CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Ryan Newman expected to spend Monday celebrating his new job with Richard Childress Racing. Instead, still reeling from the controversial spin by Clint Bowyer that took him out of championship contention, he sounded emotionally exhausted as he announced his 2014 plans.
“What happened to me Saturday night is the toughest thing that I’ve ever gone through in any kind of racing in my 30 years of driving because of the way everything went down,” Newman said. “I knew this (RCR) announcement was coming, but in the end, I don’t think it’s anything to compare or contrast or say that the positive outweighs the negative or even compensates for it.”
Newman was leading with seven laps remaining Saturday night at Richmond, where a victory would have given him the final spot in the 12-driver Chase for the Sprint Cup championship field. But Bowyer spun and out came a caution, setting in motion a chain of events that ultimately led to Newman losing the race and Bowyer teammate Martin Truex Jr. earning the final Chase berth.
NASCAR was reviewing communication between Bowyer and his Michael Waltrip Racing crew that seems to indicate the spin was deliberate, as well as additional evidence that suggests MWR had Bowyer and driver Brian Vickers take a dive over the final three laps so that Joey Logano would knock Jeff Gordon out of Chase contention in yet another attempt to help Truex.
“I pretty much had to stress myself to sleep Saturday night. I had my phone in my hands and was communicating with different people at different times about different things,” Newman said. “In the end, it became more disappointing the more we dug into it. It didn’t just affect me, it affected Jeff Gordon and at the same time Logano and Truex.
“It’s not an easy thing to work through mentally, emotionally and even physically afterward.”
Newman, who admitted “the potential is not good for us to be cordial” those involved at MWR, initially downplayed Bowyer’s spin as cause for his defeat after finishing third. He said Saturday night he still had a chance to win up until a slow pit stop by his Stewart-Haas Racing crew.
Now that he’s seen all the evidence pointing to MWR’s manipulation of the final seven laps, he’s got mixed feelings.
NASCAR officials had warned in the pre-race driver meeting against competitors attempting to influence the outcome of the race as 10 drivers began Saturday night competing for five available spots in the Chase — “We knew there was potential for this going into this race … it’s like we saw there was potential for fire, but nobody grabbed the extinguisher,” Newman said — so Newman said he’s eagerly awaiting the results of NASCAR’s investigation.
Bowyer has denied he intentionally spun and Truex was an unwitting participant. There’s been silence from MWR officials, manufacturer Toyota and sponsors 5-Hour Energy (Bowyer) and NAPA Auto Parts (Truex), which pay millions to fund the race programs and likely owe MWR bonuses for each driver making the Chase.
“In the end, how NASCAR handles this is extremely important for all of us,” Newman said.
Meanwhile, the 17-race winner is officially off the free agent market with his deal with RCR to replace Jeff Burton next season in the No. 31 Chevrolet.
Luke Lambert will remain with the team as crew chief, and Caterpillar was the only sponsor announced for the program Monday. Burton said in announcing last week he was leaving RCR at the end of the season that the CAT funding wasn’t enough to run a proper program in 2014, and it’s assumed Newman has additional backing to add to the deal.
Newman, who won the Brickyard this year, isn’t being retained by Stewart-Haas Racing because team co-owner Tony Stewart said the organization didn’t have room for him because Kevin Harvick is coming aboard next season from RCR. But SHR has since done an about-face and is expanding to four cars with Kurt Busch.
Newman said he’ll race hard over the last 10 weeks to put a strong close on his SHR tenure before moving to Childress.
“Our goal is to win each and every one of these last 10 races, I feel that we have the potential to,” he said. “I want to do it for myself, my team, my sponsors and everybody involved, especially all of the things that we went through and fought through to get back to where we were on Saturday night and to be in a position within seven to go to race our way in. These guys deserve it. That’s as simple as that.”