Chevy Racing–NASCAR–Charlotte Media Tour–Ryan Newman

JANUARY 24, 2018

RYAN NEWMAN, NO. 31 CATERPILLAR CAMARO ZL1, met with members of the media at the Charlotte Media Tour and discussed his impression of the new Camaro ZL1 race car, the sharing of data, personnel changes at RCR, the Hawkeye system, and more. Full Transcript:

Q. Yesterday Austin said our show is going to be leaner and meaner. I was wondering if you feel the same way.
RYAN NEWMAN: Yeah, Jimmie was joking earlier about that, and I don’t know that I would describe it as leaner and meaner, but I think it’s a great opportunity for us to take the people that we decided to keep on board and pursue the 2018 season with a new Camaro ZL1. I don’t know that I’ll be leaner. I don’t know that I’ll be meaner. But I’m going to try as hard as I’ve ever tried and do whatever it takes to be as good as we can be.

Q. Any impressions on that new car so far?
RYAN NEWMAN: I think there’s nobody more excited about it than anybody that drives a Chevrolet. It’s a car that was built and designed for this aero package, and I believe that all the smart people that we have in the garage that work on Chevrolets wouldn’t get it wrong. I look forward to the opportunity that it brings and hope that with a lot of the new things in our sport, the Hawkeye system, the way the tech process is going to go, the pit stop procedures, personnel‑wise, as well as the pit guns, that it’ll help even out some of the playing field for us and give us an opportunity to be more successful.

Q. About the sharing of data with some of the guys in the garage ‑‑
RYAN NEWMAN: Everybody is going to have everybody’s data, so it’s just a matter of doing the homework now and comparing answers, as to what you can do to be better or what you can do to be faster, what you can do to maybe knock off a couple thousandths here or there. But as a driver, if you couldn’t do that beforehand, then it really doesn’t teach you anything. I mean, it’s just a different tool that everybody is going to have that’s going to commonize what we typically would see internally within our cars, ECU data wise, as well as combined with what we can see straightaway wise, line wise that guys are doing to be faster or potentially slower if you’re that guy.

Q. Why would it piss off a driver because some people were really adamant about that, like we didn’t vote for that.
RYAN NEWMAN: Yeah, those are the guys that have said that about a lot of things in the sport, me being one of them, that at some point it just doesn’t matter anymore because they don’t care about what you think. I don’t think it’s anything that we need. I don’t think it’s going to make the racing any better. But it is what it is, so you’d better take the tools that you have and use them to the best of your ability.

Q. Do you think it’ll put proprietary data in jeopardy?
RYAN NEWMAN: What proprietary data? They’ve got it all. They see it all. They pull the data off of our cars each and every race, during practice, after the race, you name it. They come and do it anyway. It’s –

Q. There are no secrets?
RYAN NEWMAN: There used to be secrecy amongst the teams but not NASCAR. Now there is a certain amount of driver data that is available to all the other drivers and engineers and crew chiefs and whatever else that are out there. So I don’t know that that will make my car faster. I don’t know that it’ll make anybody’s race car faster. In the end, I think it’s something that’s the same for everybody. Should be like a Goodyear tire; we’ve all got the same tires, we all should stick just as good.

Q. Personnel changes at RCR, the new Chevrolet, do you like this direction for the company?
RYAN NEWMAN: Yeah, I think if you look at last year, I mean, everybody kind of uses last year’s champion as an example, right? At least when you can. And we want to win stage points, and we want to win races, and we want to win poles and all that stuff, but they were a two‑car team that came out of Colorado now going down to a one‑car team, so they find there’s more strength in being a one‑car team than a two‑car team. We have the cards that we were dealt, so we have three teams, three cars with two sponsors, so we now have two cars, two teams and two sponsors. The other things from an ownership side they have to worry about. From my standpoint, we had the opportunity to take the best of the best people, put them all together. We have a couple small personnel changes on the 31 side, but the core group of guys as far as the crew chief and the race engineers are all the same, so we were able to build on what we’ve had, and our feather in our cap is the Camaro ZL1 because we feel as a design and development piece it is made to be better than what we had last year, and the rest of the rules are the same from last year. We hope that it shows the fruits of our labor.

