|Browse by Sport
|Find us on
March 19, 2017
THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by today's race winning crew chief, that's Luke Lambert, with the No.31 Grainger Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing.
One thing to note, today's victory ends a 112‑race winless drought for Richard Childress Racing.
Luke, I know how much of a driving force that drought has been within the shop. Can you talk about how much this win means for you and your team today.
LUKE LAMBERT: Yeah, it's really, really hard to assess the magnitude right now. I can't say enough about what it means. I couldn't be prouder of everybody within the company, everybody on my race team.
Ryan, you know, everybody has really worked very, very hard to get us here where we are today. I said earlier, I think Ryan really left it all on the racetrack today. He was exhausted.
The track temps were really elevated. He had to work really hard. I think that was somewhat of a metaphor for what it's taken our company to get here today.
I think you can see how wrung out he is right now. It's just a sign of him giving his all. Ultimately we put him in a position to guard off a bunch of wolves with fresh tires behind him. He rose to the occasion, made it happen.
To me, that couldn't be a more fitting symbol of what this means to our company, what it means for our company to get here today.
THE MODERATOR: We'll start with questions.
Q. Ryan said outside that he wanted two and you wanted none. How hard was it to convince him to go with that strategy?
LUKE LAMBERT: There was no convincing. I think me and Ryan have a really good relationship. I felt in my gut it was the right decision. We have a lot of people working during the race at our company that provide a lot of really good, valuable information for me to see real‑time. I had a lot of good information in front of me that I was able to draw to right quick, make a snap decision.
I felt confident it was the best call for us. I'm not going to say when I made the decision I was confident we were going to win the race. It was the only opportunity we had to win the race. I felt like doing it was going to yield a better result than the other option.
Ultimately that was the decision. I told him. He said he could make the car wide. He did. I couldn't be prouder of him for rising to the occasion. The relationship that him and I have been able to build with our race team to where we all have a lot of confidence in each other.
He didn't question it, or at least didn't voice any questioning of it at all, and made it happen.
Q. Now that you have a win in the bag, you clinched a berth in the Chase, how is that going to change the way you attack these next races going forward?
LUKE LAMBERT: I think it goes without saying it puts us in a position to be a little bit more aggressive. We haven't been in this position as a race team the last couple years. I felt like we've had really, really strong cars and a team at given points in the season, and just haven't been able to play as aggressively, play as loose as some of the other teams can, as far as trying new components, trying aggressive setups, doing things we haven't done in the past to see if they'll live and survive the test of a race.
It's given us the opportunity now to have that type of confidence will allow us to try some new things, go into Fontana next week with the opportunity to be a little more aggressive and, you know, race with that level of confidence.
It means a lot. Ultimately I don't know that it will change everything that we do, but I'm sure it will give us an opportunity to do some things we couldn't do in the past.
Q. You've been a crew chief now in the Cup Series six years. Is it hard to believe this is your first win? Has it sunk in yet?
LUKE LAMBERT: No, it hasn't sunk in yet. I don't know at what point it really will.
But it's odd. This is the racetrack that I won my first race as a crew chief in the XFINITY Series a few years back, in 2012. This has become a very special place to me. It's a really, really challenging racetrack as a crew chief and as a race team to create a racecar that performs well.
We have a great driver in Ryan Newman to come here every year. We haven't been able to make the car as good as it needed to be at certain points. Sometimes we've had good cars, sometimes we haven't. Today we had a pretty strong car obviously.
But it just means a lot to do it at such a challenging racetrack. Like I said, a place that we've won before, it means a lot. I'm sure it won't really sink in until tomorrow or sometime later this week.
One odd thing for me is my four‑year‑old son is at home celebrating his birthday today. I couldn't be with him. So it was pretty neat to do this.
Q. When you first became a crew chief in 2011, did you think you would win on the Cup level before today?
LUKE LAMBERT: I certainly had hoped that we would be to Victory Lane before now. I feel like our race team has surpassed a lot of expectations, but we have also not delivered as rapidly as far as getting to the winner's circle as I would like for us to.
I just want to say how hard everybody has worked at our company for a number of years to get us here, and how proud that makes me.
