By admin | July 20, 2008
By Richard Allen
During the weekend in Chicago Ryan Newman said he had as many as four options available to him. Well, now he has three. He and Penske Racing South will end their nine year relationship at the end of the 2008 season.
Actually, based on a poorly kept secret around the NASCAR Sprint Cup garage, Newman really has one option. Or rather, his decision seems to have been made, and that is to drive for the newly formed Stewart Haas Racing team.
A few days ago I wrote that I believed Tony Stewart was doing the right thing by leaving his long time team, Joe Gibbs Racing, and becoming a part owner in this new team. However, that analysis was based on more than just driving. It was based on the business opportunity available to Stewart.
On the other hand, Newman does not have such a business opportunity, or at least it does not seem so. He needs to decide based solely on driving and whether or not his new team offers him an opportunity to win, soon. At this point in his career joining a team in the process of building may not be the best spot for such an established star.
Newman has won 13 races, 43 poles and the 2008 Daytona 500. He brings with him the credentials to get into a top notch ride.
The South Bend, Indiana native will have turned 31 years old by the beginning of the 2009 season. At this point in his career, Newman has to consider that he should be entering his prime years as a driver. It is at this age when many drivers have scored big wins and championships during their careers.
It would seem as though Newman would attempt to land himself in an established ride capable of race wins and titles immediately.
Apparently, he felt as though he had run his course at Penske South. He had made the statement just a few short weeks ago that he was going to see whether or not the performance of his team would improve before he decided to re-sign with them. Then, without really allowing for much of a turn around in the #12 team, rumors began to fly that his signing with Stewart was a ‘done deal’.
The thing I do not understand is the timing. Just barely past halfway through the season, it would have seemed as though a driver of Newman’s caliber could have waited for a few more weeks.
We know the #5 car for Hendrick Motorsports had been available. Perhaps Newman did attempt to work his way in there but was unable to come to an agreement.
We know the Richard Childress Racing team is looking for a driver for its already sponsored 4th car. Perhaps Newman did not get the vibe he was looking for from RCR.
And biggest of all, the #20 car for Joe Gibbs Racing is available. Perhaps Newman got the feeling that young Joey Logano is a ‘done deal’ for that ride.
It is possible Newman did try to get into one of these more established rides and was unable to make it happen for one reason or another. However, drivers with Newman’s credentials do not come along that often and it would seem as though owners would find a place for him on one of the more proven teams.
I believe Tony Stewart’s joining Haas/CNC Racing will produce immediate improvement but this is a team with a very long way to go. It would be difficult to imagine that Stewart Haas Racing will be a contender for a title instantly. Maybe Ryan Newman will be racing for a championship in 2009, but maybe, he will be spending the prime years of his career waiting for his team to catch up to him.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.
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