Mum on 2014 plans, Newman sets sights on making Chase

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With all of the recent Silly Season movement involving the likes of Kurt Busch, Kyle Larson, A.J. Allmendinger and Jeff Burton, it would appear that the spotlight is now shining on Ryan Newman, who is leaving Stewart-Haas Racing at the end of 2013.

Newman has been tipped by some for a possible jump to Richard Childress Racing next year, and with Burton announcing his departure from RCR this week, that rumor will only intensify.

Of course, let’s not forget that Busch’s soon-to-be-old ride, the No. 78 at Furniture Row Racing, also needs a new driver for 2014.

But as he looks toward his final chance to make this year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup this weekend at Richmond International Raceway, Newman has kept quiet about his future plans. He mentioned Thursday that he had “spent some time this week working on next year” – but didn’t reveal much else.

“It’s not that I’m not allowed [to say anything],” Newman said. “It’s just not the right time.”

An understandable stance from Newman, considering that he’ll be battling for a Chase berth in tomorrow’s Federated Auto Parts 400 at RIR. The Brickyard 400 winner finds himself five points behind Martin Truex, Jr. for the final Wild Card spot.

“I think no matter what, trying to figure out anybody’s future is somewhat of a distraction when it compares to living in the present – trying to figure out and perform like we need to perform for the Chase,” Newman said.

With him and nine other drivers gunning for five remaining Chase spots tomorrow night, the atmosphere will definitely be tense.

Many scenarios can and likely will play out over the course of 400 laps, and for Newman – who can clinch a Wild Card with a win – it may all come down to putting the chrome horn to somebody in order to get that critical victory that vaults him into the playoffs.

But would he do such a thing? That depends.

“Everything is a situation,” he said Thursday. “If that guy roughs you up to get to where you are, maybe. If that person is the one that caused you mischief earlier in the season, maybe. If that person is somebody you extremely respect, know they wouldn’t do that to you, maybe not. It’s so situational.”

Ricciardo set to see Dale Jr.’s final Texas ride in two weeks (VIDEO)

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We’ve written before about Daniel Ricciardo’s love of Dale Earnhardt and his love of the No. 3, which Ricciardo has selected as his permanent number for the duration of his Formula 1 career. And additionally, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has offered up the opportunity that one day Ricciardo could race a JR Motorsports car in NASCAR Xfinity Series competition, and Ricciardo has said he’d be up for it.

And although Earnhardt Jr. has only used the No. 3 on a handful of occasions in his career in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, Ricciardo knows how much the number means to the NASCAR veteran as he prepares for his final few starts in the Cup Series the tail-end of this year.

After the Mexican Grand Prix next week, Ricciardo is set to stay in North America for the off-week between the Mexican and Brazilian Grands Prix.

In that break, he said he’ll see Earnhardt Jr. in person at the Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway (Sunday, Nov. 5, 2 p.m. ET, NBCSN) to ensure he gets to see him before he retires from full-time competition.

Ricciardo explained his planning during Thursday’s pre-race edition of the NBC Sports Group original digital series Paddock Pass, speaking to NBCSN’s Will Buxton at the United States Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas in Austin.

“Well I’ll see him for the first time in Dallas. I’m gonna go to the NASCAR race in two weeks time at Texas Motor Speedway,” Ricciardo told NBCSN.

“Yeah, so, I gotta see him race before he hangs up the helmet.

“The Earnhardt family is a huge name in motorsport, not only in America but all over the world. Yeah I wish him well.”

Ricciardo is also optimistic he’ll get the chance to do a helmet swap with Earnhardt Jr. at the event.

“Hopefully I get to see him perform well in Texas. I’m gonna try to do a helmet swap with him. We’ll see how we go.”

Stay tuned for more on this over the coming weeks.