NASCAR Transcript: Interview With Ryan Newman
Q. Ryan, you have two wins at Michigan and three of the last four races you finished inside the Top-10. You’re coming off a race where you matched your best finish of 2013 which was a fifth place at Pocono.
How are you going to capitalize on the momentum heading into this weekend as we get closer to the Chase?
RYAN NEWMAN: Well, I’m not 100 percent sure, but I know it’s important that we do. We have – aside from Dover, we have had some good runs in the last four races. And you know, carrying some of that momentum, as well as obviously Tony had a good weekend in Dover, but just keeping the ball rolling.
I think that there’s some things that we learned at our Pocono test that we can absolutely carry over from the Pocono race into Indianapolis going back to Pocono, and as well, I think at places like Michigan that are smooth and have similar asphalt and are really fast, as well.
So hopefully the things that we’ve learned will help carry us for the most part through some of those things. It’s all about having a fast race car, especially when you go into a big weekend like we have with the Quicken Loan’s 400 being the sponsor of the race, as well as my race car.
So pressure from the outside, but from my side, just doing my job and staying focused and hitting my marks.
Q. With Father’s Day coming up, can you tell me what your dad has meant to you at the racetrack and away from the racetrack?
RYAN NEWMAN: We don’t have that much time, but it’s special. Whether it’s Father’s Day or not, it’s special to have that relationship with my dad, and at the same time, to have that relationship with my daughters, and I guess maybe be able to share it to them a little bit more especially on Father’s Day.
I think the most memorable, and I think there’s two memorable Father’s Days, in my mind, with respect to my father, and that was the midget race I won in Salem, Indiana, and the Cup race I won Father’s Day weekend in Michigan. I told him, I said, you know, before I got in the race car, I said: This is the only thing I’m going to try to get you is this victory and there’s no guarantee to and, but know that I’m trying and that’s enough for my dad, because he’s a racer.
To have a person who is not just my father, but my friend and somebody who has taught me a large percentage of everything that I’ve known, and at the same time, given me the attitude and the personality that I have, that, whether you like it or not, it’s who I am, and we all go on.
So I look forward to Father’s Day weekend now for two reasons, because I still try to win each and every race for my dad, especially Father’s Day weekend, but obviously for my two girls, as well.
Q. Curious how you think the new car will perform on a road course like Sonoma.
RYAN NEWMAN: I think it’s safe to say it’s going to be faster. I don’t know that that means we are going to have more passing or less passing or what the exact situation is going to be. But faster usually leads to more braking, and more braking usually leads to more heat, and I think it’s definitely going to be a situation where you want to have track position no different than it ever has been at Sonoma.
We had a one-day test, us and Danica actually went to VIR to basically knock the rust off the drivers, try a couple things for the crew chiefs and get the cars ready to make sure everything was good.
I feel like on our side, we’ll be competitive and we’ll see what happens. But the Gen-6 car has proven to be a faster race car, pretty much every racetrack we’ve been. Sometimes the weather conditions are not conducive for it, but we are breaking a lot of track records this year.
Q. What do you think, it’s the 25th anniversary of road course racing and Cup racing at Sonoma; what are your earliest memories of the race in Sonoma each year, watching it on TV, or what are some of your earliest memories of the place?
RYAN NEWMAN: I guess as an avid NASCAR fan watching something that’s so totally different from a racing standpoint than the ovals.
I think it’s just, you know, when you’re a fan looking at it, it’s different than being a race car driver looking at it because a driver, he just drives a race car but I fan, you see the oval side of it and then you go to the road courses and you see – like it’s a totally different kind of – what are these cars doing, these are for road race cars, not NASCAR stock cars. It’s just a different perspective of when I was younger than what I have now, is what I’m trying to say.
Q. Is there a potential of a lot more drivers winning this race these days than there was maybe ten, 15 years ago?
RYAN NEWMAN: Maybe ten, 15 years ago, yes. Ten years ago, I think you had a few good drivers, meaning one hand, and then a couple road course ringers that came in and now I think you’ve got, maybe, ten or 15 drivers that are capable of winning. But I think that goes without saying in all the other racing, as well, not just road courses.
Q. You mentioned Danica earlier. What have you seen from her as far as her progression?
RYAN NEWMAN: As you say, progression or aggression?
RYAN NEWMAN: I think she’s got great feedback. I think she understands a little bit more each and every race, each and every opportunity she has to feel the race cars and give the feedback and build that library of feels to be able to relate to how she needs to say it to her crew chief.
But I know in our debrief, the one thing that when we talked about this past weekend, is that she just has not really had good track position. Whether it’s a less-than-average qualifying run or being stuck in the points, having to start in the back with rain, she’s just – she’s kind of fighting a battle of track position right now. I think if she could get up front and feel her race car in cleaner air, it would make a world of difference to her confidence right now.
