NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES SHOWTIME SOUTHERN 500 DARLINGTON RACEWAY TEAM CHEVY DRIVER PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT MAY 6, 2011
RYAN NEWMAN, NO. 39 TORNADOS CHEVROLET met with media and discussed the assistance his Foundation is giving to animals in the aftermath of recent tornadoes, the toll tempers can take on race teams, the incident with Juan Pablo Montoya at last week’s Richmond race, his thoughts on Dover next week, Safer Barriers, and more. Full Transcript:
KERRY THARP: Ryan Newman. He’s eighth in points. Ryan, before we go into the race weekend, I know that the Ryan Newman Foundation has been very, very active of late with the tornadoes that obviously devastated the southeastern part of this country. The Greater Birmingham Alabama Humane Society, you’re going to be working with those folks to help in this cause. Talk a little bit about that.
RYAN NEWMAN: We’ve got a great partnership with Iams, the pet food company, doing what we can do to try to help out with the devastation, ultimately try to help the animals that just as we saw in Hurricane Katrina efforts, the animals are thought of secondly typically. People are trying to take care of themselves so they can’t take care of the animals. We’re trying to do what we can to help with the efforts with Iams’ support, local support, to drop off food and things that animals need, water and different things like that, that otherwise they may not get. The Greater Alabama Humane Society as well as some other shelters down there are doing their part to help out. I think my wife is planning on a trip down there to help unload the trucks, get the food to the proper drop sites so the animals can get caught up on their feed. Just doing what we can from our standpoint, NASCAR’s standpoint, our foundation, to work together with their group efforts to control some of the devastation.
KERRY THARP: A great cause. When you think about it, not only affecting people, but it affects the pets. Sometimes that gets overlooked. Thank you so much for doing that with the Ryan Newman Foundation. You come in here eighth in points. I know you’re hungry for a victory this season. Talk about racing here at Darlington Raceway.
RYAN NEWMAN: Well, I’ve always said this is one of my favorite racetracks. I really look forward to it, just racing the racetrack and the competition. The way you drive this racetrack, it’s rewarding in several different aspects, but it can reach out and bite you at any second at the same time. I look forward to it. We got the opportunity to do the Goodyear tire test when we came down here. I think that gives us a little bit of a leg up. But in saying that, we’ve got to go out there and do our job, keep the right side clean, have a fast racecar. Just look forward to the opportunity this weekend with the Tornado Chevrolet to get that victory for our team.
KERRY THARP: Questions for Ryan Newman.
Q. I talked to your crew chief Mr. Gibson this week. What left him more upset about Richmond was the fact of the toll it takes on the race team itself. Can you talk about when tempers flare sometimes people don’t think of the big-picture implications, crew guys, everything else that comes into play.
RYAN NEWMAN: Yeah, obviously when tempers flare, your mindset kind of goes out the window. But I try to maintain a good mindset. The situation that I was in, ultimately the way it all worked out, it cost us a lot for what we didn’t do. That’s the toughest part of that whole situation there at Richmond. You know, just getting caught up in a racing situation that in turn turns into something else because of somebody’s temper is not acceptable in my eyes. We’ll move on. It was sad because of the way it affects our team. I’m not worried about anybody else’s team, it affects our team, because of somebody losing their temper. The way that is taken out on a team is different than the way it should be taken out on a driver. That’s something we’ll get addressed.
Q. Do you feel that issue is over or do you feel you will race Juan differently from here on out?
RYAN NEWMAN: I don’t think once you have an issue it’s over in what we do. Even when you think you’re over it with somebody else, it can reflare really quick. I’m not sure if that was something of what happened at Richmond. But either way, I’m still not happy about it, let’s put it that way.
Q. It seems like you and Juan have kind of had issues since his first race back at Homestead. By his scorecard, you wrecked him three times, he never wrecked you until he retaliated. RYAN NEWMAN: Did you read his scorecard?
Q. No. He told us that.
RYAN NEWMAN: Okay.
