On the day of the last race of the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season I had the opportunity to interview Ryan Newman (as you can see in the photo above). This was all thanks to his sponsor Quicken Loans who brought me down to Miami last month. It was a quick but really interesting conversation. When I asked him about the questions he hated being asked I quickly understood why he and Tony Stewart are friends. They’re not interested in taking anyone’s crap, and if you’ve got a question for them you better make sure it’s really relevant to them. Overall Ryan was super nice and I was glad I got the chance to speak with him.
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ME: So today’s Brooklyn’s birthday. What has been the best thing about being a dad for you so far?
RYAN: Just seeing me and her, and just personality, the attitude and the love, the come running to me when I come home, screaming, “Daddy, Daddy.” You can’t replace that with anything else. That only happens with your own.
ME: Yeah. So if she’s said she’s going racing, how would you feel about that?
RYAN: I want her to do whatever makes her happy. Honestly, if she wants to fly airplanes, if she wants to be a school teacher, whatever she wants to do that makes her happy, that’s what it’s all about.
ME: Have you learned anything about yourself being a father, in terms of dealing with–
RYAN: I think you learn a little bit about your quality of patience as person when you’re dealing with kids, especially your own, because it’s, you want what’s perfectly right, and there is no perfect solution to that. So it’s a challenge.
ME: Yeah. So have you had a hard time dealing with that, becoming a father and then having all the responsibility that you have for racing?
RYAN: No, no, I’ve got two great daughters and a great wife that does everything and more to take care of the kids, and still allowed me to keep my mind on what I’m supposed to be doing when I’m in a racecar.
ME: So the off-season is here now pretty much, tonight, so what, do you have any plans?
RYAN: Well, we go snowmobiling out in Utah a little bit, do some hunting around the house. I have a hunting trip to Maryland planned. In between that and the holidays and a little bit of work – our off season isn’t just, our off season’s only off season for racing. We’re still doing other things. Between Christmas parties and making sure everything’s done and tightened up for next year. It goes by pretty quick.
ME: Have you done any Christmas shopping yet, have you thought about that at all?
RYAN: Actually, my wife has always been in charge of Christmas shopping.
ME: You don’t shop at all?
RYAN: She’s a much better shopper than I am.
ME: You’re going to give her something, right?
RYAN: No, we don’t exchange.
ME: Oh, really?
RYAN: We take care of the kids and family members and stuff like that.
ME: Oh, cool. So when you do media every week, especially when you’re in the top 12, are there any questions that people ask all the time that are really annoying that you’re, like, tired of answering?
ME: Like what?
RYAN: It changes every week. It’s usually, “What did you think of that,” and it’s just subjective feedback to either get you in trouble or to cause a stir, because that’s how they make their money, is the stir that they cause. Whenever they try to get your take on whatever drama there is.
ME: So is that the most frustrating? Because I always thought it was really annoying when people would –
RYAN: No, the most frustrating is the drunk people that have no clue that you don’t have to respond to them. The ones that have no control over themselves.
ME: Mm. Well, because I’ve only seen, like, well, something will happen, with like Dale Jr. let’s say and then people ask Jimmie or people on the team, “Well, what do you think he’ll do?” “What do you think of this?” When someone’s asking you about some other driver that has nothing to do with you, is that like–
RYAN: You feel like you need to be courteous to give them an answer but other than that, it’s just a waste of time.
ME: Are there any things you wish people would ask you?
RYAN: Not typically. Because if they’re not smart enough to think of it on their own, I don’t want them asking me.
ME: Right, right.
RYAN: Fair to say?
ME: Yes. Do you ever Google yourself?
RYAN: Nah. I have, but it’s been a long time.
ME: On Twitter, you’re on Twitter, you’re answering questions. What has that been like for you? Do you enjoy that?
RYAN: I think it’s a very important part of our sport. We’re the most fan-friendly sport that I’ve ever seen. I’m happy to be a part of a sport that services its fans so well, and Twitter and Facebook and all the things that we can do to just stay in contact and stay close to our fans is that much more important for our sponsors.
You look at other sports out there, they don’t have sponsors. They’re just funded by the community basically. We’re funded privately, and there’s a big difference in that. So what we can do to bring awareness to our sponsors through our Twitter and Facebook accounts, and being courteous to fans and making them feel like they’re part of a team, is super-important.
ME: Yeah. When you were a little boy, did you dream, when you thought about, like, being a NASCAR driver, did you think about all — everything that you’re dealing with now, was that in your sort of–
RYAN: No, I only wanted to be a driver. I didn’t want to do all the other work.
ME: So what has it been like to have fans though? Like, has anything about that surprised you?
RYAN: No, I understand the fan part of it, because I was a fan.
ME: The actual reality of it?
RYAN: It’s just that what we do as drivers in respect to media, in respect to servicing our sponsors is way more than I ever anticipated, and it’s way more now than it was five years ago. Just because of the economy or situational stuff that makes it what it is today.
ME: Give me one word to describe Tony Stewart.
Later in the day I asked Tony Stewart to give one word to describe Ryan and he said “Intelligence.”