Q. Getting back to you being one of the smartest guys in the garage, can you explain the Hawkeye system from your standpoint, what you think it will show and how it will ease or complicate tech?
RYAN NEWMAN: Yeah, I don’t know that you could have made tech any more complicated than it was, and NASCAR did a good job of that. You know, it did help in certain instances, but I think it really hurt our sport in certain instances as far as guys not making it out to qualify. When your 10, 15, 20 cars don’t make it out to qualify, it’s a black eye on our sport no matter how you look at it, and when it happens two or three or four out of five weeks, that’s horrible, and they let it happen. I’m glad that they’ve tried to put an end to it, but we won’t know until we get eight, ten races into the season if they have. When the Hawkeye system goes down, what’s the backup plan? We don’t have enough people anymore, so what are we going to do, just sit in the garage and wait until we get the Hawkeye system back up and running, when we have a power outage and things got to get rebooted or when something gets wet, what are we going to do? How’s that part going to work? Technology has made us dependent upon a lot of things technology‑wise, and when those things fail, a lot of us just scratch our head.

Q. I’m going to ask this because I know that usually the modified races at New Hampshire (indiscernible)?
RYAN NEWMAN: I don’t think anybody is going to get a modified out there, but I get your point. Yeah, I don’t know that that’s going to be the case, and I think it would be fun to do something at the dirt track, but we just can’t do that. I mean, either ‑‑ how do you say it? It would devalue something that we do, whether the dirt track racing will be better or the big track racing would be better, and at the end people are only going to spend so much money on so many things. It’s fun for me to race those modified races. It’s an absolute blast, great group of guys, racer‑wise, that I get to compete against. But I look forward now to that one race a year versus those three. And I will do more if I can, but I don’t know if there is anything that I can, and I really don’t care to run the Bullring here at Charlotte. It’s just not much of a racetrack.

Q. Getting back to the Hawkeye system, are there things you want to address with NASCAR?
RYAN NEWMAN: No, I don’t want to address anything with NASCAR. That costs you money. I’m just saying, you’ve got to be realistic about it. I know what the intentions are, but in the end, nobody at this point knows how well it’s going to be. It’s costing our teams $350,000 to set up a Hawkeye system at our shop to be able to go to the racetrack and have our cars pass so that we can practice and race.

Q. Would you like NASCAR to have (indiscernible) before you go to Daytona?
RYAN NEWMAN: Maybe. It doesn’t really matter to me. I mean, it’s not going to change it for me. It’s our sport that I’m worried about. I don’t know. Good questions, right?

Q. Do you anticipate more on‑track cooperation from the other seven teams, especially since it’s the first year of the new car?
RYAN NEWMAN: On‑track cooperation, absolutely not. No, I don’t think that that’s going to be the case. I don’t think it’s ever been the case. We have tried to do that in the past at restrictor plate tracks in particular, and it still doesn’t work out in practice, let alone the race. If we can’t do it in practice, it’s sure as hell not going to happen 10 laps to go in the 500.

Q. Given your longevity of the sport, having gone through 2017 with the awarding of stage points, do you see this system as one that rewards consistency more throughout the year for teams that have been consistent and at the end of the year have a realistic chance at the championship?

RYAN NEWMAN: Consistency, no. Consistently good, yes. But just in general, consistency, no. Because if you look at the way the playoffs work, you don’t have to be consistent. You can win four races in the playoffs and be a champion. You can have six DNFs and be a champion.

Q. So you can say more so in the regular season it does, but the rules change when it gets to the playoffs?
RYAN NEWMAN: Well, I think there’s a certain level of consistency that you’ve got to have in 26 races, but those two or three positions typically are guys that were really close to winning races, and if they didn’t in those first 26, sometimes they do in the last 10. I mean, it’s a Catch 22 in my opinion. You could put a lot of weight into the old points system, you could put a lot of weight into the new points system, but in the end, when the green flag drops in Daytona and when the checkered flag falls in Homestead, everybody had the same opportunity.

Q. I think someone made the comment that you’ve got to perform at Homestead no matter what you’ve done in the past.
RYAN NEWMAN: That’s right, so consistency is not that important when it comes down to being a champion in one race.

Q. (Indiscernible).
RYAN NEWMAN: I think the cars ‑‑ I don’t know this, but I think the cars still have to be certified and pass their chassis and body certification status, but to be legal and pass the rules come race weekend, they don’t have to because if our Hawkeye system is set up to the same calibration as the NASCAR one each and every weekend, then we shouldn’t have an issue. So Hawkeye system being what it is, I mean, is it should allow us to have everything refined. The problem is with the old LIS, the weather would change and so would the LIS, and everybody knew that, including NASCAR, but they couldn’t predict it and they couldn’t create a source of error for it that was acceptable. You could have a car that would pass one time, not change anything, roll around and it wouldn’t pass by a bigger margin than it ever should have. There was a lot of frustrations with the LIS, and there was a crew chief that got fired because of the LIS that I know of, because he was frustrated with the fact that it was not repetitive.

