After a roller coaster 2013 season, Newman is focused and ready for stability in 2014
This is the third in a series of 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver recaps that will be featured on NASCAR.com.
In a short two-month timespan this summer, the 2008 Daytona 500 winner went from finding out his contract with Stewart-Haas Racing would not be renewed, to winning one of NASCAR’s crown jewels, the Brickyard 400 from the pole position. A month later, he endured the great disappointment and frustration of losing the final spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship field in a tiebreaker only to be reinstated in the Chase field by NASCAR days later after a penalty to Michael Waltrip Racing for actions in the regular season finale.
If anyone needs a breather this winter, it’s Newman, who after all that drama not only finished 11th in the final Sprint Cup standings, but is looking forward to a great ride with Richard Childress Racing in 2014.
FULL SERIES COVERAGE
SEASON IN REVIEW
- Dec. 11: Carl Edwards
- Dec. 12: Kasey Kahne
- Dec. 13: Ryan Newman
- Dec. 16: Kurt Busch
- Dec. 17: Greg Biffle
- Dec. 18: Joey Logano
- Dec. 19: Clint Bowyer
- Dec. 20: Jeff Gordon
- Dec. 23: Dale Earnhardt Jr.
- Dec. 26: Kyle Busch
- Dec. 27: Kevin Harvick
- Dec. 30: Matt Kenseth
- Jan. 2: Jimmie Johnson
“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, no doubt,’’ Newman said, reflecting on the extraordinary chain of events that defined his season.
“It’s been an up and down year on several fronts to say the least, career-wise, race-wise, Chase-wise, all those things.’’
The up part couldn’t have been much higher. After dramatically winning his 50th career Sprint Cup pole position for the Brickyard 400 as the final qualifier of the day, Newman answered the effort with one of the most popular victories of the season.
The Hoosier native and young family commenced the traditional kissing of the bricks at his beloved Indianapolis Motor Speedway to a huge and raucous ovation from his home state crowd — thousands who stayed long after the checkered flag to cheer on one of their own.
It marked the fourth consecutive season Newman has scored at least one win and sent out a strong message to future employers that this Chevy driver had the will to match the talent. He joins only six-time Cup champ Jimmie Johnson, four-time champion Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick and Jamie McMurray with wins in both of NASCAR’s biggest races, the Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400.
“We were waiting for a special time to make all this stuff happen, like the perfect storm,’’ Newman joked at Indianapolis after his win. “I got fired a couple weeks ago, come back here, win the pole, win the race. It’s all because of hard effort. It’s all because they (his team) haven’t given up. They want to win just as bad as I do.’’
That continued to be evident as Newman challenged for a Chase position. His third place finish in the No. 39 in the Richmond, Va. regular season finale appeared to be good enough to earn a berth. But MWR driver Martin Truex Jr. bested Newman on a technicality. They tied in points, but Truex had one more top-five at the time.
After it was revealed that Truex’ MWR team had “manipulated” the race results, NASCAR pulled Truex out of the Chase field and placed Newman in — an unprecedented move that also included adding Jeff Gordon as a 13th driver to the normally 12-driver field.
Newman won a pole position and reeled off six top-10 finishes in the final 10 Chase races. But top-10s on track weren’t enough to earn a top-10 position in the final standings. The highest Newman rose in the rankings was seventh after Dover, Del. — three races into the postseason push.
On the year, Newman’s 18 top-10s was the most for him since his eight-win 2003 season and tellingly, his five DNFs tied Gordon for most among Chase drivers and most among the top-20 drivers.
The best part of Newman’s Chase experience came early on when Richard Childress formally introduced him as the driver of the No. 31 Caterpillar/Quicken Loans Chevrolet beginning in 2014.
Newman revealed that he and Childress had initially spoken about pairing up five years ago, even before the driver signed on with the new Stewart-Haas organization. And Newman explained that one of the most promising things about his upcoming role with RCR is that it will be the first team he’s driven for that is already established.
When he started his Cup career at Penske Racing in 2002, he was added as a new second car to the organization. It was a similar situation at the new SHR operation.
“I said before I wanted to be at a place where I was wanted, but also where I wanted to be,’’ Newman said. “In the history of what I’ve done, it was kind of a no-brainer to go talk to Richard. We just made some things happen and I’m really grateful to my relationship with Richard.
“They control their destiny at Richard Childress Racing. To me, I look forward to experiencing all that. Really the first time in my career I’ll have the opportunity to work with an already put–together crew.
“Stepping into a seat that already has a successful, experienced team feels good to me.
We are all really looking forward to a great season.’’