After a rare pit mistake by the No.48 team that cost them a shot at history, Indiana race fans rejoiced as they watched native Hoosier, Ryan Newman triumph over all at the Brickyard. Newman and Johnson were the class of the field all day with Jimmie showing the most strength but this is a team sport and a 17 second pit stop with just a handful of laps remaining is nearly impossible to overcome when your rival takes two tires. To me, the prudent decision for the usually cunning Chad Knaus would have been to call an audible and take two tires after the issues on the right side; that would have saved their race. It was a huge win for Newman and considering his situation, one that may ensure the longevity of his NASCAR career.
Ryan Newman is a very underrated driver in my opinion. A large contingent of fans look at him as that driver who is decent and occasional snags a win here and there but in 424 Cup starts, he’s amassed 50 poles, 90 top five’s, 175 top ten’s and 17 wins which include the Daytona 500 and now the Brickyard 400. He’s won multiple Nationwide races, is serious threat every time he gets behind the wheel of a Modified and in five Camping World Truck Series starts, his worst finish is 5th. Those numbers are Hall of Fame worthy but people still fail to appreciate the natural talent this USAC champion possesses.
His impressive stats alone were not enough for him to keep his seat at Stewart-Haas Racing. NASCAR is money driven and we have seen too many situations where cash talks and talent walks; Newman being the just the latest driver to get the boot due to that unfortunate policy. The team owners in NASCAR are not ignorant to the fact that Ryan can wheel a racecar and there have been rumors that RCR and Furniture Row were looking at adding him to their roster in 2014. What he did at Indy was substantial in salvaging his career and maintaining a presence at the pinnacle of NASCAR. A ride for next year seemed feasible going into Indy but this win may have launched him to the top of the list for a few owners that were already contemplating him. I’m sure team owner Tony Stewart felt ambivalent about the victory knowing that Ryan will no longer be his driver next year but going out a winner would be the best way for the “Rocket Man” to go.
He is making it known that the “lame-duck” status that departing drivers are often labeled with does not apply to him. At Loudon, he was informed that his services at Stewart-Haas would no longer be needed after 2013 and just one race later, he’s breaking track records and celebrating in victory lane at Indianapolis. SHR has experienced something similar to this back in 2011 when crew chief Darian Grubb was told he would be released at the end of the season…he and Tony Stewart went on to win the championship. Matt Borland and Ryan Newman have enjoyed great success with one-another in the past and they seem to have one of those rare driver/crew chief combinations that just works much like Johnson/Knaus, Keselowski/Wolfe or Kahne/Francis.
The No.39 team does not seem beleaguered by the recent announcement regarding their driver’s imminent release; their dedication and hunger to succeed seems unshakable as they set out to make some noise in the final 16 races of the year. An uncertain future has only seemed to motivate Ryan and make him more determined to take 2013 by the horns and leave SHR in a blaze of glory rather than quietly into the night.