Chevy Racing–NASCAR–Daytona–Media Day–Ryan Newman

FEBRUARY 22, 2017

RYAN NEWMAN, NO. 31 CATERPILLAR CHEVROLET SS, met with media Daytona 500 Media Day. Full transcript:

ON THE UPCOMING SEASON: “I look forward to the opportunity. It is another chance to win a championship, obviously win some races and get back into the victory column. I think there is a lot of exciting changes that promote a lot of positive things within our sport with respect to Monster coming in; the new points system; the chance for the accumulative effort toward the championship versus a playoff-type round system that creates everybody back to equal after you have earned something. It is nice to see that part of it. I think that is the biggest, most important change that applies to our season and how the point structure works and the opportunities we have to become a champion.”

IS RCR UP OR DOWN COMPARED TO LAST YEAR BASED ON WHAT YOU HAVE SEEN SO FAR? “I think we are definitely up when you simply look at our raw qualifying speed at Daytona. I don’t think it is really fair to assess the other parts of what we do – our performance – until we get to those types of race tracks. The aero balance has changed. The aero package has changed. I don’t think that we can honestly…you can have a gut feel, but you can be very wrong.”

ON GOING TO ATLANTA FOR THE LAST TIME ON THE OLD PAVEMENT: “I look forward to it. It has always been a fun race track. I started racing there in 2001 in the Busch (Xfinity) Series and the pavement was four years old then; and we had to put new tires on every stop we could possibly get. I don’t see that happening four years from now. I think we will still be running the tires we started the race on type of a deal, so I don’t know…we will see. But I think as a driver, 99.9% of us like the old style race tracks, or the old asphalt, the old race tracks. I don’t know that you can do anything to make it as good as it is.”

YOU TALKED ABOUT FOUR YEARS FROM NOW, GUESS THAT MEANS YOU AREN’T GOING TO QUIT? “No…I don’t have any plans for that. I’ve always said as long as I am having fun, and people give the opportunity to do my job, and do it in good equipment, then I will be here. We’ll see, but creating the analogy of my four years from the time it was repaved to what it is going to be like after the repave with today’s technology. You just can’t age a track as good if you are going to spend the money to build one; there is really no point in aging one.”

TALK ABOUT THE NEW POINTS SYSTEM: “I like it. I like every aspect of it. The stage part of it – the first think I thought of is it gives me a chance to win three races on a given day for my sponsors and myself. The cumulative effort that goes into a championship I think is back. Not to the way it was, but without a doubt, a step in the right direction of having a true Cup champion, versus a one-race champion or a playoff type reset where one bad race can take you out even through you might have been the best team the entire year.”

IS THAT THE FLAW IN THE PREVIOUS VERSION? “That is what I said in the very beginning. It was great. It was good for a change, but it is time to make it better. I think they made the right moves to make it better.”

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE DUELS TO GET YOUR STARTING SPOT? “Well, the Duels serve two purposes now. It is not just preparation for the (Daytona) 500, but points for the season, and that’s important. It’s different this year because the amount of practice that we have. We don’t know how much practice we are going to get in general – period with some rain coming in. It’s going to be interesting to see how everybody races them, and then how that is going to translate to the stages of the Daytona 500.”

IS IT GOING TO BE MORE AGGRESSIVE OR LESS AGGRESSIVE DUE TO REPAIR RULES? “Both. I think there are going to be guys that are more aggressive, and there are going to be guys – I won’t say less aggressive, but aggressive at the right times. 10 and 10 still make 20 when there are 40 at the end. You can be putting a lot of effort in for 50%, and that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me just doing a little math.”

WHY IS IT SO HARD TO WIN BACK-TO-BACK DAYTONA 500 RACES? “Because it is that hard to win a Daytona 500 in general. So doubling up isn’t easy. It is challenging. You can have the best car and get shuffled out. You can have a not-so-good car and be stuck in the middle all day. It’s not easy. A lot of it is luck that you create. You have to put yourself in the right position. In 2008 we were fortunate to do that.”

HAS IT GOTTEN HARDER AS THE YEARS HAVE GONE ON? “No, there are three less cars. Seriously, that is all it takes. I think it was easier to have a package that would dominate say 10, 15, 20 years ago. Just the way the rules are and everything else, we all kind of know some things like the No. 4 car (Kevin Harvick) guys did. You can’t do that kind of stuff anymore. So it becomes harder because of that. I think those rules have kind of communized the garage performance-wise. More of an answer for you. It is tough, because it has been made tougher.”

