Newman has often seemed uncomfortable in the fish bowl that is NASCAR.
Ryan Newman made his mark quickly in NASCAR, claiming his first Cup win in his 34th start and becoming just the second rookie to win NASCAR's All-Star race. He also garnered consecutive Sixth Place finishes in Cup points during his first two seasons on the circuit. Success, however, was already part of Newman's life before arriving on the NASCAR scene. He juggled a successful racing career with college life while earning a degree in vehicle structural engineering from Purdue University in 2001. While in Sonoma, California, for the Dodge/Save Mart 350, Newman spoke with Stock Car Racing about his place in the sport.
SCR: Of course, you're just coming off your first win (at Michigan), and last year at this point you already had two wins. As strong as you finished last year, and with momentum oftentimes carrying over from one year to the next, how frustrating was it-or was it frustrating-to have to wait 15 races into this season before getting that first win?
Newman: Well, we were relatively close a couple of times to getting that first win earlier in the season, as early as Atlanta, where we finished Fifth, and we had some other good runs. Finished Third at Darlington, and came back from a lap down there, too. But I wouldn't say it was frustrating. It was a matter of keeping our nose to the grindstone and following through with all the hard work to be able to get to Victory Lane.
SCR: Still, a lot of teams go through that same 14-race cycle and never reach Victory Lane. There had to have been times when you were ready to pull your hair out.
Newman: There are teams that haven't reached Victory Lane in three years, too, you know. There are different ways of looking at it.
SCR: You seem pretty calm and level-headed and you have that engineering mindset, but is there anything about this sport that frustrates you?
Newman: Just some of the randomness that happens, whether it's with the way things have gone at Pocono and Dover, as far as timing and scoring and things like that. Some of the things that seem like they should be so simple but end up being so complex and frustrating.
In just three seasons, Newman has become one of the top drivers in NASCAR.
SCR: What's the cure? From an engineering perspective, you've probably analyzed those things, so how do you remedy them?
Newman: It's pretty simple. Just make things black and white, and you think about it before you make a rule. And you don't make a rule because of something that happened the previous week. You make a rule because of what you know is going to be right.
SCR: Anything specific come to mind? Let's say you are in charge of NASCAR for a day-what is the first thing you would change competition-wise?
Newman: Taking the spoilers off would be one thing. That's just my opinion. Taking downforce off the cars would make a heck of a lot better racing.
SCR: You seem more outspoken this year. Is that a function of your performance and not being in the limelight the first 14 races this season? Or are you just more comfortable with your place in the sport now?
Newman: I feel that I'm not the dumbest individual out there, so when I can offer my input to try to make everything better for everybody, I try to do that, whether it's safer walls, or drivers not wearing gloves, or certain rules that are out there, and whatever we can do to make the sport safer and better for the drivers and the fans. If I feel I know something, I'll say it. If I think something, I'll hesitate to say it.
SCR: Would you agree that you've been a little more inclined to do that this year?
Newman: I wouldn't say more inclined. I would say after eight wins last year people will listen to me a little more than before.
SCR: So it's a matter of being more comfortable with your situation?
Newman: I think it's about people being a little more comfortable with me.