I can't say enough about Richard and his confidence, his drive. One of our slogans this year at RCR has been: It takes drive. I think us getting here today is an example of that drive and that steadfast, stubborn passion for racing and building better racecars that has taken years to get us back here.
Q. What was your real thought when you were up there? Are you doing that because you're like, Okay, maybe we might be able to hang on for a win, if not maybe a top 10? Are you throwing something and hope it works, or did you have enough knowledge of how the tires were wearing to think this was really going to give you a legitimate shot?
LUKE LAMBERT: I had a lot of data that kind of told me the latter of what you said there.
I ultimately knew our car wasn't very good on cold tires. We struggled every single restart. We were the best car after 25 laps of a run. Unfortunately cars kept blowing tires 35 to 40 laps of a run, so we never really got to see the fruits of our racecar.
We'd lose two spots on a racecar, then gain four to five back as the run went on. Ultimately that two steps forward, one step back, kept slowing our progression to the front.
The last thing I wanted on the last run of race is another caution. We're going to give up everything we got. I didn't want to sit there and watch our car lose more spots on a restart because we didn't have the right setup for cold tires on a run. I felt our best opportunity to win the race was to put the car out front, see if Ryan could make it wide enough.
I can't say that I felt confident we would win the race, but I felt confident we would at least have a shot. I did feel like we wouldn't be able to do anything else and give ourselves that opportunity.
Q. Were you surprised at how many cars came to pit road?
LUKE LAMBERT: I was actually. I was really hoping nobody in front of us stayed out. But I could not say for sure that I thought that was going to happen. I knew we were going to be right at that pivot point, but I expected one or two guys in front of us to stay out.
Ultimately what makes that call work is what the rest of the field does. For us, we were in that right spot to make that decision. Ultimately, everybody else around us made the call that helped propel us to the lead.
Q. Was there a window that you would make that call? I think there were five laps left. Had it been more, would your call have been different?
LUKE LAMBERT: There was certainly a window. The window to stay out was very, very, very small. I anticipated it was going to be a green‑white‑checkered based on the length of cleanup it was going to take to get the 22 car off the track. I expected that to be the case. It made it a little bit easier to make the decision.
Q. Obviously this win means a lot to you and your team. Can you talk a little bit about what it might mean for RCR in general, which hasn't been able to celebrate a Cup win since the 2013 season.
LUKE LAMBERT: Yeah, it's tremendous. One of the things that is really challenging about this sport is there's only one winner every week. Friends and people I grew up with that have recently started following racing, kind of want to learn more about it, I always describe it as a championship every single Sunday. You are racing against the entire series, the entire group of competitors. It's not like any other standard sport where you face one competitor, and you have a 50/50 set of odds of winning or losing. You have a 1 in 40 chance of winning it on any given Sunday against all of the best.
I think because of the way the racing is, because of that, it's really hard to build momentum. The years it takes to take a company from not being where it needs to be, to getting where it needs to be, requires a tremendous amount of change, a tremendous amount of trial and error, a tremendous amount of hard work, working above and beyond, asking more out of people when they just don't see the results.
You can take a company and take it from a company able to build a 15th‑place car to a 7th‑place car, and it still doesn't feel like a victory. Recognizing those incremental gains is one of the names of the game in this sport. Helping everybody inside the organization to see, We are tracking in the right direction.
We can't expect to hit a home run out of nowhere, but we need to expect to see results, pay attention to those results, accurately measure them, keep everybody's motivation level where it needs to be.
So that's a hard road. It's been a hard road for a number of years for us. I don't know how many people I've worked with that are great employees that have struggled with, Man, I just don't see the results.
Even though I can come to the racetrack and see them, ultimately everybody has continued to continue to push on. We've continually brought better racecars. We were able to see it today.
Q. Can you compare the feeling now to the feeling a couple years ago, after Newman attacked Larson, you made it to the finals of the Chase? Is it a similar feeling? How different is this feeling with a win?
LUKE LAMBERT: I think the feeling, when we transferred to the final round of the Chase in '14, was a bit of shock. I was a bit surprised how exciting it was.
