NASCAR Media Conference
August 14, 2007
HERB BRANHAM: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to the weekly NASCAR teleconference in advance this week of Sunday's NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race at Michigan International Speedway, the 3M Performance 400. That's the seventh event in the Race to the Chase.
Top 12 drivers in the standings following the final Race to the Chase event, which is set for Richmond September 8th, those 12 drivers qualify for the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup. The Chase consists of the final 10 races and determines the series champion.
Our guest today is a driver who is literally knocking on the door of the top 12, and knocking pretty hard, Ryan Newman, driver of the No. 12 ALLTEL Dodge. Ryan comes into Michigan in 13th place in the standings. He's only 96 points behind his Penske Racing teammate Kurt Busch.
Ryan, you've had some really good success at Michigan in the past, two victories there. Seems like a good week to be going back to that track. How do you feel about the chances to make a move further up the standings this week?
RYAN NEWMAN: Well, I think we've got a good opportunity. You know, this past weekend was a great opportunity. We didn't per se capitalize on it but we mid some small gains.
Just look forward to Michigan. It's a fun racetrack to race at as far as a driver goes. You can do some really good racing there. Like you said, we've been in Victory Lane before.
Just hopefully we're still looking for not only our first win of the season, but our first win of the last two seasons. We've got some work ahead of us. I think we'll have some capabilities. Just a matter of getting the job done.
HERB BRANHAM: We'll go to questions from the media for Ryan Newman.
Q. Assuming you make the Chase, what do you do differently strategy-wise for those 10 races that you might not do for the first 26 races?
RYAN NEWMAN: Nothing. I mean, the only thing you can really say is you go for it a little bit more, maybe you gamble a little bit more. We're in the position now where we've got to gamble a little bit as it is.
For us in that position, nothing. It's just a matter of, like I said, going out and doing the best job we possibly can each and every week. Right now Daytona 500 is no different than this week going into the 400 at Michigan. It's just, you know, easy to think of things you'd try to do different or say different, but you really just have to go out there and try to win the race.
Q. With you and Kurt battling for that final Chase spot, how does that change the dynamic of the teamwork? Is it fair to say that 'teammates' only mean so much when there's so much on the line?
RYAN NEWMAN: Well, my best answer for you there is we're not competing against each other. We've got two teams going for the last two spots in the Chase. That's the way we look at it. Obviously we're 92 points out of 12th. But Kurt is not too far behind 11th and 10th. Close to us, so. With four races to go, there's still opportunity for both of us to get in the Chase.
Q. With regards to the Dodge this year, it's been an up-and-down year. Your teammate got a victory at Pocono, but still struggled at times. Can you talk about that, talk about it in relation to how your team's performance has been this year?
RYAN NEWMAN: Our team's performance I think has been good. It's been way better than last year. The second part of that is just our finishes, our consistency, hasn't been the greatest. That's what got us into this position now as far as points go.
Obviously the (indiscernible) teams look like they're the ones to beat. We've proven we can be very competitive every given week. It's just a matter of getting those finishes for us it seems.
Q. You probably saw today that Kyle Busch announced he'll join Joe Gibbs next year, which can be interesting considering the relationship he and Tony have had back and forth. Since you sort of had a teammate relationship a couple years ago that wasn't exactly buddy-buddy, how distracting or counterproductive can that be to the team when that's going on? What's the very least you expect from a teammate on and off the track even if you aren't friends?
RYAN NEWMAN: Well, I know that it can be very productive or counterproductive. I've experienced both. Kurt has been a great teammate the last two years. He's taught me some things. I think I've taught him some things. In the end, you know, a teammate can make or break your performance. It's extremely important to have a good relationship. It's extremely important to maintain that relationship as well.
Q. You've been around before the Chase points system, now after it. Do you think the fans feel the excitement and stress of making a Chase like drivers and teams do?
