Monday morning NASCAR recap: Indy win comes at opportune time for Ryan Newman
This year's edition of the Brickyard 400 may not have been the most thrilling, but for Ryan Newman, it was inconsequential. His win Sunday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway was a feel good story.
A native Hoosier, Newman won at the track he dreamt about racing on as a boy growing up in South Bend, Ind. That it was one of NASCAR's marquee events only added to the fairytale that also included his dad working as his spotter helping guide him to Victory Lane.
However, there were more than just sentimental reasons why Newman's win was momentous.
The three-car team didn't have the resources or the sponsorship to expand, so to clear space SHR was going to have to say goodbye to one of its drivers.
Obviously, Tony Stewart wasn't going to fire himself. Nor was he going to cut loose Danica Patrick, she of the multi-million dollar association with Go Daddy. Instead it was Newman who found himself the odd man out.
Also not helping his cause was the tepid success he's had as of late.
After beating Jimmie Johnson for the 2002 Rookie of the Year title followed by a sophomore season that produced eight wins, it was Newman and not Johnson who seemed destined to rewrite the NASCAR record book.
But with eight wins in the next 10 years and failing to qualify for the Chase five times, it appeared Newman's career had leveled off. He was viewed as a good but not great driver who might win a race or two and sneak into the playoffs on occasion.
And at a time where rides are scarce and a host of budding talent is emerging in the Nationwide and Truck Series, Newman suddenly found himself at a crossroads -- a high-priced veteran deemed replaceable.
The only prominent organization with an opening for 2014 was Richard Childress Racing -- ironically enough to replace Harvick. And even that came with some contingencies, as Newman would be expected to bring partial sponsorship with him.
In all reality, his only option for next season was signing a one-year deal with a mid-pack team and then later reassess his options for 2015.
However, all this was before Sunday. Before Newman out-dueled Johnson in NASCAR's second-biggest race. And in the process, enhanced his status and along with it his résumé as a driver who should be coveted by teams and sponsors alike.
This doesn't mean Newman is now guaranteed a spot at a powerhouse organization. But it's certainly easier to sell one self when you're introduced as the defending champion of the Brickyard 400. Doors that may have otherwise been closed will now be cracked open a smidge.
Where Newman's career goes from here is anyone's guess.
In the present, he is racing for a berth in NASCAR's Chase and will likely need another victory in the next six weeks to secure a playoff spot.
As for 2014 and beyond, maybe RCR, or maybe a return Penske Racing where he began his career? It all hinges, of course, on what Newman can bring together sponsorship-wise. A task made infinitely easier after Sunday, but a journey still filled with uncertainty.
But before worrying about funding or finding a team matching his talent, Newman is going to enjoy the moment.
"It makes it better looking for something for 2014," Newman said. "There's a lot of questions to be answered. We'll get through all that. But today we're celebrating a victory."
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