I knew it would mean a lot to be able to make it to Homestead, ultimately give ourselves the chance to win the championship. We came so close. But I was surprised at how emotionally overcome I was.
It was a challenge. It came down to the last lap. Didn't look like it was going to happen. We told him what he needed to do. He put his nose to the grindstone and made it happen.
That was overwhelming that happened, even though we ran 12th or 13th on that given race day.
Here today, it's a lot of different. I think this is something that, as a competitor, I have wanted to be a part of for so long, it's a bit overwhelming.
I knew it would mean a lot. I knew it would be overwhelming. Every race that has gone by that we haven't been able to win has ultimately made that hunger for victory a little bit more.
I'd say the shock is similar, but the excitement is higher. This time I'm kind of surprised at how I'm not as excited as I feel like I should be right now because I know I haven't even completely absorbed it yet, whereas last time I feel it was surprising that it meant so much, to realize that we had transferred.
Q. I had the impression stage races one and two, Ryan took it conservative, then the last part of the race he was at the right time at the right place. Maybe you can give some comment for that. Question number two is, how difficult is it under these very hot conditions aero‑wise to set up the car for the race? The airflow is different than cold conditions.
LUKE LAMBERT: For us, I can't say we were really conservative at any point during the race. We were trying our best to get up there. We put ourselves behind on Friday with a bad qualifying effort. We just kind of missed it. We weren't able to hit the short run speed we needed to have in the racecar to qualify where we needed to. We knew we were going to have to start behind the eight ball.
This is such a track position race. It always is. Even though you have good racing, cars coming forward and moving back, it's hard to come from 20th to the front.
With us qualifying 22nd, it meant it was going to be a challenge for us to get up there. We had some issues early. The temperatures were really high. We were surprised how hot our car got under caution early in the race. We had to make some temperature adjustments with some tape. That set us back.
Ultimately we just had to do the things we needed to do to make the car right so we could finish the race first. We took those steps, kept inching our way up through there.
Ryan was so good on a long run at passing people, moving up through there, ultimately that kind of moved us into position to make that call at the end.
As far as the track conditions, how they relate to downforce, the hotter it gets, the less downforce there is on everything. The air density goes down. That ultimately diminishes the downforce effects for everybody.
I think today's conditions made this more like a short track as far as preserving the tires and having a setup on the car where the tires would survive and not overheat, more than we've ever had before here in recent history at least.
I think these hot conditions put on a great race. They really made aero matter less. Combined with the new rules package that NASCAR put together this year, I think the cars have raced closer, and put on some really good shows for the fans.
The aero forces just mean less on a day like today.
THE MODERATOR: Luke, congratulations on the victory today. Good luck next week in Fontana.
LUKE LAMBERT: Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: We are now joined today by our Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race winner, that is Ryan Newman, driver of the No.31 Grainger Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing. This is Ryan's 18th victory in 552 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races.
With the win, Ryan, you've ended a personal 127‑race winless drought. How sweet is this victory for you today?
RYAN NEWMAN: It's sweet for so many reasons. I said that when I won the Brickyard. I said that when I won at Daytona. This has been the longest drought I've ever been in. Even in Phoenix, the (indiscernible) suck.
It's just a hard‑fought race, a hard‑fought battle, a hard‑fought four years. I got to thank Richard and Judy, everybody at RCR, ECR, for not only giving me the opportunity to drive the racecar, but giving me a racecar that's in contention to win a race.
Luke, my crew chief, Lambert, an amazing first win for him. He made the call to stay out, trusted me to make the racecar wide. Just a heck of a team effort.
I got to thank Grainger, Caterpillar, Kahalari, Chevrolet, all the people, Coca‑Cola, that make us go around in a circle.
I got emotional on the back straightaway. I haven't gotten emotional since yet. I'm planning on not to.
THE MODERATOR: We are also joined by today's team owner, Richard Childress.
Richard, a personal win, also a drought broken. I know how important it has been for you to get back into Victory Lane. Talk about the process that has gone through Richard Childress Racing to get yourself back into this position.
