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?”
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