UPDATED: Ryan Newman named as new driver of Childress’ No. 31

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It turns out Ryan Newman could afford to be candid about his pit crew at Stewart-Haas Racing after missing the Chase for the Sprint Cup at Richmond because he had something new close to being done.

Newman has been named as Jeff Burton’s replacement at Richard Childress Racing’s No. 31 Chevrolet, multiple sources confirmed to NASCAR.com. Newman participated in a teleconference later on Monday and discussed the move.

“We talked roughly five years ago before I joined SHR and we didn’t have the moons correctly aligned,” Newman said.

He said he had talked to several teams before settling on RCR for what will be a three-year deal.

“I talked to a few, which in my world is three or more,” Newman said. “Richard came to me Daytona 500 week and I told him at that point I needed to lay some ground work with Matt Borland (at SHR), it was too early then, but I appreciated the offer. After Loudon, when I was told what I wouldn’t be doing, the conversations intensified. So it was at the top without a doubt. Richard and everyone at RCR could control their own destiny in terms of building chassis, engines and bodies at one compound. That means the world to me.”

It will mark a third change of scenery for Newman, who debuted in NASCAR with Penske Racing in 2000 and shifted to Stewart-Haas in 2009. He has 17 career wins, including a season-high eight in 2003, the last year before the Chase, and his most recent win at Indianapolis this July. He also has scored Penske’s only Daytona 500 win, ahead of then-teammate Kurt Busch in 2008.

“I’ve talked with (new teammate) Paul (Menard) a good bit, going back to Coke 600. Austin and Ty (Dillon) are there, I don’t know their capacity yet,” he said of his new team situation. “Just even racing with Austin at the Truck race, we raced clean and raced hard. Tony (Stewart) and I have raced clean and hard. I also want to make mention to that I’m extremely respectful for the way Jeff Burton’s handled himself. To make this all work out and he’s been great, I will leave it at that.”

Newman made the Chase twice in five seasons with SHR, missing out this year after a controversial late-race spin by Clint Bowyer and a subsequent loss of positions on the ensuing pit stops.

NHRA: Brittany Force cleared to race this weekend in Phoenix after bad wreck 2 weeks ago

Photo: John Force Racing
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Drag racing is a Force family tradition. So, too, is not keeping a Force family member down.

Just 12 days after the most serious wreck of her six-year drag racing career, Brittany Force and John Force Racing announced late Thursday afternoon that the defending 2017 NHRA Top Fuel champion has been medically cleared and will indeed race in this weekend’s NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in suburban Phoenix, Arizona.

“I flew into Phoenix early this (Thursday) morning and headed straight out to the race track to meet up with my team,” Force said. “I suited up and got belted back into my car that I ran all last season.

“It honestly felt good to be strapped back in and I was surprised how comfortable I was. I’m looking forward to getting back in my car tomorrow (Friday’s first two rounds of qualifying) and getting back in the swing of things with my guys.”

The 31-year-old Force, one of four daughters of 16-time NHRA Funny Car champ John Force, suffered a concussion and bruising after the hard crash she was involved in on February 11 in the first round of eliminations of the season-opening NHRA Lucas Oil Winternationals in Pomona, California.

Shortly after leaving the starting line in a race vs. Terry Haddock, Force’s dragster crossed from the right to left lanes, impacted the retaining wall with a very hard lateral crash, bounced off, spun, went on its side and briefly caught fire after crossing the finish line wheels-up.

While she is still recovering from the bruising, Force feels strong enough to get back behind the wheel. Getting back in the race car could be the best medicine of all, since she has three runner-up finishes in Phoenix, including back-to-back second-place showings in both the 2016 and 2017 national events.

The three-day event kicks off Friday with qualifying rounds at 4 and 6:30 p.m. ET, the same times as Saturday’s qualifying. Final eliminations begin at 1 p.m. ET Sunday.