RICHARD CHILDRESS: Like Ryan said, it's been a long, hard fight, and a battle all the way. Nobody ever gave up. We never gave up in Ryan. We know that he can do it. Our cars just haven't been quite where we needed to.
I think now he had a really fast car. Although we made a good move today, he had a really fast car all day long. He drove from 20 something up to 6th, I think, right there tend. That showed he had the car.
When he stayed out, what won the race is when he drove off in turn three on that final lap. I thought, Man, if it sticks, it's going to be good. If it don't, it's going to be ugly.
I was really proud of him. Proud of the whole team, Luke, Caterpillar, Grainger, all of the people that believed in us, stuck with us, and our fans.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open the floor to questions.
Q. Ryan, what do you feel was kind of your biggest frustration over this stretch of not winning?
RYAN NEWMAN: Just the level of competition. There for a while, we had all the downforce on the cars. It was a downforce and horsepower game. Who had the most horsepower to pull the downforce.
Our guys at ECR have done a great job of stepping up. Our engines have been good all year. I think this downforce package is playing to our favor as well. It's fun to go out there and slide around a little bit. We were actually more competitive than we've ever been at this racetrack today, able to get around other cars.
Kudos to NASCAR for listening to the drivers and making those changes. I thought we've seen some great racing the first four races of the season.
Just in general, it takes everybody's effort. I'm not singling out the engine group, but it's everybody's effort to make the cars go fast through the corners, then pull down the straightaways.
Q. Richard, when you walk into the shop tomorrow morning, what is it going to be like to look people in the eyes and say, We're winners again?
RICHARD CHILDRESS: I'm going to send them a (indiscernible) mail, because I still have business in California I got to do. They will here a lot from me tomorrow morning. Get on the speaker, tell everybody how proud I am.
Our guys, we came back from the test here, we weren't where we wanted to be. Kept cutting bodies off, working seven days a week, working all kinds of hours to get our cars back to being competitive.
It's all about track position. Once he got out there, I knew he could go.
Q. Ryan, coming to that last restart, what is running through your mind? What you are you thinking about the last couple of laps?
RYAN NEWMAN: I mean, it's real easy. You're on old tires, it's easy to screw up. You got to get your tires cleaned off right. You got to get a good launch. You got to run through the gearbox right. Then you got to hold everybody off.
We watched here last year in the fall race, the big bowl up going into turn one. Had a couple guys on no tires, two, three guys on no tires, a couple guys on two tires. I wanted to make sure I put myself in position to not get taken out, but also get a good run off of turn two.
I really thought once I saw Larson clear Stenhouse, I really thought he was going to be all over me. I don't think he could get going as good as he wanted to.
We had a good car. It was the first time all day we had some clean air on it. It was just a matter of putting those couple things together and showing y'all what we had.
Q. Richard, you normally watch the race from out here on top of the trailer. I walked out there once today, and I didn't see you. Where were you watching the race from today?
RICHARD CHILDRESS: I was on top of the hauler in the garage area. I was on top of the 27 hauler. I got my own little seat up there. It's kind of out of the way. So I was up there.
Q. Ryan, after going for such a long amount of time without winning, what do you tell yourself to keep going, just know that win is eventually going to come?
RYAN NEWMAN: There's a lot of guys in this sport that have never won. Going a long time without winning, you have confidence in your mind that you can do it. There's guys that go their whole career and never win, and good drivers.
You just got to stay humble. This sport, you walk away from it, there's one guys that wins, 39 losers. You have to be humble walking into it that you're probably not going to win that day. Odds are against you.
There are some greats out there that have stacked up some numbers. Harvick has done well here. Jimmie has done well. Jeff has been dominant at times.
But those days of domination I think are kind of fewer and farther between if you look at the first four races of this year.
Q. What was your conversation like with your crew chief on those two tires, the decision not to go in for tires?
RYAN NEWMAN: I wanted to do two. He said, No, I think we should stay out.
I said, Okay, I got no problem with that.
I mean, it nice to have that lead. If we would have stayed out, been third, been the same. But just a heck of a gutsy call by Luke Lambert. It's his first win as a crew chief in the Cup Series. I think making a gutsy call like that makes it that much more special for him.
