Ryan Newman Gears Up for the Coca-Cola 600

This is a partial transcript of "The Big Story With John Gibson," May 25, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

ANDREW NAPOLITANO, GUEST HOST: Victory at last. NASCAR superstar Ryan Newman (search) celebrated another big win last year in his Alltel Dodge with nine pole positions. He is gearing up to smoke the competition again this weekend at the Coca-Cola 600 (search), the longest race of the season.

Ryan Newman joins me now from Lowe's Motor Speedway in Concord, North Carolina where he will be racing this weekend.

Today's big question, Ryan: How do you get ready for a 600-mile NASCAR (search) race?

RYAN NEWMAN, NASCAR DRIVER: I drink a lot of Gatorade and I hope it's hot, because it's a long race, about four-and-a-half hours in the seat and you don't won't to cramp up when you're in the little easy chair that we're sitting in.

NAPOLITANO: Why is this race so long. Why did they go from 500 to 600, add another 100 miles?

NEWMAN: You know, I think back 40 years ago, whenever they first started the 600 race, it was just what they did. A lot of races were 500 miles and have since been scaled back to 400 miles. But it's kind of a special race for us. It's the only race of the year that is 600 miles.

And it's basically in our backyard here. So, it's a lot of fun. It's a great challenge. It's a racetrack that changes a lot. And it's up to the drivers and the teams to be able to adapt and may the best team win.

NAPOLITANO: In terms of preparation, I mean, do you go through the motions? Do you sit in the car for four-and-a-half hours? Do you do a trial run of 600 miles?


NAPOLITANO: Or is that impossible?

NEWMAN: I wouldn't say it's impossible, but no.

I mean, usually, we're so used to it, doing what we do. And there are some tracks that we go to where we get a red flag late in the race or something and we're in the car for quite a while. Usually, the cars are so comfortable to the driver that it's just like your favorite pair of gloves, sliding your hand into them. They could stay in there all day — nice, warm and cozy and everything else. But if it's what you got to do and what you love doing, you just do it.

NAPOLITANO: When do they decide who gets the pole positions, Ryan?

NEWMAN: Thursday night. Qualifying night is Thursday night.

NAPOLITANO: And the big race is Saturday?

NEWMAN: Sunday night.

NAPOLITANO: Sunday night?



NAPOLITANO: How many times do you stop for the crew to do what they do during a 600-mile, four-and-a-half-hour race?

NEWMAN: It's 400 laps and, usually, you get about 60 laps to a tank of fuel. And that's the most we will get on a set of tires. So it can be anywhere from 15 laps on a stop to 60 laps on a stop. And, if my math is correct, that would be about, what, a little over seven — anywhere between seven and maybe 15 stops.

NAPOLITANO: Do you talk to the crew while you're racing? Do they know how things are going inside the car? Do they know when you're going to stop or do they just keep an eye on you, waiting for you?

NEWMAN: Whenever it makes sense, man. It's all about strategy. And that's one of the toughest parts of the sport — to be able to get everything right strategy-wise to be able to give yourself the best options to win the race as a team.

And we have won our share of fuel mileage races and we've had great, fast cars at the same time. So, we just carry on and keep doing our best.

NAPOLITANO: All right. Let me in on a little strategy then. What goes through your mind when you're deciding, "Should I stop or should I go another lap or two?"

NEWMAN: Depends on what the competition is like. There are so many variables. You have got 42 competitors. You don't know how many laps are left in the race. You don't know how many sets of tires you have. And it's all dependent upon the variables. And the crew chief, my crew chief, Matt Borland, does an awesome job at strategizing and getting the best bang for the buck when it comes to having the most options.

NAPOLITANO: What do you most want from the crew when you stop? What do they have to do and get you and how much time do they have?

NEWMAN: It's all about speed. Usually, four tires and fuel is the most taken-advantage-of option.

And, you know, from a team standpoint, they can do it in about 12.5 seconds on a perfect stop. That's 22 gallons of fuel, four fresh Goodyear tires (search) and maybe a clean windshield and you're out. So, it happens pretty quickly.

NAPOLITANO: I was reading this morning about some gang of racecar drivers called the Gillette Young Guns. What are they? Who are they?

NEWMAN: There are six of us. Gillette last year picked six drivers to be the Gillette Young Guns: myself, Matt Kenseth, Dale Earnhardt Jr. (search), Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch. And I think it might be Jimmie Johnson.

There's a cool Web site you can go to as a fan, gilletteyoungguns.com — each fan can vote on who is going to win the race on a given weekend. A lucky winner chosen gets $5,000 for choosing the highest finishing Gillette Young Gun. So, it's a cool opportunity for fans to make a buck and Gillette to get some exposure.

NAPOLITANO: Sounds great. We only have a couple seconds left.

What is the fastest you will go on Sunday night?

NEWMAN: Probably close to 200, maybe 202, something like that, in the draft on fresh tires. Going into turn three is usually the fastest point.

NAPOLITANO: Ryan Newman, we will be watching you and we wish you a lot of luck.

NEWMAN: Thank you. Appreciate it.

NAPOLITANO: Thank you.

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