Gorches: Brickyard win will help Newman’s free-agent status
By Steve T. Gorches 314-3797 or firstname.lastname@example.org July 28, 2013 5:26PM
Tony Stewart, Ryan Newman
Updated: August 30, 2013 6:56AM
INDIANAPOLIS — Forgive Ryan Newman if he’s got a little motion sickness after winning the 20th running of the Brickyard 400 on Sunday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Crossing the finish line of bricks ahead of Jimmie Johnson, and subsequently kissing those rubber-coated bricks with his family and team, was the culmination of an up-and-down — mostly down — 18 days.
It started on the night of July 10 when Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) owner Tony Stewart called Newman to tell the 35-year-old South Bend native he wouldn’t be back with the three-car team next season.
Besides Newman and Stewart, the third SHR driver is Danica Patrick.
Then, a few days after the bad news, Newman finished 39th after getting in an accident with Kurt Busch. To add insult to injury days after insult, Busch’s brother, Kyle, called Newman “the biggest stupid idiot” in NASCAR and “a big ogre” who could “probably kick anybody’s butt.”
At least Newman reacted with a little levity when most would understand if he flew off the handle.
“I’m just afraid if I re-arranged his face I might fix it,” Newman joked. “He’s not very bright, I’ll leave it at that.”
So winning the Brickyard was a much-needed elixir for a 17-time Sprint Cup Series winner who doesn’t have a team for next season.
“The emotions have been a roller coaster,” he said. “The week off (before the Brickyard) was definitely needed. (Winning) definitely makes it better to find a ride for 2014.”
It boggles my mind how Newman can’t have a job, or that Stewart could basically lay off his good friend and fellow Indiana native. But in recent years Stewart has changed from a fly-off-the-handle, say-anything-he-wants driver to an owner who measures his words and actions much better, even if it does hurt.
“I’m part of the equation here,” Stewart said. “It was hard. When you run a business you have to make tough decisions and it’s harder when emotion plays a part. Ryan and I were friends before we were teammates.”
Now the average fan might think, “Why can’t Stewart just add a fourth team like other owners?” Stewart himself answered that two weeks ago by saying, “We’re not ready to expand to a fourth team.”
Money also plays a big part, and in NASCAR money comes from sponsors.
Newman’s primary car sponsor for this season is Quicken Loans, but that’s only for half the schedule. Stewart, as an owner, has to look at the big picture.
The driver replacing Newman in SHR will be Kevin Harvick, whose car sponsor is Budweiser.
Patrick’s longtime sponsor is GoDaddy.com.
Newman’s the odd driver out.
It’s not logical, but it’s the way of the NASCAR world. If it were most of us, based on success you keep Newman and Harvick and drop Patrick since she’s quite far away from winning a race, let alone finishing in the top five. But Patrick is NASCAR’s version of the golden ticket from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. She brings in money and exposure by the truckload to go with crashes and poor finishes.
Don’t feel too bad for Newman. “The ogre” will be picked up by someone very soon after winning one of NASCAR’s most prestigious races. Hey, maybe Kyle Busch’s team has a spot open. Wouldn’t that be karma coming back to bite a Busch in the butt, and most NASCAR fans are perfectly happy with that.