Newman reaches out to Truex with texts
September 10, 2013, Holly Cain, NASCAR.com
MORE: Full Chase coverage | Full coverage of MWR penalties
As disappointing as the notion of not making NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup was, Ryan Newman said Tuesday the real tough part was having his fate decided at the expense of friends. And vice versa.
When the checkered flag fell at Richmond International Raceway Saturday night it looked like Newman would miss out qualifying for the 12-driver, 10-race Chase playoff run, losing out on a gut-wrenching tiebreaker with his friend Martin Truex Jr.
And that was largely because another of Newman’s friends, his hunting buddy and Truex’ teammate Clint Bowyer, controversially brought out a yellow flag with seven laps left in a must-win race for Newman, who was leading at the time.
“Those are the two guys I race with and quite honestly were friends with and still are friends with,’’ Newman said in a telephone interview with NASCAR.com Tuesday.
“And that’s the part of it to me, what was an extra hit: the friendship side. I don’t have many friends in our sport and to have that flag raised and questioned was difficult, no doubt.’’
And it didn’t get much easier.
On Monday night, NASCAR punished the three-car MWR team for “manipulating” the race outcome and issued a points penalty that resulted in putting Newman in the Chase and Truex out.
“It’s bittersweet for me just because of the Martin [Truex] situation,’’ Newman said. “I honestly believe he didn’t know anything that was going on with management in that organization and that makes it difficult.
“But in the end I still have the responsibility for myself and my team and that’s what I’m going with.’’
Newman was appreciative that Bowyer reached out Monday night to apologize shortly after NASCAR announced the outcome of its review of the situation. The two are going on a long-arranged hunting trip together in two weeks.
“I was really glad that Clint called me,’’ Newman said. “That was very professional and a true way of “man”-ing up. Martin and I also communicated. Outside of that I don’t need to have any communication with any other people [on the MWR team].
“Martin and I texted back and forth and we ended it with, ‘go get ‘em’. ”
You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone that’s endured a steeper roller coaster ride than Newman in the past 11 weeks.
In July, he found out he would not have his contract extended beyond the season at Stewart-Haas Racing after a five-year run with the team. Two weeks later, Newman won one of NASCAR’s most prestigious races, the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway – from the pole no less.
Two weeks ago, Newman was surprised to find out through the media that Stewart-Haas was indeed going to field an extra car after all: for driver Kurt Busch. Then this week, Newman announced he had been hired by the championship Richard Childress Racing team for next year.
In the middle of all that was Saturday night’s final regular season race at Richmond.
It looked like Newman would race his way into the Chase, then fell out of the Chase and now he’s back in and expected to contend for a championship -- all within a 48-hour time frame.
“It’s been a wild ride,’’ Newman said with a slight laugh. “And that’s what I texted [crew chief] Matt [Borland] on Saturday night. I told him, ‘Thank you for all your work but we’re not done yet.’
“And that was before we knew anything else was going to happen.’’
And so now Newman and his No. 39 Quicken Loans Chevy team must shift focus, putting all of the last 72 hours behind them to concentrate on making a true “go” for the trophy, beginning with the Chase opener at Chicago on Sunday.
He is SHR’s lone shot at a championship in the team’s fifth consecutive Chase run.
“I talked to Matt [Borland] for the better part of 45 minutes last night and just touched on some ideas of how we need to approach these last 10 races as a team from my perspective, and what our strengths and weaknesses are,’’ Newman said. “I think we have true potential if you look at our performance and the 78 (Busch) and the 22 (Joey Logano) and the other guys we’re racing for those positions. We really turned it up whether on purpose or on accident those last two races. And I think that’s got to at least wear on some other guys mind that were already locked in.
“In the end, it’s been an emotional roller coaster. .. we went from bottom of bottoms to one of the peaks of the season.
“But we still have more of the ride left.’’