Ryan Newman feels for old buddy Tony Stewart, but not SHR’s struggles

0 Comments

Ryan Newman was told shortly after mid-season in 2013 that his services would no longer be required at Stewart-Haas Racing at season’s end.

The reason: Newman was told there wasn’t enough sponsorship to keep him.

By all appearances, it appeared to be a business decision by SHR, particularly since Kevin Harvick was headed there to assume driving for the company’s third Sprint Cup team in addition to Tony Stewart and Danica Patrick.

Even winning the 2013 Brickyard 400 didn’t make a difference. Even eventually being the only SHR driver to make the 2013 Chase for the Sprint Cup didn’t make a difference, either.

Newman was going to be gone at season’s end.

But after being told there wasn’t enough money to run Newman in a fourth car, SHR majority owner Gene Haas went out and hired Kurt Busch to run a fourth car for the team in 2014.

You might think Newman would still carry some bitterness from all that, or that he might hold some glee inside now that Busch was eliminated from the Chase while Newman – with his new team at Richard Childress Racing – advanced to the second round.

Actually, Newman considers that not to be a big deal.

“No, not at all,” Newman said at this week’s Contender Round media day, adding to the reporter that posed the question, “I hadn’t thought about it until you just said it, honestly.”

Newman’s release was the second time SHR has raised eyebrows after questionable personnel moves.

In 2011, Darian Grubb was told before the Chase that he would be out as Tony Stewart’s crew chief at the end of that season.

In perhaps one of the most ironic turnabouts in NASCAR history, Grubb then helped Stewart go from winless in the 26-race regular season to win a series-high five races in the 10-race Chase, ultimately capped off with Stewart’s third championship in 10 seasons.

To their credit, Grubb and Newman have not publicly gloated at the misfortunes their former organization has gone through since their respective departures.

Newman even is quite sympathetic to both Stewart and the family of Kevin Ward Jr., after the latter was killed following being struck by Stewart’s car during a dirt track race in upstate New York on August 9.

“I’ve really only talked to him a little bit,” Newman said of Stewart. “I can only imagine what he’s going through emotionally and mentally.

“After a situation like that, it’s hard for anybody to say that you could ever be the same, whether it’s to the media or SHR or his friends or anybody else.”

While he still cares for his old friend, when Newman was asked if SHR will be able to rebound from Stewart’s recent troubles, Newman gave a slight hint of possibly how he really feels about his old organization as a whole.

“I don’t know, I don’t care,” Newman said with a slight chuckle. “If somebody’s a competitor of yours or a co-worker of yours that stubs his toe and has a bad day and affects you, does it really matter?”

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

Cadillac confirms WEC driver lineup with Chip Ganassi Racing that will race Le Mans in 2023

Cadillac Ganassi Le Mans
Cadillac Racing
0 Comments

Cadillac and Chip Ganassi Racing announced their driver lineup for a 2023 entry in the FIA World Endurance Championship, the sports car series that includes the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The Cadillac V-LMDh entry will be driven by Earl Bamber and Alex Lynn, who were teamed on the No. 02 Cadillac that competed in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship DPi class this season and won the Twelve Hours of Sebring. The third driver will be Richard Westbrook, who will return to Ganassi after helping the team to a GT class win at Le Mans in 2018.

The team also will compete in the Rolex 24 at Daytona in the rebranded Grand Touring Prototype premier category, which is designed for crossover between the top prototypes in IMSA and WEC. Ganassi will field a second entry at Daytona with its No. 01 Cadillac that will compete full time in IMSA with Sebastien Bourdais and Renger van der Zande.

A Ganassi spokesman said the team hopes to run its second entry in the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans but only its WEC team is confirmed (an AOC invitation would be required for the IMSA team). The team also is exploring options but currently plans to have the WEC’s team base of operations in Indianapolis.

Ganassi is the first American-based prototype team to confirm its entry in the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans. It’s expected that Team Penske, which raced this year’s Le Mans with a full-time WEC entry in LMP2, also will race Le Mans with Porsche’s new LMDh car that is set for IMSA, but the manufacturer has yet to confirm its driver and team lineup.

Next year will mark the return of Cadillac to Le Mans for the first time since 2002.

Before joining Ganassi last year, Lynn made 28 WEC starts since 2016, winning the LMGTE Pro class at Le Mans in 2020.

“I’m absolutely thrilled to continue with Cadillac and Chip Ganassi Racing,” Lynn said in a release. “It’s a huge honor to drive for Chip in any capacity but certainly on a full factory sports car program, it’s seriously cool. Cadillac has so much heritage as a luxury North American sports car brand, so to be able to represent them is a huge privilege. I’ve had a lot of fun in my first year doing it and to continue that onto the World Endurance Championship stage is fantastic.

“For me, returning to WEC is sort of what I’ve always known and it’s a bit like going into my wheelhouse. This year in IMSA was a bit different with getting to know all-new circuits and a new style of racing so 2023 will be filled with a bit more of what I’m used to with more of a European focus. I think what’s significant about WEC is without a doubt Le Mans. As a sports car race, Le Mans is the crown jewel and everything that we want to win. To be able to take Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac back to Le Mans to fight for overall honors is a huge honor and that’s something that I’m going to work tirelessly to make sure we achieve.”

Bamber won the Le Mans overall in 2015 and ’17 with Porsche teams and also was a 2019 GTLM champion in IMSA.

“I am really happy to continue at Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac,” Bamber said in a release. “I’ve loved my first season in DPi and now to continue over into the LMDh era and WEC is super exciting. Looking forward to fighting for a world championship and another Le Mans victory.

“The World Endurance Championships gives us the opportunity to race at the world’s biggest race, which is Le Mans, the crown jewel of sports car racing. I’ve been lucky enough to win it before and it’s obviously a huge goal for Cadillac and everyone at Chip Ganassi Racing. To have that goal in sight is really exciting. It’s been great to have Alex as a teammate in 2022. We’ve been able to learn and grow together in the DPi, and we have a really good partnership going into WEC. We know each other really well and believe adding Richard will be a seamless transition.”

Said Westbrook: “After four really good years at Chip Ganassi Racing, I’ve got so many friends there and I’ve always dreamt to come back one day. It just worked so well between 2016 and 2019, and I’m delighted we found a route to come together again. I can’t wait, it’s an exciting era in sports car racing right now.

“I feel like I know Alex and Earl really well. I did Le Mans with Alex in 2020 and I’ve known him for years. It feels like I’m going back with an ex-teammate and exactly the same with Earl. Although I’ve never shared a car with Earl, we’ve always done the same sort of racing be it in WEC or in IMSA. We’ve had lots of battles, including this year in our dueling Cadillacs. We’ve always gotten along quite well, and I can say we’re going to have a great year together.”

The seven-race WEC season, which also includes a stop at Spa, will begin March 17 with the 1,000 Miles of Sebring at Sebring International Raceway in Florida.