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.”

Valiant efforts from Hunter-Reay, Dixon come up just short at Road America

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Ryan Hunter-Reay and Scott Dixon drove about as hard as they possibly could during Sunday’s KOHLER Grand Prix, and they both drove nearly perfect races.

Hunter-Reay took advantage of Will Power’s engine issues on the start to immediately jump into second, and stalked pole sitter and leader Josef Newgarden from there, often staying within only a couple car lengths of his gearbox.

Dixon, meanwhile, had a tougher chore after qualifying a disappointing 12th. Further, he was starting in the same lane as Will Power, and when Power had engine issues when the green flag waved, Dixon was one of several drivers who was swamped in the aftermath.

Scott Dixon had to come from deep in the field on Sunday’s KOHLER Grand Prix. Photo: IndyCar

However, as is his style, he quietly worked his way forward, running sixth after the opening round of pit stops, and then working his way up to third after the second round of stops.

It all meant that, after Lap 30, Newgarden, Hunter-Reay, and Dixon were nose-to-tail at the front, with the latter two in position to challenge for the win.

Yet, neither was able to do so. Hunter-Reay never got close enough to try to pass Newgarden, while Dixon couldn’t do so on either Hunter-Reay or Newgarden. And, neither driver went longer in their final stint – Dixon was actually the first of that group to pit, doing so on Lap 43, with Hunter-Reay and Newgarden pitting together one lap later.

And Newgarden pulled away in the final stint, winning by over three seconds, leaving Hunter-Reay and Dixon to finish second and third.

It was a somewhat bitter pill to swallow, with Hunter-Reay noting that he felt like he had enough to challenge for a win.

“I felt like we had the pace for (Newgarden), especially in the first two stints,” he asserted. “I really felt like it was going to be a really good race between us. Whether it be first, second, third, fourth stint – I didn’t know when it was going to come.”

He added that, if he could do it over again, he would have been more aggressive and tried to pass Newgarden in the opening stint.

“In hindsight, I should have pressured him a bit more in the first stint,” Hunter-Reay lamented. “We were focused on a fuel number at the time. Unfortunately that Penske fuel number comes into play, can’t really go hard.”

Dixon, meanwhile, expressed more disappointment in the result, asserting that qualifying better would have put him in a possibly race-winning position.

“I think had we started a little further up, we could have had a good shot at trying to fight for the win today,” he expressed.

The disappointment for Dixon also stems from the knowledge that his No. 9 PNC Bank Honda had the pace to win, especially longer into a run.

“The car was pretty good on the long stint,” he asserted. “I think for us the saving grace was probably the black tire stint two. We closed a hefty gap there. We were able to save fuel early in the first stint, which enabled us to go a lap longer than everybody, had the overcut for the rest of the race.

“I think speed-wise we were right there. Had a bit of a crack at Hunter-Reay on his out lap on the last stint there, but cooked it too much going into (Turn 14), got a bit loose, lost momentum. That would have been really the only chance of passing him.”

Dixon remains in the championship lead, however, by 45 points, while Hunter-Reay moved up to second, tied with Andretti Autosport teammate Alexander Rossi.

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