NASCAR’s worst kept secret- the move in 2014 of Kevin Harvick to Stewart- Haas Racing after spending his entire Cup career in the ‘29’ for Richard Childress- was officially revealed Friday. Harvick and team co-owner Tony Stewart are good friends, of similar mind on the track and it appears to be a win-win at first glance.
That is, of course, unless you are Ryan Newman. The 2002 Rookie Of The Year and winner of the 2008 Daytona 500 is the odd man out, and will leave after five seasons racing for his fellow Hoosier. Stewart is saying all the right things about his old friend, “. For Ryan and I we had to put the personal bit of it aside to work through the business part. I’ll do everything I can to help Ryan in any way I can moving forward to try to help him in his effort to find another team next year. I’m behind him 100 percent. I believe in him 100 percent. I truly wish we were able to facilitate four teams at this time. We are just not able to do that.”
Fortunately, the winner of 16 Cup races (8 in 2003) has options. Richard Childress will be looking to fill Harvick’s spot on the RCR, and for those of us who may have thought that Austin Dillon was just going to step into that old 29 ride and go back to using the number 3, there’s word he has enough sponsorship for a fourth team. Hmmm.
There’s also word Jack Roush and Roger Penske are reportedly interested as they possibly expand 2014 operations, so there’s no shortage of place for Newman to go that could offer competitive rides. It will be interesting to see what happens.
A key no doubt will be what-if any- move Kurt Busch will make. He says his focus is on the 2013 Chase, which may very well be code for “If things go well here at Furniture Row, I’ll stay.” In this observer’s opinion, that would be Busch’s best move. If you think about it, they needed each other. Barney Visser needed a top caliber driver with championship experience, and after a couple of lost seasons, the 2004 champion needed a fresh start. The pairing so far has been magic, but it’s a long season, so we’ll see.
Back to Newman, there seems to be more than one person who thinks going to RCR is a foregone conclusion. Their organization has been riding a roller coaster in recent years. No doubt Newman becomes an important if he moves to RCR, as Jeff Burton is in the latter stages of his career, and Paul Menard to date has only one Sprint Cup victory to show for his efforts.
It’s not hard to imagine Newman fitting in o.k. over at Roush, though he’d be in the shadow of Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle. At Penske, one would have to wonder how a re-union with the Captain would go given Newman’s rivalry with Joey Logano. Of course, Newman has a resume and a reputation above that of Logano, so there may be more of an onus on Logano to suck it up and offer the olive branch. To me, it seems like A.J. Allmendinger might be a better fit for Penske.
No question Newman will land somewhere in one of the better rides out there. By all accounts, he’s always been a good teammate, and his blue collar, outdoorsy persona is a winner a significant portion of NASCAR nation. I can’t recall a time he’s ever talked trash about his owner or his crew. Most, if any conflict at all, has been between Newman and NASCAR, or Newman and other teams, which given the battles he’s chosen to fight are not black marks against him.
So now the big domino has fallen for the 2013 Silly Season. While it can’t be fun to be shown the door by your employer and buddy, there’s no questioning there are good options. Will Rocket Ryan Newman become 2014’s Matt Kenseth? I’d say the chances are good.