From being told he’d be let go to becoming the Brickyard 400 champion, the last two weeks have been full of peaks and valleys for Ryan Newman.
Going into the Sprint Cup weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Newman was informed by boss and teammate Tony Stewart that his five-year run at Stewart-Haas Racing would be coming to a close at the end of the season. Shortly after Stewart’s decision, the “Rocket Man” said that he had no idea what kind of change would come for him.
His next race, the Camping World RV Sales 301 at NHMS, ended with him spinning into the wall and then led to a bizarre war of words with an agitated Kyle Busch. It was definitely not the ideal way to go into the final off-weekend of the year, but Newman still appreciated the chance to get his mind settled.
“The emotions have been an absolute rollercoaster,” Newman said on Sunday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “Loudon was a disaster. We got crashed out, everything that was said. We got through all that stuff, talked about it…That weekend off, I think was good timing, to be able to hit control, alt, delete.”
Then came Indy, the track he wanted to win at since he was a child. Growing up, Newman not only witnessed the 1986 Indianapolis 500 in the stands, but also chatted with Jeff Gordon and Ken Schrader during NASCAR’s first tests at the fabled course in the early 1990s.
Those moments went a long way toward putting Newman on the path to stock car stardom – and eventually, to immortality as a winner at Indianapolis. After taking the Brickyard pole from Jimmie Johnson on Saturday, he then took the race from him on Sunday with the help of a strong race car and a critical, two-tire call from crew chief Matt Borland on his final pit stop (not to mention Johnson’s long final stop of his own).
Newman made sure to credit Borland and everyone else who contributed to, perhaps, the race of his life.
“Matt did an amazing job to come here with a fast race car [and] give me what I needed,” he said. “We all did it together. Not just the guys here, but the guys at the shop, the pit crew. You all know it’s a huge team sport.”
Sunday’s win didn’t change the fact that he’s still basically a free agent looking for a new ride. But it’s likely that Newman’s stock will rise considerably among teams that are looking for their next driver; in that aspect, he came up big at the best possible time.
The process of choosing where he’ll end up in 2014 and beyond will soon start for him. But that can wait for now.
“There’s a lot of questions to be answered,” he said. “We’ll get through all that. But today, we’re celebrating a victory.”