Q. Grainger, their last Cup win as a primary sponsor came in 1993, 491 races ago. It's been like a combined winless streak of 730 races. A comment on Grainger coming back into Victory Lane.
RYAN NEWMAN: Proud of them. They made the announcement they're going to come back for some races this year. Proud to get them in Victory Lane. It's special for Caterpillar to be a part of this team. They're the big primary sponsor we have. Everybody has to carry some weight. Proud for Grainger to come back. It's huge for them.
It's been a difficult time, I guess you could say, for all of our teams out there, to continue and carry great sponsorship. We're proud to have Grainger and Caterpillar and Kahalari for one race this year.
Q. Can you compare the emotions today to 2014 when you made the final round of the playoffs. Is it similar? Is it different?
RYAN NEWMAN: It's a similar feeling of success. That gave me an opportunity at the championship. Today gives me an opportunity at the championship.
But you kind of just live in the moment. I mean, that was really special. I knew what I had to do that day. I used eight tires instead of four, was fortunate enough to pull it off.
Today, you know, to have the old tires, not know how good we were going to be. I mean, how good are those tires going to refire. I believe it was the only time today that anybody actually stayed out on old tires.
Sometimes you lead by example. Sometimes you fail by example. Fortunately we won it.
Q. With this being your 18th career win, Ryan, is it possible to say where this one ranks in comparison to the others because of how long of a drought it was?
RYAN NEWMAN: Yeah, the drought makes a difference. It shouldn't, but it does. That's just the way your mind works.
If we go out and win the next three races in a row, it will still feel sweet. After not winning for so long in a sport that's so demanding, it does add some sugar to it.
Q. R.C., when you look at what is going on with Ganassi Racing and Kyle Larson leaving here as the championship leader, that's another Chevrolet team that's been trying to elevate its game, becoming more competitive. What do you see that's going on there? Any parallels with the development going on at RCR?
RICHARD CHILDRESS: Chip did a great job, that whole organization. Kyle is a great young driver. The future never looked better for NASCAR, for the talent that's coming along. But we still have the guys like Ryan and Jimmie and a lot of guys, Dale Jr., that are still out there, that are really competitive.
It's a great day for us. When Ryan was talking about this could be one of the sweeter wins that we've had, it's because it's been so long.
Q. Richard, Luke mentioned that sometimes when you're selling‑‑ when you're making improvement, it's hard to sell running seventh instead of fourth. Going to Victory Lane is that you're able to show a lot more what you've been trying to do is working. Do you think this victory will help you guys turn that corner?
RICHARD CHILDRESS: Yeah, I think it will. We ran really good in Daytona. Ryan ran real well there. All three of our cars ran real well. I think Paul finished fifth. Then we go to Atlanta, he qualifies second. We run right up front all day. We had an ignition battery problem there with him. Both of them were in the top five, I think.
We're making gains. I think this package, a lot of things the guys are doing, this package fits Ryan perfect.
Q. Richard, if I have correctly been informed, it was a mega successful weekend not only here in Arizona, but also Sebring, an engine prepared by your engine shop. Can you give information on how you're running both programs from the logistic point of view. Second question, it's a technical question. After the race, Ryan was nearly exhausted. Also for the equipment, the hot weather is very stressful. Do you have in your engine shop something like a simulation to run an engine and to prepare the engine for very hot conditions, make sure it will not collapse?
RICHARD CHILDRESS: Yes. Yesterday we were 1‑2‑3 with our Cadillac engines at Sebring. I think that was a record for those guys out there. We won the 24 Hours with ECR engines. We won today with ECR engines. I'm proud of all the hard‑working guys. We got a separate division that works on the IMSA engines that we do. Each one of them concentrates solely on their division they're working on. It's worked out great.
We learned stuff from doing that program. That's one of the key reasons for wanting to do that IMSA program, is because I think where the cars and engines will go into the future with us.
THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, congratulations on today's race win. Good luck next weekend in Fontana.
RICHARD CHILDRESS: Thank you. Thank the press for sticking with us here, all of you.
RYAN NEWMAN: Thank you.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports