NASCAR Media Conference
September 20, 2011
THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to today's NASCAR video teleconference. Our guest today is Ryan Newman, driver of the No. 39 U.S. Army Haas Chevrolet in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Brian is coming off a strong effort yesterday at Chicagoland Speedway finishing eighth while team owner Tony Stewart captured the victory. Brian captured his only victory in New Hampshire in July where he won from the pole position. Ryan is currently seventh in the points standings for the Race for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
Brian, as we head into the second race of the Chase where you've been successful with three victories, talk a little bit about New Hampshire and your strategy for this weekend.
RYAN NEWMAN: New Hampshire has always been a good place for me. I'm not a hundred percent sure why. It's the place of my first win, when I hadn't won in a long while, 70 some races. I won again there. This past July we were able to qualify and finish 1-2 at Stewart-Haas. It's a fun race, it's a very finesse racetrack. You can't overdrive the car there very much because it's so flat.
I've always said the birthplace of track position. It's a relatively short race. Basically you only need to stop for fuel two, maybe three times depending on cautions. You don't get a whole lot of opportunities to work on your racecar. You start up front, you have a good chance of staying up front. It's a place we've done well at. Our short track program at Stewart-Haas Racing is strong. It's a good place for us to go after the first stop at the Chicago race.
THE MODERATOR: We'll go to the media for questions.
Q. Ryan, just wanted to ask you a little bit about the complexion of this Chase seemed to change a little bit last week with the fact that you're starting at a mile-and-a-half versus New Hampshire. Can you speak to how that does change the complexion given that the mile-and-a-half's are such a key component in the Chase.
RYAN NEWMAN: Well, I was really proud of our team. We ran in the top five, let's say, all day long. There were times we were sixth or seventh, times where we led the race. I was really proud of our performance because we haven't run well at racetracks like that as well as like Chicago, last year we really struggled. It was a good rebound for us. Gives us more confidence going into places like Charlotte, Kansas, and even Homestead to a degree.
It's still a 10-race stretch. It's still made up a lot of mile-and-a-half racetracks, intermediate style racetracks. I don't think it changes the outcome of a champion as it does the initial momentum that you can have after the first race or two.
It always has been Loudon and Dover, two one-mile racetracks that are different in characteristics, much shorter than the intermediate-style racetracks.
Just really proud of our organization and our team this past weekend to get the Chase started off strong. We're disappointed in the eighth-place finish because we hadn't run there all race long, especially that last run, we ran out of fuel with three-quarters of a lap to go, that's what we got. Could have been much worse, could have been a little bit better, and we'll go on.
Q. Do you think it served as what to expect in this Chase in terms of the mile-and-a-half's, not dictating the outcome but showing who is strong?
RYAN NEWMAN: I don't think it necessarily shows who is strong. It shows who is strong at Chicago. Who would have thought after Jeff Gordon won at Atlanta, a mile-and-a-half racetrack, goes to another one, he gets lapped and has a poor finish. It doesn't show you that it can happen each and every week or each and every mile-and-a-half racetrack.
You can't just assume that because there are all those cookie cutter-style racetracks that it's going to be like that. The strategy can change. Just as we saw the strategy change to a non-fuel mileage race to a fuel mileage race on that last run, everybody peel off for gas and try to stretch it out. We usually see guys wait for that caution, come in, put tires on, a couple guys try to stretch it on fuel as Brad Keselowski did the first Kansas race.
It's different each an every week. Different based on tires, strategies, the number of cars on the lead laps, and nobody can predetermine what that is going to be.
Q. Given all those factors, does that make this Chase as wide open as any as there has ever been?
RYAN NEWMAN: It's open as much this year as it has been every year. Nine races to go, it's still wide open to everybody.
Q. Tony's win certainly underscores that. After all, he came in there saying on Thursday, telling the media he didn't believe he was a title contender, yet he wins the first race right out of the box.
RYAN NEWMAN: That's kind of my point. You can win the first one or even the first and second one as Biffle did a couple years ago and not be in the top three in the Chase, or have a championship run going into Homestead.
Doesn't mean he has lost confidence in his team or he has 200% confidence in his team. It means in general anything can change each and every week.
Q. I know you've made quite a few visits to the military this year and last year. Could you talk a little bit about what that's like for you. Do you get a little emotional seeing wounded soldiers? Do you have people in your family who served in the military?
RYAN NEWMAN: I got to go to quite a few different camps and forts, not sure what the difference is in the two. Fort Bragg, got to do some training missions and things like that. I went to Camp Atterbury outside of Columbus, Indiana, where they were doing actual training missions and setting up mock towns just exactly how they would be in Iraq or Afghanistan. People that are getting ready to be deployed in Camp Atterbury versus people that are being trained in Fort Bragg. Going to see the wounded warriors in places like Walter Reed, where people are going through life-changing experiences, it's sad. It shows the bravery of the men that want to go back and be with their troops, soldiers, and their friends at the same time, go back and battle and be part of their team they were forced to leave.