Q. What is your impression of what happened to kind of start what’s going on between you guys?
RYAN NEWMAN: I’m not really sure. I know he’s a really hard racer, he’s really physical. There’s nothing wrong with that as long as you have an amount of respect. I think the respect went out the window Saturday night at Richmond. I’m not real sure why. I know for a fact that his spotter admitted fault of not even calling me out there on the outside of him there off of turn two. Why he would go and crash me afterwards is disrespectful. Scorecard or not, what happened clear back at his first race at Homestead was nearly an accident. I was called to the NASCAR trailer after that to be reassured to them that it was an accident. He physically cut across my nose going into turn one on a restart. I crashed myself before that, so I don’t understand where the scorecard actually is. It’s not like I turned him around. I spun myself off of turn two at Homestead in whatever year it was. I don’t know, number one, who is keeping score, and number two, how they’re keeping score, and if it really matters.
Q. I’ll spare you from those questions. If I could ask you to look ahead for me. One tough oval to another. Dover has been described as a self-cleaning rollercoaster ride. Give yours thoughts on Dover.
RYAN NEWMAN: It’s another one of my favorite racetracks. This little swing here we have here, Richmond, Darlington, Dover, Charlotte, it’s been kind of similar in the last few years. It’s a string of races that I really enjoy. Dover is a very demanding racetrack. The way the altitude, the elevation changes I should say going into the corners, coming off, as another parameter, that makes it more exciting from our standpoints as drivers. It’s a challenge. And a challenge, just like here at Darlington, if you don’t like a challenge, you don’t like Darlington or Dover. I like them both. I look forward to racing there. It’s fast, it’s demanding. I like the banked racetracks, and it’s one of those.
Q. What happens next going forward? Are you able to race around Montoya?
RYAN NEWMAN: I’m not sure. Honestly, I’m not. I haven’t got to that part yet.
Q. Jeff Gordon’s crash last week at Richmond, he hit a part of the wall that didn’t have a SAFER barrier. He thinks that will probably be addressed. At this stage, someone as active as you in safety, is it acceptable that there was a part of the track that he hit that didn’t have a SAFER barrier?
RYAN NEWMAN: I don’t know if the word ‘acceptable’ is right. It’s part of the things that we learn in hindsight. Whether it’s Pocono, whether it’s Richmond, whether it’s another racetrack, you know, I guess it was probably going back to Vegas when he first hit the wall on the inside on the backstretch that kind of made him magnetic to backstretch inside walls. In saying that, there’s no part of it I guess that you could say is acceptable. If we don’t take the time to learn from the things, or if our mindset is behind to the point that we should have, and we can blame ourselves because we didn’t do those things to make it safer, then, yeah, it’s our fault and it’s not acceptable. But in the end, nobody got hurt. I assume he’s not hurt. I think he was sore, but he’s not hurt. We can learn from those things and go on. That’s a big part of what NASCAR has done to get us in a position where we can keep making those steps in the right direction so ultimately it’s never an issue. The second part of it is, it’s kind of a Catch-22, we never want to make it so safe that a guy can go out here and drive wide open into a corner, bounce off a wall, try to hit somebody and take him out. There’s a part of it where it still has to be partially dangerous.
Q. Ryan, the degree to which you’re racing the track here versus racing your opponents, how aggressive can you afford to be, how bold can you afford to be here at Darlington? Is there an element of patience that you need to be successful?
RYAN NEWMAN: It’s more like 90% racing the racetrack and 10% racing the competition. But there are times where it can be almost 50% racing the competition, like on restarts. You have to just be respectful of the racetrack, respectful of the wall. Any kind of slip-up, it’s not like at Richmond where you get a little hot, you can slide up to the second land. It doesn’t happen like that here. You ride up to the second lane, your right side is six inches into the wall. It’s just demanding. You have to race the racetrack the entire time. You know, you get to a place like Michigan, it’s so wide open that it’s like racing the racetrack is only 10% of it, racing the competition is 60% of it, and managing your tires is another 30% of it. There’s things that change around different racetracks, but here it’s 90% racing the racetrack.
Q. I spoke with John Darby in the garage at Richmond after your group was huddled into the garage there. None of them really wanted to say anything. John said you met with him for a half hour, that you made some valid points. Do you feel NASCAR understood what you had to say in that meeting? I asked if they were going to pull the two of you together. John said, Let’s see what happens when we get to Darlington. Do you feel any progress, that they explained anything back to you, they heard what you had to say?
RYAN NEWMAN: I wouldn’t say it was progress. I think there were some explanations done on both sides that opened each other’s eyes. Ultimately, I don’t know if there’s an answer. You know, it was a tough situation that night because of the way everything unfolded. I thought it was the best thing from my standpoint, because of the things I was told, to go into the hauler and have a discussion first before I addressed the situation in any way possible. Some people out there think that’s crying and being a little whiner. But they’re not racing anymore. Ultimately, I don’t know how it’s all going to play out. I don’t want to do anything to his team or to my team in a bad way. Like I said, it was a personal thing, and it will get handled personally.
