“Rollercoaster” two weeks end happily for Brickyard winner Newman

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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.”

Lewis Hamilton receives Daytona 500 invitation from Bubba Wallace

Lewis Hamilton Bubba Wallace
Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images
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Lewis Hamilton is a fan of the new NASCAR Cup Series team formed by Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan to field a car for Bubba Wallace.

Will the six-time Formula One champion also be a fan in person at a NASCAR race in the near future?

Wallace is hoping so.

After Hamilton tweeted his support Tuesday morning about the news of a Hamlin-Jordan-Wallace team making its debut with the 2021 season, Wallace responded with a sly invitation to the Daytona 500.

Much would need to be worked out, starting with how much garage and grandstand access would be afforded for a 2021 season opener that likely would occur during a still ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

But it would seem fitting given that Hamilton and Wallace have been two of the world’s most outspoken Black athletes about the quest for diversity and racial justice. Hamilton recently reaffirmed his commitment to activism after his donning a Breonna Taylor shirt sparked an FIA inquiry. Time just published a brief piece by Wallace saluting Hamilton as a trailblazer.

The idea of Hamilton attending the NASCAR season opener already had legs, too. The Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 driver has expressed a desire to race the Daytona 500 after he has retired from Formula One.

He was a spectator (with racing legend Mario Andretti) at four-time champion Jeff Gordon’s final Cup race as a full-time in the 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In 2011, Hamilton swapped cars with three-time champion Tony Stewart at Watkins Glen International.

Having rubbed shoulders with other racing greats so often, it would seem right for Hamilton — who is one victory from tying Michael Schumacher’s career record and also could tie the F1 record with a seventh championship this season — to spend some time with the greatest basketball player of all time.

Jeff Gordon was flanked by Mario Andretti and Lewis Hamilton before the 2015 Cup season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).