Junior leaves Ryan Newman stranded at airport
June 13, 2014, Pat DeCola, NASCAR.com
Dale Earnhardt Jr., possibly still on cloud nine after picking up his second victory of the season last Sunday at Pocono Raceway and not thinking clearly, took off for Michigan International Speedway Friday morning to prepare for a busy weekend ahead. He then realized, once the plane was at approximately 40,000 feet, that he forgot one of his carry-ons: Newman.
Weekend started off on wrong foot. Left @RyanJNewman at the airport. Forgot he was riding with us. Imma pay for this one.— Dale Earnhardt Jr. (@DaleJr) June 13, 2014
It was clear from Junior's Twitter updates he felt bad about the mistake.
I'm hoping and praying that the reason @RyanJNewman isn't responding to my text are because he is at 40,000 feet. Please be at 40,000 feet.— Dale Earnhardt Jr. (@DaleJr) June 13, 2014
When Earnhardt came in for his Friday press conference, it naturally led to questions about Newman's current location and if he'd heard from the driver of the No. 31 Chevrolet.
"No, I don't know. Is he here?," Earnhardt asked. "Let me check my phone. Oh, he did (text me). He says, 'I should've texted last night.' I still don't know where he's at."
And now, for the explanation as to how this "Home Alone"-esque situation transpired:
"This is what happened. And this is the honest truth. On Tuesday he asked me if he could take a ride to the race track, which is common for drivers to do that and we were leaving at 8:30 and that's what it said on my calendar. And then since Tuesday we've added some media to this morning and so my PR guy Mike Hoag moved take-off time to 8 o'clock and I didn't know about it, I didn't look at my calendar and when I got up this morning, I didn't look at the clock, I just got in the shower and went downstairs, drove to the airport and got on the plane. I forgot about Ryan. Even if we were taking off at 8:30 and he wasn't there, I probably would've left him. He should've texted me last night. I think he got a ride. That was unfortunate for sure, but it happens."
With one of his primary sponsors also serving as the namesake of Sunday's Quicken Loans 400 (1 p.m. ET, TNT), Newman already had a regularly scheduled press conference on Friday afternoon, like it was destined to happen. The questions about the incident didn't take long to emerge. Luckily, Newman was a great sport about it and everything worked out in the end.
"I talked to Junior, I guess it was Monday night, and asked him if I could bum a ride up here because my wife and kids are coming up tomorrow on my plane," Newman said. "It just made sense if I could just jump a ride instead of sending the plane back and forth. He said, 'Yeah, no problem.' I double-checked to make sure that we were 8:30 on Friday morning and everything was good.
"It was pretty much the last ride that I thought was going to go out to come up here and it was convenient and we were flying in the same airport and we were supposed to leave at 8:30 and I showed up before 8:30 and his truck was there and the airplane was gone. I knew I was in trouble at that point."
He could have panicked, but instead jumped back in his truck, drove across the airport and happened to see his saving grace in the plane of a 2014 NASCAR Hall of Famer.
"I just happened to see Dale Jarrett's plane sitting there and Dale wasn't there yet, but I talked to his pilots and I said 'I'm hoping you guys are going to Michigan, right?' and they said yes, so I bummed a ride. It was extravagantly convenient and lucky at the same time. I got in the car (later) and told Jason (Jarrett, son of Dale and No. 31 spotter) 'Your old man saved me.' It was the closest I've ever come to missing practice."