Q. Ryan, with the change in the points system, the change in the Chase, how important is it going to be for you to collect a couple of wins, considering now you’re sitting on kind of the edge of the top 10 now that you’re a third of the way through the regular season?
RYAN NEWMAN: If the winner’s percentage works out the way it did last year, one win will make you a Chase contender, two wins will guarantee you a spot. If you win two races, as a couple guys have done now, the rest of the summer is potentially just a matter of either collecting more wins or trying different things because you’re into the Chase based on the history. You know, there’s different theories, there’s different ways of looking at it. We don’t typically look at it that way. That’s a new structure that could be viewed that way. We’re doing our best to win each and every week just to win once. We’ll address that if we get that fortunate.
Q. Ryan, you and Tony both started the season pretty hot. He’s in recent weeks expressed some displeasure about having difficulty with his car in getting it to turn correctly. You appear at least on the outside to be a little bit better positioned. How would you evaluate where the two teams are? Do you have a similar situation as Tony does? Do you address it a little differently?
RYAN NEWMAN: We have a similar situation because we are dealing with similar parameters. I do know that our cars haven’t been set up exactly the same. I think his problems are a little bit worse than ours with respect to some of the complaints he has with his racecars. Tony Gibson and I have worked really hard in the off season and at the start of the season to communicate better. We’re not where we want to be points-wise, finishing-wise. Tony started out great. Should have won two of the first three races. We feel like we have a really good package at certain racetracks. Certain racetracks we go back to that we had a good package at we struggle with. Sometimes the tire changes. Sometimes we take a different racecar and we just don’t get it right. I think overall we’re close. You look at the way our start is to the season, having multiple cars in the top 10, it’s the strongest start for Stewart/Haas. But in saying that, we’re not 1-2.
Q. Ryan, Jeff Gordon said a few drivers had texted him after his comments after the Richmond incident and thanked him for bringing up the issue of the SAFER barrier. Were you one of the ones that texted him in appreciation of what he said after what he’d gone through? You talked about moving forward and learning from this. What more do you want to see between the dialogue and the drivers and NASCAR or the safety officials to have a better understanding? In some cases there may be some hard hits that may not register as hard a G Force, whereas you’re in the car getting hit. Is there enough going back and forth to understand how this process works? What can be done so you guys are better informed and officials making these recommendations are better informed?
RYAN NEWMAN: No, I did not text him. I don’t even have his phone number. The second part of that, yeah, I think it’s been more responsive than it has the last four or five years as far as our communication with NASCAR from a driver standpoint, talking about the cars, talking about the hits. In saying that, there was some change in personnel with the loss of Steve Peterson, working through some of those things that have made a difference in the way we communicate. But ultimately I think that they’ve done a good job. They can always do a better job just in the instance of Richmond, with the SAFER barriers, communicating. There’s been some steps, from what I understand, I haven’t seen it firsthand, at Pocono, places like that, we’re we’ve opened up communications from a drivers’ standpoint. That makes a big difference. The message can be delivered, but the message can be delivered in the wrong way, too. Usually when we get a microphone in front of our face and voice our opinion, it’s not the best of timing. So it’s hard for them to listen to everything we say. I understand that.
Q. That’s often your opportunity to say something.
RYAN NEWMAN: Yeah. Otherwise if we go up in the trailer, we’re considered whiners or complainers. So it’s tough. There’s times in the week when we’re doing other things where we should be talking about calling Mr. Darby, Mr. Helton, Mr. Pemberton, talking about the things we can do to be better. It’s no different than anything else you do. Sometimes you forget the eggs when you go to the grocery store. Q. You mentioned that the track is 90% the track collecting a lot of right sides and fenders. Do you consider Darlington track an ally?
RYAN NEWMAN: Do I consider it an ally?
RYAN NEWMAN: I enjoy racing here. I always have, from the very first lap I came here with the Buddy Baker. The opportunity to drive here in the Nationwide Series was a lot of fun. On the racetrack and off, I like the area, I like the people, I like the places, I like the history of NASCAR. The racetrack just makes it that much more icing on the top of the cake, and I like icing.
KERRY THARP: Thank you very much, Ryan. Good luck this weekend. F
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