U.S. Army American soldiers are amazing people.
Q. I was wondering, was Tony's win at Chicago beneficial to your team in any way? If so, how might that be?
RYAN NEWMAN: I mean, from our standpoint, yeah, it's big for the shop. Our over-the-wall crew didn't get to Victory Lane, it's still big for the shop. Back at the headquarters, people that are working more days than we are at the racetrack, it's huge for those guys that are assembling racecars, gives us confidence in the pieces they're bolting together. Even though our setups might be a little bit different, they're virtually the same when it comes to gears, rear-ends, things like that that make a difference. So that confidence is huge for everybody. That was big. We appreciate his victory because of that.
Q. Does having to stay an extra day to run a race, it's not the only time you've done that, that extra day, how does that impact what you are trying to do as far as getting ready for next week's race?
RYAN NEWMAN: It was unfortunate because Scott told us it was close to a sell-out crowd. It was going to be a great afternoon of racing on Sunday, then Mother Nature kind of changed the plan.
It really shortens up our next week. It doesn't necessarily change anything. There are some guys that are overanxious and overexcited, which we didn't see at Chicago like we saw at Richmond with the energy that went into the start of the race.
I don't think it changes much, it just takes a day away, three-quarters of a day away from our schedule the following day we would have used. Fortunately for me I didn't have anything scheduled or planned business-wise, it was more of a personal day. Didn't change my schedule much.
Q. I wanted to get your analysis. The rule situation that affected Matt Kenseth yesterday. Certainly that could have affected you in getting assistance from another car on the last lap. Obviously it's written in the rule book that it's not allowed on the last lap in that situation and Kenseth was penalized. If that would have been you, you potentially could have been in that situation. Looking at the way that rule is, what happened yesterday, is there something that you would think of that could be looked at to tweak that rule, improve that rule, change that rule, or is it fine that you can assist a car any other lap except the last lap?
RYAN NEWMAN: The answer is, no, I think it's fine the way it is. I personally forget about that rule. I was looking for somebody to push me that last lap running out of fuel coming off of turn two. It's not something typically we as drivers have to worry about. At the same time, if it does happen, there's never usually that arranging of the stars for somebody to come push you and assist you.
Obviously for him there was. I think that there is good merit and a good understanding as to why, because it can have such a huge influence on I guess maybe the extra team aspect of it. I think he was pushed by one of the Fords. I don't remember if it was the 34 or 38.
RYAN NEWMAN: He was pushed by a non-team car, if that makes any sense.
Q. That could have been one of the Hendrick cars that weren't in the running. Through no fault of your own, you potentially could have won.
RYAN NEWMAN: I don't think that is good to have our sport affected by that because it has so much of an adverse effect on the other guys that maybe timing-wise they didn't have that opportunity because of where they were at or who was around them. I think it's fine the way it is, is my answer.
Q. What's it like being in the car when you're trying to save gas? Your job is go, go, go, go, go. In some way this is part of racing, but it goes against what you were brought up and trained to do. What are the challenges? What do you go through? Is it just part of another day at the office?
RYAN NEWMAN: Well, it's part of what we do. There is a true challenge, a true talent in doing it. Therefore, sometimes it's fun, but when you have the fuel mileage and the racecar to capitalize on it. Tony Stewart did. We were a little bit worse than him on fuel mileage all day long. I knew I had to save even more than what he was saving.
As he's checking out because he can push the car a little harder, it's hard to have that discipline to say, Hey, we have to suck it up and take the position that we're in or take the position we need to be in in order to get to the end. That's difficult to manage because there is no fuel gauge, no warning light, there is nothing other than the fact you're out.
Literally for me the red light came on going into one and I was out of fuel coming off of two. The warning is of no use. Fortunately we were able to make it back around. Matt Kenseth got penalized, got us back to eighth. It was disappointing to us because we weren't able to finish what we had been running all day long, all race long. It was still a much better finish than if we had run out 200 yards before that. We would have been 12th to 14th, who knows.
Q. How do you save gas in a race like that?
RYAN NEWMAN: It's funny because everybody has a varying opinion and there's different ways of doing it and there's different ways of capitalizing on doing it. In the end, number one, you have to have a good racecar. If you don't have a good racecar there's no point in saving because you're going to be the last car on that lap anyway.
It's just energy conservation. To me it's self-explanatory, that's why I chuckle. I don't mean that in a bad way. You use the brakes as little as you can, you get on the gas as little as you can. The way a carburetor works it pulls fuel when it pulls air. The revolutions of the engine have an adverse effect when you are out under power because of a carburetor compared to a fuel injection which is going to be a whole different question, a whole different set of answers when you ask me that question next year. That's basically it.
