Remember the end of the 2011 Sprint Cup season? Tony Stewart had just won the championship and, in one of the most surreal settings ever seen in NASCAR history, crew chief Darian Grubb told a post-race press conference that he would not be returning to the team for the 2012 season.
Grubb had been fired. He was told so several weeks earlier, and no matter how the Chase wound up, he was still going to be without a job. Who could have predicted that after a dismal first 26 races, he and his crew would make a dramatic turnaround and lead Stewart to five wins in the 10-race Chase, capped off by the championship.
Given an item over the weekend by FoxSports.com, it almost makes you wonder if perhaps Ryan Newman may be facing a similar fate as Grubb did.
“I just want to race some place where I’m wanted, where people are happy I’m there,” Newman told the web site.
Now, does that sound like a guy who, A) Is wanted by Stewart-Haas Racing? and B) Believes he has longterm job security in his current position?
It sure sounds like the answer to both questions is a big “no.”
Newman has been down this road before: with Danica Patrick and her millions of GoDaddy.com sponsorship dollars headed to SHR for 2013, Newman appeared as if he’d be without a ride for this season due to lack of sponsorship.
But somehow enough sponsorship money was found to keep Newman in the No. 39 Chevrolet for this season.
That’s likely not going to be the case next season, not with Kevin Harvick heading to SHR after this season, leaving Richard Childress Racing.
With Stewart, Patrick and now Harvick, and the odds unlikely that the organization would grow to a four-car operation, it doesn’t appear as if there’ll be any room left at the SHR inn in 2014 for Newman.
And in an ironic twist, if Newman is indeed let go at season’s end, RCR may very well be one of the first places that comes calling with a job offer. Team owner Richard Childress reportedly has his eyes on both Newman and Kurt Busch – if the latter decides to leave Furniture Row Racing, where it seems he’s not only found success, but also a home – to fill Harvick’s shoes.
Childress will likely bring up grandson Austin Dillon to drive in the Sprint Cup series full-time next season – possibly in the iconic No. 3 Chevy made famous by the late Dale Earnhardt. But it remains unclear whether Dillon would replace Harvick or drive a fourth car in an expanded RCR effort (Jeff Burton and Paul Menard are also part of the organization).
And while Newman welcomes Childress’ interest, what’s going to happen with Dillon is ever-present on his mind.
“Of all the opportunities that there are out there, he’s (Childress) got one of the best opportunities — as far as the 29 being vacated,” Newman said. “But I don’t know what the family tree is going to look like over there.”
Newman is currently in 18th place in the Sprint Cup standings, just two places and only nine points behind his boss, Stewart.
“There are only so many guys that don’t have contracts for next year,” Newman said. “At this point, I would entertain any possible opportunity. I don’t think anyone in my position wouldn’t do anything otherwise.”