Is Ryan Newman headed toward same fate at Stewart-Haas Racing as Darian Grubb?

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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.”

Valtteri Bottas takes pole position for season-opening Austrian GP

Leonhard Foeger/Pool via Getty Images
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SPIELBERG, Austria — Valtteri Bottas upstaged Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton to take pole position Saturday for the Formula One Austrian GP.

The Finnish driver edged out the world champion by 0.012 seconds to claim the top spot for the season opener at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg. He clenched his fist as he climbed out of his car and shared a hug with Hamilton.

“It’s something special when you push the car to the limit,” said Bottas, who is chasing an eighth career win. “Feels so good. It’s very impressive (from the team).”

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was third, and Lando Norris gave McLaren a boost by finishing fourth. Verstappen has won the past two years here, including 2019 when he started third behind Hamilton and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.

“It’s going to be interesting quite a bit warmer tomorrow and hopefully this will play to our advantage,” Verstappen said. “Today, Mercedes was on a different level, unfortunately. Last year we were also a little bit off in qualifying so I expect we will be a bit better in the race.”

Bottas had the leading time when drivers embarked on their final laps and beat his own mark before sliding off the track into the gravel.

Hamilton was chasing a record-extending 89th career pole. He was ahead but then dropped off slightly as Bottas secured a 12th career pole.

“Great job by Valtteri. It’s a great start to the season,” Hamilton said. “We show year on year that we continue to be the best team. We’re open-minded … constantly learning from each other and pushing the boundaries.”

Ferrari struggled for speed, with Leclerc nearly one second behind in seventh and Sebastian Vettel failing to make it into the third and final part of qualifying, known as Q3. He starts the race from 11th on the grid.

Vettel is leaving Ferrari at the end of the season with his future in F1 uncertain.

Earlier, Hamilton posted the fastest time in morning practice. The 35-year-old British driver was also quickest in both sessions on Friday.

Midway through third practice, F1 newcomer Nicholas Latifi misjudged the exit of a turn and spun his Williams car into a protective tire wall.