DO YOU THINK DRIVERS WILL INTENTIONALLY SEEK OUT DALE EARNHARDT, JR. TO WORK WITH FOR THIS RACE DESPITE THE TIME HE WAS AWAY FROM THE CAR? “I don’t know that you can work with a driver the way that you want to. I mean if you look at the way the No. 2 (Brad Keselowski) and No. 22 (Joey Logano) tried to work together in the Clash. It took them 20 laps just to get back together and those are two good cars, and two good teammates. So I don’t know that will necessarily be the case. A lot of the concern is on Junior’s hands is a car that he can control. He struggled a little bit last year and we all kind of saw that, and then what Jimmie did in the Clash. They are working on that right now. If they are not, they should be.”

WHAT DO YOU THINK THAT IS? “It is just missing a balance. It is a balance of balancing what you have under the car versus the aero balance. At that point, like even when Jimmie spun the second time, and spun down across the race track, the first tire to blow out was the right front tire. The right rear never blew out, and they were both sliding at the exact same angle. So that tells you how much downforce is on the front of the car and not the back.”

ARE THE DAYS GONE THAT WE CAN SAY THIS GUY IS THE FAVORITE FOR THE DAYTONA 500? “I think if you look at the 150s as you always have, there are guys that are going to really strong. I think the No. 2 and the No. 22 will probably be the benchmark for a lot of it. Based off of last year and based off of what we saw in some practice speeds. You will still have your favorites, or at least the guys that look like they have the odds on better chance.”

DOES THAT MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN HOW PEOPLE APPROACH THE DUELS? “It all depends on where your mind is and how confident you are. It is going to change people’s approach. It is tough to say really because you are starting the season with test on how you need to race the first part of the Daytona 500. It is like the perfect window and the perfect overlap. I think yes, but I still think in the end, you have to take care of your race car because you still have a chance to make sixty points on Sunday.”

IN THE PAST YOU HAVE HUNG IN THE BACK OF THE DAYTONA 500. DO YOU HAVE PLANS TO DO THAT AGAIN? “I won’t be in a position to give up stage points, but I’ll be in a position to race the way I need to race to get myself the best opportunity in each stage, and obviously the finally stage.
“We could drop the green flag for the Daytona 500 and have a “Big One” going into turn three. That will change every stage, and how you approach every segment.”

SO YOU AREN’T GOING INTO THE SEASON SAYING I HAVE TO MAKE A FUNDAMENTAL CHANGE IN THE WAY I AM GOING TO COMPETE? “You can’t say that. You have to adapt to the situation. I don’t think this is the case, but we could have weather coming in. So we have to change the way we approach that. I think it is all situational. And, yes, as a driver, you have to do whatever you have to do to put yourself in the best situation whether that is leading every lap if you have a car that is capable. Or, put yourself in a safer position, which is not always in the back. But more often in the back.”

WHAT WAS YOUR INITIAL REACTION TO THE STAGES WHEN YOU FIRST HEARD ABOUT THEM? “I didn’t know about the points deal, so to me the stages were pre-conditioned cautions basically – debris cautions. It was nice to see that there is a reward for that. And again, for me to have a chance to win something for my sponsors and myself whether it is a bonus point, or a little bit of press for winning.”

HOW NECESSARY DID YOU THINK THEY WERE? “How necessary? Nothing is necessary? I don’t think that necessary is the right word. I think it was a good decision.”

WHAT IS ON THE LINE FOR RCR THIS SEASON? “This is the biggest drought that RCR has ever been in its history. As a driver, that sits on my shoulders as well as it does those of Austin (Dillon) and Paul (Menard). We have to go out there and do the best job we possibly can, and there still are no guarantees. We still have to perform as a company, and that is top to bottom better than we have and better than everybody else on a given day. That is my personal goal to get back in victory lane. It has been a long time for me. My longest drought as well. It’s not cool, but it is the facts of it, and usually, if you have fight in you, that promotes performance more so than any other time. Just look at that rebound, you fight harder. You take it personally, and you fight harder. It is a bigger issue. If you have fight and drive, then you unify and become one. It is just the entire opposite of being victorious and becoming okay, and not fighting to figure out the next thing you need to do.”

HOW TOUGH IS IT TO MAINTAIN THAT FIGHT? “That is yet to be seen. Once you start to climb back up the hill, then you have to keep pulling, you have to keep digging. You can’t stop and that’s what we also have to be aware of. You look at our sport. Everything cycles. Penske has cycled. Roush has cycled. Hendrick has cycled. RCR has hopefully gone past the bottom and has started to climb back up the hill on its cycle.”

HOW IS THAT BECAUSE YOU GUYS HAVE FAIRED WELL IN THE PLAYOFFS. “Because that is the way the playoffs were structured. Now you can’t afford to do that. Now you have to win. Those wins can carry you into Homestead – period.”