You have to have the car to go along with it and fuel mileage to go along with it. Your fuel mileage can be so poor that you may not have enough to make it to the end. You saw a couple guys in that situation yesterday.
Q. I saw Junior shut his car down during caution laps, I saw Keselowski put the clutch in when he's entering a turn. Anything else out there that we don't know about?
RYAN NEWMAN: Part of it is using the brakes. That's why I said, conservation of energy. If you're using the brakes, you're dissipating that energy into the racecar. That energy is a by-product of the fuel that you burn. If you can put that to the racetrack instead of to the racecar, you're helping yourself fuel mileage-wise.
Q. These kind of races that come down to fuel mileage, are they okay with you?
RYAN NEWMAN: It's a part of what we do. If we were racing solar-powered cars, it would be who had the best battery and best charge at the end. It's part of what we do. In order to do what we do at the speeds we do it, we need some kind of fuel. That's gasoline.
It's always been a product. NASCAR has refined it to the point that now you're seeing cars running out within a lap, not within 10 laps as it was 30 years ago.
It's fine with me. It's a part of what we do. I like the challenge of being able to save more fuel than other people with a good racecar.
Q. Using your mathematical abilities here. The points system, when they reset the points, there's only 12 points between the No. 1 and No. 12 guy. Here we go into the first race and, boom, a couple of guys just slide down and Tony jumps way up. In the past it seems like the first two or three races, there's a couple guys that are going to almost get eliminated. Do you think the new points system is going to have an effect on that? Do you think about that when you look at those points?
RYAN NEWMAN: The new points system doesn't have any effect on that difference or that delta. It's a smaller number because the difference between one position to another is a smaller number. It's not going to change anything with respect to that.
Yeah, I mean, going off your first comments, 1st to 12th, doesn't seem there's that much of a reward for winning in the pre-season I guess you could say. It is what it is and everybody has to deal with the same rules.
I think it's fine the way it is and we'll go on.
Q. Tony Gibson, your crew chief, he's a kid that grew up in Daytona. You're in the Chase now. You have to rely on him even more at this point, I imagine, in races like Chicagoland.
RYAN NEWMAN: What's your question?
Q. Just leaning on Tony Gibson more for his pit strategy.
RYAN NEWMAN: I don't lean on him any harder in the Chase than I did the 26 races before that. I expect certain things out of him. He expects certain things out of me. We expect things out of the pit crew, tire guy, spotter, everything else.
We're doing the same job; we just have to do it a little bit better. I don't think leaning on a person makes them do a job a little bit better. It's a matter of communication, teamwork and performance. I don't see it as leaning on Tony Gibson on a 10-race Chase is going to be beneficial to me.
Q. How about working with Tony these last few years? Seems like you really have a chemistry with each other.
RYAN NEWMAN: We have a lot of fun. We have a lot of things in common away from the racetrack, which gives us something to talk about when we're not talking about springs, shocks and sway bars. At the same time we have a good relationship on the racetrack.
I think he's a great team leader. That's one of the things I look for when I was looking to make this transition to Stewart-Haas Racing. He's a good team leader. What he does with the race engineer, all the guys, was really good. I saw that beforehand. He was fortunate enough to bring those guys over. That's been a big piece of our success.
I also want to commend all our guys for being such good mechanics and having a racecar that's there for me each and every lap, each and every race. It's something a lot of teams lack.
Q. You mentioned earlier about getting your first win at New Hampshire. Is there anything in particular that you remember about that race?
RYAN NEWMAN: I remember that I was trying to lap Sterling Marlin who was the points leader at the time. Kurt Busch was giving me little love taps down the straightaways, corners. Never really shook me loose, just made me realize that he was there. We all know the track is one of the most difficult to pass at. I think it was a little more difficult back then even more so than today to pass.
I had Kurt breathing down my back. I forget what lap number it was that the rain finally came. I had virtually no brakes left in the racecar. We had air in the system. I was pumping the snot out of the pedal down the straightaway just trying to get the car to slow down. Between trying to lap the guy that's leading the points and having Kurt breathing down my back, it was textbook. I couldn't have asked for the rain any sooner because I needed it when it came and it worked out for us.
Q. Did that do anything for your confidence?
RYAN NEWMAN: It was big for our confidence. That was our second win as a team because we had won the All-Star Race before that. We felt that we had been knocking on the door several times. We were close at Richmond earlier in the year. Ran second to Stewart. We had had good racecars every week. I was inexperienced. You have a lot of drive to get that first victory, that first points win, not that I don't now. Even though it wasn't the end of the race, we weren't three-wide backwards at the start/finish line, I was proud of the team effort going into that race, being able to hold off Kurt, not crash Sterling, not upset the sport in getting my first victory.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much for your participation today, Ryan. Best of luck this weekend in New Hampshire in the second race of the Chase.
RYAN NEWMAN: Thank you.
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