Ryan Newman has had a solid, yet unspectacular tenure in his season-and-a-half in the No. 39 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevy. While his Chase chances remain tenuous, he scored a victory earlier this season at Phoenix International Raceway, the first for SHR’s second team, and sits 14th in points, 103 behind 12th place Clint Bowyer. Newman also gained notoriety recently for a post-race spat with youngster Joey Logano, as camera crews caught the two having a heated discussion following the CARFAX 400 at Michigan. Newman took some time during a media appearance in Atlanta to talk to Frontstretch about the Logano confrontation, where he rates Stewart-Haas this season, his Chase chances, improvements on the Cup and Nationwide cars, and his ties to Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Doug Turnbull, Frontstretch: You’re the driver of the No. 39 Chevrolet, and 39 is a big number at Atlanta Motor Speedway, because they have a big ticket special where, if you buy a $39 ticket, you have a chance to win Hot Passes with the No. 39 crew and get a tour of their transporter. And this is at Atlanta Motor Speedway, where you have had a lot of qualifying success, both in the 39 and especially in the No. 12 car. With a date being gone in March, talk about the significance of that to you and the significance of Atlanta Motor Speedway itself.
Ryan Newman: Well, I’ve got to commend Atlanta Motor Speedway for making an effort for sure to get the fans out, give them a little lower-priced ticket, and give them a chance to have a great experience at the race weekend coming up here. That being said, I really enjoy racing there and I enjoy qualifying. I’ve had some really good success on Fridays and good cars on Sundays. We just haven’t been able to put it all together yet.
Turnbull: Last week, you had the well-documented incident with Joey Logano in the race. I know you probably have a lot of opinions about it. One that was expressed by Logano was that you were racing too hard, too early in the race. A lot of fans, when I wrote about that quote told me they were completely in favor of racing hard the whole time. What is your take on that? Do you, in fact, race too hard? Is there such a thing?
Newman: I don’t know that there is such a thing as racing too hard. There’s a level of respect out there that every driver expects. And I guess racing too hard was what I was doing for Joey with that many laps to go. Four races to go before a Chase, and we are trying to get ourselves back in that top 12. He’s not smart enough to understand this position, but he needs to take the time and realize that it’s not all about him.
Turnbull: If he were a driver that had more seniority and had gained that respect, would it have been a different situation?
Newman: I raced around a lot of guys, and they didn’t have that problem all day Sunday, with the exception of Joey. I race hard, and the racetrack at Michigan is different than when you race on Darlington, where you have to give and take. There was no need to give and take at Michigan. He just wanted me to [give him room], and I wasn’t going [to be] in the position or [even] want to be that giving – especially to him. He for sure now shouldn’t expect any give and take [going forward], since he has a hard time controlling his racecar inside of somebody else.
Turnbull: You mentioned the time ticking on the Chase. What’s the No. 39 team’s realistic chances of making it? A lot of the media have been talking about the No. 33 and the No. 5, but you’re right there.
Newman: Well, that is the race for the Chase right there. We still have a mathematical shot. We have potential. We’ve put a string together of four top fives last year in a row. These next three races are extremely important. We’ve got to get the job done.
Turnbull: Stewart-Haas Racing has had some success, but you haven’t had quite the same amount your teammate, Tony Stewart, has. Still, you’re a Hendrick satellite team, and they obviously have good equipment. Overall, where do you rank Stewart-Haas Racing, either grade-wise or in comparison to other Sprint Cup teams?
Newman: I think we’ve made some gains. We’ve made our racecars drive better, but I think that other teams have, too. Ultimately, we’re sitting 14th [in points]; last year, I think we were sitting ninth or 10th at this point. We haven’t had the success that we wanted to, but in saying that, we got our first victory of the season at Phoenix.
We just go with the flow, take what you can with what your experiences are. We’ve had some great experiences this year and we’ve had some disappointing ones. That’s why it’s racing. If we knew what the outcome was going to be nobody would be interested in it.
Turnbull: That’s true. Now, from an engineering standpoint, amongst drivers, you are the most educated. Having driven both the new Nationwide car and, of course, the current Cup car for most of three seasons, what, from an engineering standpoint, can be done or is being done to the car to make it drive better?
Newman: We’re definitely making big gains and have made big gains with the new car, both in the Cup Series and in the Nationwide Series, for making the cars drive better. It is a matter of evolution. What we do with the bump stops and the shocks and everything else to make the cars ride better is extremely important, because it’s important for us to be able to race side-by-side comfortably and put on a show for the fans. If we can’t do that, then it’s a single-file run and nobody wants to sit in the grandstands and see it.
Listen to Doug weekly on The Allan Vigil Ford Lincoln Mercury Speedshop racing show with host Captain Herb Emory each Saturday, from 12-1 p.m., on News/Talk 750 WSB in Atlanta and on wsbradio.com. Doug also hosts podcasts on ChaseElliott.com and BillElliott.com.