YOU AREN’T WORKING THE MATT (BORLAND) AGAIN. WHY? “Because I enjoy working with Luke (Lambert). I’m really don’t think that is our weak point. I might be proved wrong, and he might be proved wrong, but I think it is good for Matt to come over (to RCR) for me personally because I have such a history with him and have a pretty good reputation together. And we had a good reputation together even when I was at Stewart-Haas before he became my crew chief at Stewart-Haas. I’ve worked with him in other capacities, and this will be a different perspective and capacity.”

DO YOU THINK EVERYONE IS IN TOO MUCH OF A PANIC OVER THE DOWNTURN IN ATTENDANCE AND TV RATINGS? “It is a good question, because I don’t know that it is the downturn we all think it is. It is on paper. It doesn’t look as good as we want it to look, and it is a downturn. But I think in addition to that, there is really no good way to monitor what we have for fans technologically – on phones, on devices, on wireless devices. So, my point is, yes the attendance is down. Yes the TV ratings are down. Are they down more compared to other sports? No they are not. We are not getting our tails kicked at everything. The NFL always beats everybody. I would have to say back in the early 90’s that was the case. In the heyday – when NASCAR grew more than any other sport – we still didn’t beat their numbers. My point is I don’t think it is as bad as everybody thinks it is. We all still have jobs. We all still have fans. Even though the fans aren’t always in the grandstands, and they aren’t watching as much on TV. The metrics that we can record, they are out there.”

SO WITH MODERN TECHNOLOGY, YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE HERE TO WATCH THE RACE: “I went to dinner with a few other drivers last night and my point to them was that technology has ruined the spontaneity of our sport. When I was growing up as a kid, when I went home, I was excited to get the SpeedSport News out of the mailbox because I could go read what happened last weekend. And now that is gone. You used to be able to go and talk to your buddies or other people at the racetrack and say ‘Man, did you hear Earnhardt’ wore them out at Dover? Won the thing by two laps.’ And if you were the first one to tell that story, you were the hero in your group of buddies. Now everybody has it on their phone. So nobody is the hero. So now, everybody has the same information. I don’t know that any of you guys are the heroes. It’s all out there. We are getting it just as soon as you guys are getting it. There is no newness. There’s no way to create that excitement, because that excitement is in everybody’s hands. Nobody predicted this.”

IS THERE OVER-SATURATION? “There always has been. For the last 10 years easily – over saturation. When NASCAR had its own cooking show, there was over saturation.”

DO YOU HAVE A SENSE OF HOW MUCH THIS TRACK HAS AGED AND CHANGED WATCHING THE CLASH? “I don’t have a sense for that yet. But I’ve seen that sense. It was already falling off last year. And there were so many times we had a natural caution or a debris caution because not everybody got to see it. It’s kind of been that way. Talladega is even starting to get that way a little bit. It’s real. It will be there on Sunday. It will even probably be there on Thursday.”

ARE THE CHEVY DRIVERS GOING TO HAVE TO HAVE A GAME PLAN TO WORK TOGETHER TO TOP THE OTHER MANUFACTURERS? “Again, it is all situational because you don’t know who you have going to have to gang up against. You have 500 miles, and there might only be 50% of the Toyotas left running, or Fords for that matter at that point. Yes and no. You can still put yourself in a position to be pushed by another manufacturer or push another manufacturer to give yourself an opportunity at the end of the race. Matt Kenseth might get upset at Kyle Busch at some point because of the way Kyle Busch is driving and might want to bail on him. You take that bail. If you know he has a good car, you go with him. To me there is a true alliance, but there is a time when that alliance is null and void.”

YOUR CAR IS FEATURED IN THE NEWEST EA SPORTS UPDATE. DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR OUR PLAYERS? “Be smooth. Just be smooth. It is all about being smooth, and no making erratic decisions.”

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS OF CHARLOTTE BRINGING IN A ROAD COURSE FOR THE FALL? “I think we should do it at Daytona in July first to get a taste for it. Put us on a race track as we are drivers, probably 70% have some experience with it. And put us in a position where we can do a litmus test for what that would be. If it works, it works, if it doesn’t, it doesn’t. But I’m all for it. I’d rather go to a road course in Birmingham than go to Talladega in the Chase. And I’d rather, right now at least, run the road course in Charlotte than the oval, which we’ve already done twice that year. So….”

ARE THE DRIVERS AWARE THE FANS ARE ASKING FOR ROAD COURSE IN THE CHASE? “Just as much as you are. Again, we all have the same technology now.”