NASCAR’s decision to penalize the MWR team ended up placing Newman as one of the 12 Cup drivers that will “Chase” for the championship.
While Ryan Newman exited the Richmond International Raceway on Saturday night with a heavy heart, his mood changed dramatically for the good on Monday. First, he was named to drive the No. 31 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing for the 2014 season and beyond and later in the day when NASCAR advised him that he had gained one of the coveted Wild Card spots in the 2013 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship.
Leading the waning laps of the Federated Auto Parts 400 on Saturday night, Newman looked to be headed for victory and the final Wild Card position, only to be duped out of the desired outcome due to the manipulative efforts of the Michael Waltrip Racing team.
Six laps from the finish, Clint Bowyer triggered a caution flag with a harmless spin and when the leaders pitted for tires, Newman came out fifth and couldn’t catch new leader Carl Edwards in the final laps. Instead of earning the Wild Card spot, Newman lost a tie-breaker to Martin Truex Jr., in one of three MWR entries. Bowyer and Brian Vickers were in the other two MWR cars.
Almost immediately, a firestorm broke out concerning Bowyer’s spin – was it intentional or not and concurrently was an unexpected pit stop by Vickers part of a plan to help MWR at the expense of Newman.
NASCAR quickly jumped into the fire and within 48 hours concluded that the finish had been manipulated, ruling against MWR and advancing Newman into the Chase field.
Newman could now run for the championship and look forward to his newly signed relationship with RCR.
During Monday’s RCR press conference, Newman was upbeat in accepting congratulations but he also let it be known that he was distraught over Saturday’s outcome and not overly enthusiastic about discussing it.
Said Newman, “It is tough to comment on because I know it is being reviewed (by NASCAR). My ultimate answer is that it is pretty obvious to me (about) the decisions and communications (that) were made, and I don’t know how anybody is going to react or put their foot down or penalize or do anything in respect to this. I am waiting to see what becomes of it. I do know that based on my opinion and watching and listening to the communication then, it was not entirely an accident.”
Asked if the RCR deal helped offset Saturday’s outcome, Newman said it didn’t. “To me what happened Saturday night was the toughest thing I have ever gone through in any kind of racing in my 30 years of driving because of the way everything went down. In hindsight, it hurt that much more,” he said.
Regarding ongoing relationships with Bowyer and MWR, Newman stated, “I say the potential is not good for being cordial to each other. But until NASCAR completes its due diligence (review), and that could go in several directions, I would rather not comment. In the end, I was extremely disappointed to see and hear some of the things that went down, and I think it is relatively obvious and it goes without saying what happened.”
With the Chase matter resolved and his new employment set, Newman is heading to Chicagoland Speedway this weekend with a smile on his face and new-found determination to excel in the forthcoming Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
Even though Newman didn’t take home the winner’s trophy on Saturday evening, he came home the big winner in the hearts of sports fans everywhere.