Ryan Newman doesn't believe the controversial events that likely cost him a spot in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup late in Saturday's race at Richmond International Raceway were any kind of accident.
During an announcement Monday that Newman has signed a three-year deal to drive for Richard Childress Racing beginning in 2014, the driver told reporters that Saturday was the "toughest" night in his 30 years of racing and added "the way NASCAR handles this is extremely important for all of us.''
Needing a victory to guarantee a spot in NASCAR's postseason, Newman's No. 39 Quicken Loans Chevrolet was leading the race with seven laps remaining when Clint Bowyer spun out, bringing out a caution flag.
After pitting for four tires, Newman was beaten out of the pits for the restart with three laps remaining and ended up finishing third and missing out on a Chase berth in a tiebreaker with Bowyer's Michael Waltrip Racing teammate Martin Truex Jr.
Bowyer's in-car audio and video have raised questions about whether the spin was done intentionally to alter the outcome of the race, or at least the 12-driver Chase lineup. And NASCAR announced Sunday that it is reviewing the situation as a matter of protocol.
Newman said his Stewart-Haas Racing team spent much of the overnight hours Saturday piecing together its own informal investigation in addition to using news outlets' video and audio feeds from Bowyer's car. Bowyer denied he spun on purpose, saying he thought he had a tire going down.
"I was disappointed to see and hear some of the things that went down,'' Newman said. "It's relatively obvious to any fan or non-fan what happened.
"In the end, it became even more disappointing. It didn't just affect me, it affected Jeff Gordon and at the same time, (Joey) Logano and Truex. We knew there was potential for this going into the race so from my standpoint, I'd hope we have monitored this.
"We knew there was potential for fire, but no one grabbed the extinguisher.''
Several times during the call with reporters, Newman referred to warnings NASCAR issued in the pre-race driver meeting about keeping the race fair and square.
Beyond the spin, another MWR car driven by Brian Vickers came down pit road for what looked like no obvious reason late in the race, allowing Logano to move up a position on track. And Logano ultimately finished high enough in the points standings to give Truex the Wild Card position in a tiebreaker.
Additionally, Newman thinks race winner Carl Edwards jumped the ensuing restart.
"There's more than one issue at hand with respect to Saturday night with respect to rules and how NASCAR enforces them in the future,'' Newman said.
He wondered if perhaps the in-car communication monitored by officials should have raised a red flag and might have prevented the situation.
"Our sport's unique in the essence we don't have instant replay, can't hit the pause button or blow the whistle,'' Newman said. "That information (monitored by NASCAR inspectors) could have very easily been communicated. And in the end may have caused a different reaction immediately rather than talking about it two days later.
"It's a tough situation in our sport because we can't just kick it into neutral and think about it and take a couple extra pace laps. It's just unique and that adds to the task at hand for NASCAR how to handle this and these situations in the future.''
With team co-owner/driver Tony Stewart out for the season with a broken leg, Newman was SHR's only shot at making the Chase. The stakes couldn't have been higher.
Of the relationship between SHR and the MWR team -- which has two cars competing for the championship -- Newman said, "I'd say the potential is not good for us to be cordial to each other.''
"My ultimate answer is it's pretty obvious to me the decisions that were made and the communications that led up to that (spin),'' he said. "I don't know how anybody is going to react or put their foot down or penalize so I'm waiting to see what comes of it. We spent 26 races to get to that point and we missed (the Chase) by a tie because of what happened.
"It's just so touchy, I'll leave it at that.''
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