dame game this Saturday?

RYAN NEWMAN: No, no. I got some other stuff going on this Saturday.

Q. I wanted to ask you, this year, you had kind of a fight-up and then slip-back, fight-up and slip-back. Kind of describe your season and how now you're fighting back again.

RYAN NEWMAN: Well, it's been the same pretty much the last three seasons, and I've called it a roller coaster every time. I guess it's part of the sport when you've got 42 other competitors. Your odds are kind of against you that you're going to finish in the top ten every week. So just the roller coaster part of it is something you have to fight through. You know, as in battles and (inaudible), the strongest teams survive, and we're doing our best to try to survive.

Q. Now, Talladega, how important is it to not get trapped in a pack of cars?

RYAN NEWMAN: Well, it all depends on who you're around and what's happening. Odds are, you're going to have to be in a pack of cars at some point, especially at the start of the race. You just got to hang on and hope that luck's on your side.

Q. I want to go back to something you were talking about, qualifying, because sometimes we're a little slow on the uptake. It just dawned on me that qualifying in NASCAR NEXTEL Cup racing, in these final 10 races, is probably more important than it is throughout the entire season. Do you agree with that?

RYAN NEWMAN: Well, it has a lot of potential to be very important, I guess, without thinking about it too in depth. Yeah, it is important if you look at it from a numbers standpoint. If you start on the pole in each of the last 10 races, then you've got pretty much a 50 percent shot at getting 50 points when only the top ten were separated by 40 points in the first place. So you can create some big advantages there just based off of qualifying.

Q. So those of us in the media who have been calling for NASCAR to give points for qualifying have got a back door.

RYAN NEWMAN: Yes and no. It's still only rewarded for leading a lap, which everybody has a chance to do basically just by staying on the race track, if you're on the lead lap when the pit stop comes, so... It all depends on what position you're in on the race track. It's not the ideal pole plan that I would like.

THE MODERATOR: Ryan, I've actually got a couple other questions I wanted to get you to talk about for a minute. I know some guys have scheduled test for late in the season, particularly the guys in the chase. Is there a lot that you can learn, or do you hone in on just very specific things at this point in the season when you go to a test?

RYAN NEWMAN: Basically, hopefully, you're fine-tuning whether it's at a specific race track or a package you're working with or, you know, whether it's tire pressures or whatever, you're just trying to zone in on what's perfect versus what's good and what's a good starting point, which you're usually working on at the start of the year. So, you know, some race tracks are good to test at; some race tracks are harder to test at because of their track conditions and, you know, the time of the year that you get a chance to test there. So it all depends.

THE MODERATOR: Sometimes I guess it's better to leave well enough alone if you feel really good at a track, you've done well at a track in the past, I guess sometimes you'd rather not mess with it, or are you always looking for that edge?

RYAN NEWMAN: There's always an edge. I mean, the cars can always go faster no matter if you're the fastest car that day. You can always go faster. You've just got to keep working on it.

Q. Given the fact that a (plate) race is always such a craps shoot, are you happy to see Talladega in this final 10, or would you rather not have that variable in the championship?

RYAN NEWMAN: My personal thing is I would rather not have it on the schedule, period. But, you know, it's part of what NASCAR decided to make part of the race as well as part of the schedule, so we just take it for what it's worth.

Q. Does it really have an impact, though, you think, on what we see for the next seven races, what happens this weekend?

RYAN NEWMAN: Without a doubt. I mean, there's still 185 points available there. So it's got to be (inaudible).

Q. I wanted to follow up on something you said about helping Rusty out on the intermediate tracks. I was wondering what you think makes the 12 team so strong on those tracks.

RYAN NEWMAN: Communication and teamwork and understanding. You know, I personally like the intermediate tracks. I think 95 percent of them are banked. Some of the tracks we go to, like Loudon and even Richmond to a certain degree, are flatter race tracks. I definitely enjoy the banked race tracks, so that's a big part of it, is being able to work with banking and being able to have track position be only 70 percent of the day instead of 90 percent of the day.

Q. Do you think there's something to the non-fluke angle, too? Short track, you can get caught up in somebody else's mess, we've been talking about the same thing happening at Talladega. But you don't hear that so much at the intermediate tracks, so the guy who has the package together has a better chance of success.

RYAN NEWMAN: Yeah, but at the same time, who would have thought of a 17-car pile-up at Dover in the spring race, you know? Sometimes it happens; sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes a crash will take out two cars, and sometimes it takes out twelve cars. Obviously, we've seen crashes at Talladega where, for instance, the spring race when Kenseth spun out, it looked like he should have took out about 20 cars not because it was his fault, but just because of the way things worked out. But he ended up spinning by himself. That's just part of racing luck.

THE MODERATOR: Ryan, I think you're done. Thanks for taking the time to join us today. Best of luck to you and the 12 guys this weekend.

RYAN NEWMAN: Thank you. Appreciate it.

THE MODERATOR: We'd like to thank all of you guys on the media for your participation in the NASCAR NEXTEL teleconference. Have a great week, everybody.



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