Q. You talked about pressure on the outside with Quicken Loans being the title sponsor of the race, curious if you feel this race is any more important for you in terms of trying to keep them as a sponsor of yours and the future, no matter where you end up racing?
RYAN NEWMAN: Every race is important with respect to that. For me, I look at it from this perspective: If I go out there and do my job as a driver, then I’m protecting my relationship with my sponsor and with my team and everybody else, and the second part of that is, you would think that it would be self-centered but it’s really not. If you take care of the one, it takes care of everything else.
There’s no pressure from the outside, I think people view it as pressure, but from my perspective it’s an opportunity to do something even greater, to win your own race as a title sponsor and a car sponsor. I’ve had the opportunity to do it before and haven’t, so I look forward to another opportunity.
Q. Does it matter, I assume that there’s going to be several executives from Quicken Loans at that race. Does it matter to perform well at a race that they are physically at, rather than watching maybe on television?
RYAN NEWMAN: I think it makes a difference to them personally. You know, results-wise, going-down-in-the-books-type stats doesn’t matter, but when they are there personally I think they can connect to it a little bit better. When they can stand in victory lane and spray champagne all over everybody else, yes, it definitely matters. But in the grand scheme of things, I think it’s just another race. It just happens to be amore important race for them.
Q. Certainly when you have speed, you can dictate – you can have more control dictating the race a little bit more. When you don’t have as much speed as somebody else, as like this past weekend, how challenging is it to play the game? Certainly it worked out pretty well for you guys to finish as well as you did but how challenging is it to have that type of performance when maybe you don’t have that top-end speed that some others do?
RYAN NEWMAN: I thought we personally did have the top-end speed and the raw performance. What we didn’t have was ideal layout of the ending of the race; as far as us being shorter on fuel than everybody else was. You know we played it safe there for a while.
And when Jimmie chased me down, he chased me down because I was letting him chase me down. I’m not saying he wouldn’t have passed me, but I let him dictate the pace after he got by me instead of me dictating the pace in front of him and running hard.
So I think that we were the most competitive that we’ve been in quite a while, at least on the 39 side at an intermediate racetrack since probably California. And I feel that we can carry that into Michigan and a few other places, like Indianapolis, as well.
But it did feel good to be back up front and it did feel good, I even texted Jimmie after the race and said, congratulations, it was good running with you again. That’s just truly how I feel. I feel I’m fully capable as a driver and we just are working on honing in on the package that we need.
Q. Because you feel that you had that top-end speed, how different is it than when you don’t have it, what does it allow you to do; with what you guys did Sunday, did it make it easier to make the decisions that you guys did if you didn’t have that speed, would you have had to have gone a different way? How much does that change the game plan from earlier this season?
RYAN NEWMAN: I don’t know the exact situation with everybody in the race but I can tell you that I spent exactly 20 or 35 laps behind Jamie McMurray, I was trying to get past him from 23rd or something like that.
Once we stayed out there and got the track position, I could see him in front of me before the yellow came out to lap him. That’s how big of a difference it made to be up front and have some clean air and being able to run your own race instead of being stuck behind a car that you know your faster than, it’s just difficult to pass. I mean, it all depends.
And that was the case while we were a Top-5 race car and were struggling to get past the 20th race car at the time. It it’s going to be challenging again like that in my opinion at Indianapolis.
Q. Certainly that speed, how much does it carry over to Michigan this weekend with the progression of the organization?
RYAN NEWMAN: I think a percentage of it does. I mean, if you look at from our side on the Hendrick engine side, those guys are doing a great job and you look at the Toyota guys and they are having to pull the pin on a couple of their performance situations and knock back a little bit of their performance at a track that you have to have engine horsepower.
Some of those things play into effect and those are the things that are outside of our control, which is a true bonus, because we are working on the race cars and Hendrick is putting their emphasis on their race cars; and they have their own engine department and I think that plays into our hand a little bit.
Michigan, because of the repave, I think is more similar than ever to Pocono, especially like turn one because of the banking and the speed that you carry down into turn one at Pocono. You’re not going to be using the brakes near as much as Michigan, if at all.
Without a doubt, it’s as close as it’s ever been. And the way our organization is structured, we are able to focus more on the car side of things, and as long as Hendrick is providing the good power like they are, it plays into our favor.
Q. Last year, the record setting qualifying; what is the focus now for the Quicken Loans 400 for you and the field?
RYAN NEWMAN: Just to go out there and have a good race and obviously win, but you know, it’s going to be a little bit different this year.
I think the asphalt, I think it’s going to be different and it’s going to be the same. I think the asphalt is going to have aged and lost a little bit of speed. But the Gen-6 car is going to come back with a little additional speed. I think we’ll be fairly comparable overall in speed and the way the cars drive because of that off-set.
I think that Goodyear has done their work to correct their tire issue from last year. I commended them for making that change before the race, giving us an extra practice session. I think all that was the right thing to do for our sport, having seen how it failed and how it adversely affects the sport, going back to Indianapolis a few years ago. I think it should be a fairly painless weekend, but it’s just a matter of who wins.
