Turns out, Ryan Newman has been on Richard Childress' wish list for a while. And on Monday, the legendary team owner formally announced the two will finally work together.
The 2008 Daytona 500 winner will drive Childress' No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet for three years beginning in 2014, replacing veteran Jeff Burton who announced last week he will vacate the seat at the end of this season.
Newman, 35, said he had discussions with at least three teams, but in the end, the history with Childress and the opportunity at the team proved to be the deciding factor. The two had actually first discussed pairing up five years ago, before Newman took his current job at Stewart-Haas Racing -- and again this season months before Newman found out his contract wouldn't be extended at SHR.
"Richard, honestly, to start the whole conversation, came to me Daytona 500 week and wanted to know what I was doing in 2014,'' Newman explained. "I told him at that point I needed to lay some groundwork with the new team, that we had started with Matt Borland and all the guys, and that it was too early to even think about that, but I appreciated the offer.
"Our conversations matured over time. After Loudon (July 14) when I was told what I wasn't going to be doing, the conversations intensified.''
One of the primary attractions for Newman -- who has an engineering degree -- was the team's in-house technology effort. That technology has resulted in a Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup berth for Furniture Row Racing, which has a technical alliance with RCR, and also for Kevin Harvick, who will leave RCR for Stewart-Haas in 2014.
"Richard and everybody at RCR are in a position to control their own destiny,'' Newman said. "They build their own cars. They build their own engines. They hang their own bodies.
"Everything is at the RCR compound, and that means a lot to me, because that keeps that information right there, and that, I think is extremely important with the technology in our sport right now.''
Newman will be paired with crew chief Luke Lambert and the current No. 31 crew will stay intact. Newman explained, laughing, his contact with Lambert so far has been a couple phone calls and a conversation as the two waited in line for the "outhouse" at Atlanta Motor Speedway, but he is eager to spend more time with Lambert.
"I know Richard believes in him as well as the team that is assembled on the No. 31,'' Newman said.
Childress was travelling and unable to take part in Monday's teleconference with the national racing media, but noted on the team's press release that Newman was a perfect fit for the team not only because he's a 17-race winner, but also because he is an outdoorsman and personally owns several of sponsor Caterpillar's vehicles.
"I think Ryan is really going to add a lot to our organization and add another dimension for us,'' RCR's Chief Operating Officer Torrey Galida said. "He's a proven winner. He's been very, very successful throughout his career, and we are always looking to add that kind of talent to our organization.
"We talked to him for a while about potentially becoming a fourth team here. Weren't quite able to pull that all together, but did find a scenario that we believe is going to work for everybody.''
Newman repeated this week that he always felt there would be viable options and never panicked after finding out he would not be retained at SHR.
And he repeatedly thanked Burton for the way he gracefully and graciously helped make the deal possible, saying he was "extremely respectful."
"I have a lot of admiration for the way Jeff Burton's handled himself ? just to make all of this work out," Newman added.
Newman originally lost out on this year's Chase in a tiebreaker with Martin Truex Jr. -- Truex had one more runner-up finish -- but Newman got into the Chase after severe penalties to Michael Waltrip Racing took Truex out of the Chase.
Before that ruling came down, Newman said he is committed to finishing the last 10-race run strong for SHR so he can start strong for RCR.
"I told Richard when I sat down in his bus a while ago, I said every driver's going to sit here and tell you that he wants to win," Newman said. "That he wants to win races, he wants to win a championship, he wants to win a pole.
"But it's the drive and dedication and the inflection you hear in my voice when I say that to you. I think that that makes a difference. Because every car owner wants to win. Every car owner wants to make money and be successful, too. But I see the same things in him that he does in me, and that's why I look forward to the next three years."
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