Our weekly series of interviews continues: 12 questions with NASCAR drivers who aren't currently in the top 12 of the Sprint Cup Series. This week: Stewart-Haas Racing's Ryan Newman.
What's the best race you've ever driven?
RN: I won a Midget race at Winchester (Ind.) using the kill switch as the throttle because the throttle was stuck wide open. Went into Turn 1, throttle was stuck wide open. Reached up and used the switch, then decided, 'Hell, I'm leading, might as well turn it back on down the straightaway." I figured out how to do it for the last eight laps and won the race.
Who is the most talented driver in NASCAR?
RN: What kind of talent are you talking about? As a driver? I would say Tony Stewart. He's the most talented NASCAR driver as he can drive anything, anywhere he goes. One driver might beat somebody driving one car, but he would kill them in another car – Modified, Late Model, Silver Crown car, Sprint car with a wing, without a wing, he can do it. And I think Jimmie Johnson's got a lot of talent, too.
What is the best time for a fan to approach you for an autograph at the track?
RN: Whenever I do my autograph sessions at the souvenir trailer is the best, but I don't do those as much as I used to. So just being at the right place at the right time – like anything else in life. Most fans don't understand that all they have to do is request and send postage for an autograph and I'll send it right to them at their house. They don't have to do near as much work as they think they do. People are disappointed all the time because I didn't sign something for them, but just send it to my office – I sign stuff for people all the time.
What's something people might not understand about you?
RN: I don't know. I'd have to understand what people don't understand in the first place. (laughs) Most people don't understand my humor. It's just...different.
What's the worst track to visit on the NASCAR circuit?
RN: As a driver or as a fan? You need more specific questions. SBN: I like to leave them open-ended. RN: Well then that gets misconstrued. SBN: It's up to you. RN: My least favorite track to go to is probably Sonoma, just because I'm not a wine-drinker and that's pretty much all there is out there. Nothing to do with the racetrack, just the area itself.
If you could change something about NASCAR, what's one thing you'd change?
RN: I've thought about this one for the next time I got asked this question, and I think it would be to allow women to wear open-toed shoes in the garage area. The reason I say that is if a woman – meaning a wife or girlfriend – is not happy, then her driver is not going to be happy. So we would have less road rage. SBN: There's also a rule that women can't wear tank tops. Would you change that, too? RN: No, it's more about shoes. There's a lot more investment in shoes than there is tank tops.
Who is the one driver you admire most outside of NASCAR?
RN: Alex Zanardi. He got dealt a really bad hand, and he came back and drove a race car and was still halfway successful at it. I enjoyed watching him and thought he was a helluva race car driver with two legs; to come back without two legs and still do what he did was amazing.
How long do you see yourself driving?
RN: As long as I can see.
When you get home from a long race weekend and walk through the door, what's the first thing you do?
RN: Get tackled by the dogs. I have six dogs.
Who wins the Sprint Cup in 2015?
RN: The best driver. (laughs) I mean, you leave yourself open with these... SBN: Hey, however you want to answer them.
If a rookie asked you one driver they should learn from and one driver they should avoid learning from, who would those two people be?
RN: That would be the same answer. Because what you learn to do is just as important as what you learn not to do.
Would you rather be known as a great person or a great driver?
RN: Rather be a great person. SBN: Any reason? Well, because I'm a person more than I am a driver.