Ryan Newman, driver of the #39 Aspen Dental Chevrolet, met with media after qualifying 2nd for Saturday night’s Coke Zero 400 from Daytona. Below is the transcript from that exchange on his lap, what he will do during the race, on his poles, and how he might work with teammate and team owner Tony Stewart on Saturday.
COMING BACK HERE TO DAYTONA, WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT HOW THINGS WILL UNFOLD? “I’m not real sure how they’ll unfold. I’m excited about getting to the finish. We’re in a position where we need to have some good finishes for the team and this is a place where we can have good luck and other teams can have bad luck. I don’t wish bad luck on anybody, but it can happen here. I’m proud to have Aspen Dental on the car. It’s a big race for us and for them and this is the closest I’ve been to a restrictor-plate pole in my career, which is over 10 years; so that’s a pretty big deal for me personally. In the end, we just have to survive. It’ll be interesting to see how that part of it unfolds because it will be a survival of the fittest.”
REGARDING PACK DRAFTING, DO YOU THINK IT WILL BE A LAST-LAP TANDEM-DRAFT OR SOMETHING OF THAT SORT TO END IT? “I’ve been on the tandem-draft side with Kurt (Busch) pushing me where I wasn’t leading coming off of Turn 2 and I was leading going into Turn 3 and if the yellow had come out at that point, the tandem draft wouldn’t have mattered. I was in a position and I think 2005 or 2007 or something like that I was in a position to be pushed by Casey Mears down the back stretch and I pulled out. He didn’t follow me. And then the yellow came out going into Turn 3 and I finished third in the 500. So, yeah, there is potential to the tandem draft; there is potential for somebody shaking the tandem draft, which Brad Keselowski kind of surprised everybody with at Talladega and there is potential for it to be just straight-up pack racing and nobody ever gets to their bumper. I don’t know that’s going to be the case. But when the lights turn on tomorrow night, we’ll have a good idea at that point what to expect.”
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT TONY GIBSON? HE’S FROM DAYTONA. WHEN YOU DO WELL AT DAYTONA, DOES THAT MAKE HIM HAPPIER? “I think it makes him happy when we do well no matter what. Daytona is kind of home for him and his family is still here so that makes a difference. I don’t necessarily think that the race car goes any faster because this is home for him but it’s nice that we can perform at a place that means a little bit more to him.”
ON NOT DRAFTING WITH TONY STEWART AT THIS TRACK “Drafting-wise, we’ve always kind of paired up with other teams. It’s always nice to be able to come back and rely on your teammate instead of relying on your teammate and he’s not there to have to find somebody to rely on. So, we’ve kind of always had that in our back pocket. It’s never really worked out, but our restrictor-plate luck has been so hit and miss at times even when we do finish, we’ve had a car laying on it’s hood at Talladega and things like that. So we’ll see how it works out. I think it’s most important for us to be on the same cycle when it comes to strategy and tires and fuel and all that stuff and pitting together so that we can have each other’s back. With the number of Hendrick-powered cars, there’s a good potential that we’ll all have each other’s back at some point in the race.”
WITH 49 CAREER POLES, DO YOU FIND IT ODD THAT YOU’VE NEVER GOTTEN ONE ON A PLATE TRACK? “If I had 48 poles, would I consider it even? (laughter). We’ve had good cars. We’ve been close; even back in my Penske days. I think my first qualifying effort with the Army car here in 2009 was fourth as our first outing. So, we’ve been good. We just haven’t put it all together. We were so close today I think it was eight or nine thousands of a second. That’s really close over 2.5-miles. Matt Kenseth qualifying this good scares us all (laughs).
DOES A REPAVE MAKE IT ANY DIFFERENT HERE FOR YOU? “It’s different. It kind of has to be. But it’s different because of the grip level and the way the cars react and then you think about the changes of the cars since we paved. We went from a wing to a spoiler to a cut-off spoiler to a big wicker and faster speeds with restrictor plate and things like that. So much has changed even with the change in the asphalt. So it’s different, but it’s been different for the last 50 years each time we come back, it seems. I bet the guys running convertibles got upset with they made them run a room (laughter). Just saying.”