RYAN NEWMAN: I think the fans that follow the sport every week definitely feel that. I feel that just from them. I've had plenty of fans come up to me and talk to me about it. Yeah, there's very much merit in saying that.
Q. It appears you and Kurt Busch are sharing your information on the track as opposed to when you were a teammate with Rusty Wallace. Is it harder for a two-car team to stay competitive now in the NEXTEL Cup?
RYAN NEWMAN: Without a doubt, we're sharing more information. Our teams are getting along great. I mean, it's not just the drivers. It's the teams and the organization that has a lot to do with that.
But, yeah, it's definitely helped us to have a better performance, to be where we're at in the Chase, you know, in the Chase for the Championship.
Q. It seems like the 10 bonus points being added for wins has really kind of changed the way guys are approaching it if they're locked into the Chase at this point. Is that the way you view it? Do you think that's been a good thing for the sport?
RYAN NEWMAN: You know, I think it's NASCAR's twist on it this year for making more emphasis on winning. For me personally it hasn't change the way I raced in saying that. We're not in position to say that we're a championship team right now.
To me the best answer, I don't think that it has. But, you know, we'll see how it all plays out this year.
Q. After you won eight races in 2003, did you think you were going to come close to that every year? Did you think you'd be close to that productive in ensuing years?
RYAN NEWMAN: I thought we would do better the next year and better the year after. That's just the way it would work.
But, you know, I still feel as a driver I'm fully capable of winning those eight races plus per year. The team and the people are what make the difference. We've had pretty much every member of the team, besides the truck driver, change positions or we have new people. We're kind of starting over. We are rebuilding. 2003 was pretty much the last year we had that full-time group of guys we had in 2002.
Q. What is happening better at Penske that you are picking up the steam? What sorts of things are clicking over there?
RYAN NEWMAN: Just teamwork. The cars' performances. The new Dodge nose/hood combination has definitely been a big thing for us. It's been a lot of little things is the honest truth. Personnel-wise, like I said, we've had a lot of change of personnel on our team. The two cars had a rough season from a crew chief standpoint with Roy McCauley's wife getting sick and having to go through a series of changes there. Through it all, I think our teams have been strong and performing well together.
Q. Since you're one of only a couple teams that have two cars on the track, is it harder for a two-car team to compete in the NEXTEL Cup now?
RYAN NEWMAN: It's hard for me to say because I've never really competed as a four-car team. I think our two-car team is extremely sufficient and efficient as far as performance. Are there advantages with a three-or four-car team? Yes. Are there disadvantages? Yes. It's just a matter of how good, how good an organization, and how organized that organization is to be able to capitalize on the capital.
Q. With Kurt's win at Pocono, everybody talks about momentum from team to team, but are you able to feed off that even though it wasn't your win?
RYAN NEWMAN: I'd say no. They hit everything right. They had a fast car. They did a great job, put themselves in position for the win and won. We were close to doing it the first race. We were close to doing that at Dover. We've been close a few other times this year, we just haven't done it.
It's pretty much our own momentum that has to carry itself. You can't rely on the other team's because you're competing against them.
Q. We've seen Jeff Gordon spin last week, Tony Stewart. Is it distracting when you drive by a teammate that has spun?
RYAN NEWMAN: No, not really. Doesn't distract me. I felt bad when I spun the car out running whatever I was, sixth, eighth, 10th, whatever it was there at the beginning of the race when I got off track and went through the sand. Then when I realized that Stewart did it going into one and Gordon did it late, as least I was in some good company.
HERB BRANHAM: Ryan Newman, best of luck to you this weekend. Had a lot of success at Michigan. Looks like a good time when you're right on the outside of the top 12 to be going back to that track, get you set up for the remainder of the races leading up to the Chase. Who knows, if you qualify, then the Chase itself. Good luck to you.
RYAN NEWMAN: Thanks, Herb.
HERB BRANHAM: Thanks to all the media for joining in today. As always, we appreciate the coverage.
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