Ryan Newman visited the media at Chicagoland Speedway last Saturday, July 12, before he, along with the other 42 racers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, ran the first race under the lights on the Joliet, Ill. oval. After his comments, it appeared...
Ryan Newman visited the media at Chicagoland Speedway last Saturday, July 12, before he, along with the other 42 racers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, ran the first race under the lights on the Joliet, Ill. oval. After his comments, it appeared that indeed, the handwriting was on the wall and Newman would leaving Penske Racing.
His comments came two days after Tony Stewart confirmed the formation of Stewart-Haas Racing. The Joe Gibbs Racing long-time star and two-time Cup champion will be back in a Chevrolet next year as a driver and team co-owner. One of the drivers showing up in the rumor mill was Stewart's friend and rival, Newman.
Newman indicated that he was allowed to talk about possible negotiations for the 2009 season since his contract with Penske Racing is up at the end of this season. "Me personally, no. My contract doesn't state that I have to keep my mouth shut in any respect other than just being respectful and that's what I'm going to do," he said.
The driver of the No. 12 Dodge has been with Roger Penske since 2000. He has had remarkable seasons but failed to take the Cup title even though he earned the nickname "Rocketman" for his notching 11 poles during the 2003 season.
In fact, Newman deserved the moniker the year before during his rookie season. In 2002, in one of the best rookie title fight, he and Jimmie Johnson were neck-to-neck, on- and off-track. The outcome was Newman earning Rookie of the Year with six poles -- the first rookie to top Davey Allison's best of five as a rookie. He also set a rookie record of 22 top-10 finishes.
Newman went on in 2002 to land sixth in the Cup points, along with his victory at the non-points All-Star race at the Lowe's Motor Speedway. The champion that year was Tony Stewart.
Stewart and Newman have yet to announce a possible agreement for the future but the two have a background racing in the USAC Sprint and Midget series. "Tony's a great competitor in many ways. He's tough, but respectful," said Newman. "He's been a good friend on and off the race track. Specifically off, he's done a lot to help me and guide me. In general he's just a hard nose racer and have always appreciated him for that. Whether we argue on the race track or not, we're two hard nosed racers."
While Stewart and Johnson have gone on to earn the Cup championship, Newman is still searching. When questioned about his relationship with Penske and the team, Newman was quick to put to rest any bad feelings as he stated, "Honestly, I don't know. In general, I have a career here. I've had a career here at Penske Racing. If it works out to move on, then I will move on. I don't know that answer yet.
"I talked to Roger a little bit this week. I talked to him a little bit last week. We're still working on performance. We're working on a lot of things," he added. "It's just a matter of when we decide we're going to move on or part ways if that does happen."
That time apparently came quicker than expected when Penske Racing announced today that Newman will not be one of their drivers next year.
"We want to thank Ryan for his hard work and contributions to Penske Racing over the past nine years," said team owner Roger Penske. "We wish Ryan all the best for the future and we'll continue to focus our efforts on making the Chase with Ryan and the Alltel Dodge team this season."
Now the question is, where exactly where Newman hang his helmet next year? The Brickyard 400 is in less than two weeks and it is the home of Stewart. If Newman will be driving the second Stewart-Haas Racing Cup car, that would be the ideal location for the expected announcement.
"Driving for Tony's team is an option. He's got an open seat. Obviously you guys marked me as a lead candidate to get in there, so it is an option," Newman said but did add, "Have we had discussions? I've had a lot of discussion with a lot of people."