Q : Ryan, talk a little bit about these next two races and your team’s mindset.
RYAN NEWMAN: I think for us the absolute mindset is to focus on the racing part of it and know that these next two races are going to be what proves what we’re capable of in the next 10 if we can get what we need to done in the next two races. As Stewart said a few years ago, we’d just be taking up a spot in the championship race.
From our standpoint, it’s our job doing business as usual, doing our best to get the best finishing position we can, no extra risk. Especially here at Atlanta, things get spread out a little bit and you end up with 10 cars on the lead lap, that type of thing.
Having a good racecar here is extremely important – probably more important than Richmond.
Q. Ryan, what is your take, especially from the standpoint of an engineer, on the new zone tire, the tread that they’re bringing in?
RYAN NEWMAN: I mean, I think there’s definitely a common sense approach to it that they’re using. It’s something that they’ve been working on. I’ve been a part of testing it several times at different racetracks.
Here at Atlanta, it’s the best worst-case scenario for that because it is the toughest track we have on tires. The strength of that zone tread tire is the durability side of it. The biggest part of the durability side of what we do is the inside shoulder of the right front tire.
I think all that being said, I hope there are no issues. The reason they’re doing that is so there won’t be any issues because this new car is definitely the most challenging we’ve had on tire durability.
Q. Ryan, I’m not really referring to your current situation with Tony, but looking back to say when you went from Penske to Tony Stewart, you tell your crew guys, I’m leaving to go to another team, how do you keep that momentum up until the end of the season is over with?
RYAN NEWMAN: Quite honestly those guys did that for me because after the announcement was made in Loudon, we didn’t know obviously. Our goal is, was, still is to make the Chase. They rebounded for all of us and performed at Indianapolis the way we all needed to and the way we’ve been capable of all year.
That was the answer to your question. I mean, they said, We’re not quitting, we’re going to fight till the end. The end is the checkered flag at Homestead.
Q. Ryan, you’re obviously fighting to make the Chase. Next season remains unsettled. Is it difficult to kind of compartmentalize the two, keep the focus on this year as opposed to thinking about what may happen next year?
RYAN NEWMAN: I wouldn’t say it’s difficult. I would say it’s more of a challenge because you have to, as you said, compartmentalize, stay focused at different times on different subjects.
All that being said, it takes away from your relaxing time in your mind, which is just as important as being focused on what you need to at a given time, be it 2013 or 2014.
I feel like mentally I’m capable of doing that and have been. Basically I’ve been in that situation for the last 12 months. So it really hasn’t changed for me. I think I’ve honed my skills over the last 12 months to be in the right position right now.
Q. Are you any more confident that you’ll have a Cup ride next year now compared to maybe three or four weeks ago? Also, did you watch the press conference on Tuesday and did you laugh, did you cry, did you throw anything? What did you think?
RYAN NEWMAN: No, I did not watch it. I have only read it and seen the quotes from different individuals.
To me it’s a unique situation that to me doesn’t really affect me, as I said. In the end, it’s what they’re going to do in 2014. I already knew I wasn’t going to be a part of that.
Yeah, I do feel more confident, to answer the first part of your question, that I’m moving along. I have nothing obviously to announce. But my focus is on these next two races.
I do have a different focus, as we talked about, on 2014, but that won’t happen this weekend or next weekend, it will happen during the week.
Q. As a guy whose background is completely dissimilar, how do you think Kyle Larson’s background prepares him for getting in a Cup car?
RYAN NEWMAN: I think no matter if it was Chip Ganassi, Roger Penske or Tony Stewart, or whoever, they would have went to Kyle and said, Do you think you’re ready for this? There’s a part of a driver that has to take the responsibility in saying yes or no.
I think Kyle has definitely proven across the board he can drive absolutely anything anywhere anytime. There’s a few drivers out there that can do that. When I say ‘a few,’ there’s 20 or 30 that are that good.
I think no matter what announcement there is, in the end we all know Kyle has a lot of talent. I think the biggest challenge he’s going to have ahead of him is not what happens outside of this room, it’s what happens inside of this room, the media part of it, the publicity part of it. The potential pressure, if you let it get to you, is more of a challenge I think than sitting in the seat behind the wheel and doing your job as a driver.
Q. Can you describe the intensity that a lot of guys are going to feel next weekend at the Richmond race, the guys around the bubble, and how that’s different from every other week? It has to have something extra to it.
RYAN NEWMAN: It does. To me, maybe I kind of view it as watching golf on TV, where you watch, you know where the leader is, you seed the leaderboard, you know where you’re at starting the race, you have maybe the last round to make up, you see where guys are plus or minus. You keep kind of track of that under cautions. But when the green flag drops, you have your job to do. That’s just like swinging the clubs.
I’m no golfer, but I see it like that. It’s doesn’t go necessarily play-by-play, but event by event, if who is on what hole, what does he have left, where are we at in the race, who is good on fuel, things like that.
You kind of watch that. But in the end, as a driver, you’re still focused on hitting your marks, not screwing up, not taking yourself out.
So I think to me that was the first thing that came to my mind when you asked the question. I’m not a huge golf fan, but I’ve watched enough golf on TV to know that’s how the mental and physical part of it works.
Q. How different is it now in the garage looking for a ride than it was when you first came in?
RYAN NEWMAN: I didn’t have to look. I don’t know. I don’t know.
I came into this garage with a great ride, you know, obviously a great organization with great people. We proved that, proved that out of the box, winning a pole my second race, a top five in my third race. It came not easy, but it just came.
There was a lot of hard work involved, but that’s why I can’t say it was easy. In the end, I can’t answer that because I know it’s not easy now. That’s why going back to a kid like Kyle Larson, if you have a good opportunity like that, it’s hard to say no, and that’s the bottom line.
Q. You would think performance, you win at Indy, that would assure you of something. Do you feel like the next couple of races, that it’s on the races themselves?
RYAN NEWMAN: Yes, it’s on. There’s no doubt it’s on. Indianapolis and all that stuff helped. But I think if you look at my history in the sport the last 10 years, I’ve got a good résumé on and off the racetrack. I think there are car sponsors and owners that appreciate that