Q. Seems like no matter what driver you talk to, they have nothing but good things to say about Michigan and you’ve had success there, why do you think Michigan is such a popular track with the drivers?
RYAN NEWMAN: Because it’s wide. It’s open and forgiving. It’s fast, and it challenges the driver. But I’ve always said that it’s not the most challenging racetrack that we go to. Because to me, Darlington is the ultimate when it comes to an oval that’s challenging, because both corners are unique, you’re running right next to the wall, and you slip you’re in the fence.
You go to Michigan, it’s not so much like that. It’s a little different now because of the speed, not what it used to be. Before they repaved Michigan, it was kind of like Atlanta is now where you really could control your race car, save your tires and manage a lot of things, where now it’s pretty much all speed.
Like I said, the track itself is kind of forgiving with the banking and where we run in the middle of the racetrack now, and I think it’s a fun place to race.
Q. Are you a strong believer in momentum, and what do you think it does to your team? What are the effects the good results have going forward?
RYAN NEWMAN: I think 99.9 percent of it is just the driver’s attitude, the team’s attitude, everybody.
It’s kind of like I’ve said before: When you go to a place like Michigan, when you know you’ve won there, it gives you the confidence to know that you can do it again. When you haven’t won there, you’re trying to do it for the first time and it’s more like, well, how do I do this and when you come off of a good weekend, you have some – you have some backbone to your notebook to understand that we know what we are doing with the race car.
We know what we are doing strategy-wise, and we know what we’re doing with the tire pressures and everything else to make it make sense so that you can have good finishes; and that I think is the momentum more from an emotional and mental state than it is anything else.
Q. As far as what you guys get to do outside of your job as a driver, I just got back from the Buccaneers camp with Kasey Kahne tossing a football with the quarterback, Josh Freeman; and I’m going to be fortunate enough to be over in Daytona tomorrow when your boss, Tony Stewart is going fishing. These kind of things you guys get to do, could you talk a little about that?
RYAN NEWMAN: I don’t enjoy so much the pro athlete side of it.
I woke up this morning, fed the dogs and got stuff ready for my babies to get up and went down and threw buzz bait for a few cast, caught three fish in five casts. And I enjoy my hobby farm; I enjoy the outdoors. I enjoy that, I guess more the independent, personal side of it for myself, than actually going and hanging out with guys that are trying to get away from guys like me.
Q. You talk about how tough the restarts are, has that grown exponentially? Seems like track position is even more important now. Can you just describe what the restarts are like and how you have to really truly be out for No. 1 in that case?
RYAN NEWMAN: I think ultimately it changed when we went to the double-file shootout style restarts where you have to really be on your game; and at the same time, you can lose twice as much and gain twice as much as what you had been able to before.
So I think that changed the mentality of the drivers, no different than if you look at trying to maybe parallel how we run single file at Talladega or Daytona to race the race and not race each other.
We have to do that on the restarts at the intermediate tracks and short tracks to be able to gain so much – gain as much as we can, and everybody has that gain mentality. So it kind of throws the give-and-take out the window, and you really have to be on your toes and have a car that’s capable of doing that.
And that’s why I think you go back to the All-Star Race, and that was a true, segmented 20-lap-heat-race-type deal at the end where you had to have a good, fast car, it’s a short run. And that, I think is some of the things that we’ve worked on more so as teams in the past – sorry, more so now than we ever have in the past to make sure that we are not losing up two, four, six, eight spots on a given restart.
Q. Next week at Sonoma, Phoenix Racing said they will have Jacques Villeneuve in the car, certainly road course specialist and ran a couple Nationwide races last year, road courses. Certainly I guess involved in controversy: He’s talked about in the past about he’s there to win and do whatever he can. And so it maybe doesn’t quite – maybe the politics or proper manners isn’t as displayed by somebody like him or anybody else coming in like that. How do you – if you’re around somebody like that, how do you have to be aware of that? How does that change how you do things? I know you’ll race anybody the way they race you, but when you have somebody you’re not as familiar with or haven’t raced against or have had a type of reputation that Jacques has, how does that change things for you if you’re with him on the track?
RYAN NEWMAN: My perspective of it is, like you said, I’ll race him the way I feel I need to race him according to how he races me. And if that doesn’t work out right, we’ll take it out behind the truck afterwards and figure out who is right and who is wrong.
It’s no different than anybody else; just because he’s a road course specialist at a road course doesn’t mean he’s going to be there to win. He has shown – I’m not oblivious to the fact that he’s been aggressive and made some questionable moves on the Nationwide side.
Hopefully there’s none of that, and hopefully there’s no situation where there’s disrespect amongst either side, us towards him or him towards us, and it’s good, clean, hard racing. He’s shown he’s an aggressive driver, hard racing driver and he races for the win and there’s nothing wrong with that, other than who it affects, how it affects them and how they tolerate that.