Q. (Indiscernible).
RYAN NEWMAN: No. Maybe I should, but not really.

Q. Is there anything that if you don’t do something on race day ‑‑
RYAN NEWMAN: Breathe. Breathe and hydrate.

Q. Does it kind of throw you off?

Q. What do you like for breakfast?
RYAN NEWMAN: A little bit of everything. I had a bagel this morning, bagel and an orange. Pretty healthy for a big guy, huh?

Q. What would you typically drink for breakfast?
RYAN NEWMAN: Either a glass of chocolate milk or some kind of juice. I can’t get like this without eating breakfast.

Q. Let’s talk about the new Camaro. It looks mighty good. I’m sure they’ve done a lot of homework, a lot of testing ‑‑
RYAN NEWMAN: How did you come up with the PENNZOIL racing shirt this morning when you put that on?

Q. Did you ever know of a guy named Chuck Rider? He gave me one of these back at an old media tour about 50 years ago. I took it out of the closet.
RYAN NEWMAN: That’s what I was wondering. You’ve got to put a patch over it.

Q. With the new Camaro, do you think you’re going to hit the ground running?
RYAN NEWMAN: Well, that’s the hope. If we do our homework right, it shouldn’t matter. We should be dialed in, whether it’s the new Camaro or the new beetle or whatever. We should have everything detailed to the point that whether it’s Daytona or Phoenix or Las Vegas, we’re ready to go.

Q. Are you overly optimistic about expecting growing pains?
RYAN NEWMAN: I don’t think we should expect new growing pains with a new body spec. I think with a new aero spec or a new chassis or weight or something along those lines, it would be potentially a bigger issue, but there’s no reason why we can’t have a car that we build, go to the wind tunnel, get the data off it, apply it to the simulation, be able to go to the racetrack and hit our numbers.

Q. The Ford guys have said they think the new Hawkeye is going to help them because it’ll hold others to closer tolerances than maybe in the past. What do you see from that?
RYAN NEWMAN: I say we’ll figure it out. About three, four weeks into the season, we’ll know who it helped and who it hurt.

Q. Daytona won’t be the answer to that?
RYAN NEWMAN: Absolutely not. Never is.

Q. Talk a little bit about coming out with these new cars, and having the Petty team come in ‑‑
RYAN NEWMAN: No, because they’re in a separate building with separate people. They’re on our campus, don’t get me wrong, but hell, there’s guys in our shop that work on the 3 car and guys that work on the 31 car that do the same jobs and don’t talk to each other, and that happens at every race shop. Being 300 yards down the street, yeah.

Q. Anything about the rescue?
RYAN NEWMAN: No, just keeping the animals fed and warm throughout the winter and running water, that’s pretty much it. There’s not a whole lot you can do when it’s cold and nasty and raw outside, other than educate the kids inside. I spend a lot of time doing that.

Q. How many events do you have per year?
RYAN NEWMAN: That’s a good question, I don’t know. Between ‑‑ it’s a loaded question because if you factor in all the birthday parties and things like that, it changes. I know that the number she’s told me is we’ve seen and had an impact on over 10,000 kids over the last couple years, so that’s to me pretty impressive because we’re doing classroom style, field trip style education for animals, and you don’t get to see a thousand at a time, you’re seeing maybe 100 at a time.

Q. You’ve got quite a car collection. Did you add to it in the off‑season or in the past year?
RYAN NEWMAN: Yeah, it’s been a good year when it comes to that. I got a ’69 Camaro for my birthday, a ’73 Dodge Charger for my birthday, and a 1925 Chevrolet, and a 1940 Chevrolet pickup in the last six months. A lot more dead batteries around the house.

Q. A 20 percent increase ‑‑
RYAN NEWMAN: No, it’s less than that. We’re not going to go into numbers.

Q. Do you have a couple of favorites?
RYAN NEWMAN: My ’49 Buick Roadmaster is by far still the nicest car that I’ve got.

Q. Did you enjoy the winter?
RYAN NEWMAN: Aside from being sick last Wednesday, I would have loved to have been out in the snow. I couldn’t have picked a worse time to get sick. I love it. I bet I’m the only person in Iredell County with a snowmobile, so I look forward to it.

Q. Indy with the schedule change, the speedway now becomes the last race to qualify for the Chase. Any thoughts on that?
RYAN NEWMAN: Just another race. Just another race. Just look forward to it being about 20 degrees coole