COMMENTARY | Sorry, Tony Stewart, your loss.
When Ryan Newman took the checkered flag at the Brickyard 400 over the weekend at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway, it had to be both a bittersweet and somewhat uncomfortable moment for team owner Stewart.
On one hand, your car, your team and your friend just won one of the Crown Jewel events on the NASCAR schedule. On the other hand, you just served this man his walking papers not more than three weeks ago.
Talk about an awkward winner's circle hug.
Perhaps now Stewart is beginning to rethink his decision to let Newman go in place of Danica Patrick and Kevin Harvick, who is leaving Richard Childress Racing after 13 years to join Stewart at the end of this season.
Harvick makes sense, but when the three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion and head chief at Stewart-Haas Racing sold his soul in going with the so-called popular vote to fill one of his rides over a proven winner like Ryan Newman, he made a decision that he is just going to have to live with.
Sure, there are sponsor dollars involved and Danica Patrick has a remarkable fan following, but in terms of pure racing talent, Newman could lap Danica in his sleep. It really comes down to sponsor potential versus actual racing talent and in this case, the almighty bright green Go Daddy dollar won out.
It is certainly a sound business decision; after all, in the current NASCAR economy every penny counts, but at what expense? Putting good racers on the sideline to keep a money generating field filler on the track? What has this sport come to?
Some would argue that Newman hasn't been the same man that burst onto the scene in the early-2000s, the man that recorded 12 wins in a four-year span from 2002-2005 and finished in the top 10 in each of those seasons. But the man hasn't been a slouch, either. Newman has recorded wins in each of the past four seasons and is in the hunt for a spot in the Chase nearly every season.
Stewart says it is nothing personal, telling Newman in a 20-minute breakup call prior to the New Hampshire race that it is a "business decision" and that it wouldn't "affect their friendship," but it still had to hurt.
Newman made a bold move in 2008 when he announced that he was leaving an established Penske Racing to join Stewart in his brand-new racing operation. Now Newman is the one being left in the dust.
I wouldn't worry too much, someone will most definitely give Newman a chance. Harvick's old team, Richard Childress Racing, is one such candidate, and there are others taking a close look at the 35-year-old racing veteran, especially after his win at Indianapolis. But I am not sure Newman should be in this position in the first place.
And you certainly can't help but wonder what if.
What if the green flag wave waved on the 2014 season with Stewart, Harvick and Newman teamed up? You would instantly have a three-man battle for the Chase, instant Daytona favorites and a championship-contending team.
Instead, Stewart will spend his season passing Danica two or three times a race while Newman will try to get it done elsewhere.
Newman will find a home elsewhere, but, for now, a Brickyard 400 trophy will just have to do.
L.A. Crum is a professional writer and journalist from Ohio. He is an avid fan of motorsports and college athletics and has worked with many of the top teams and drivers in the racing industry during his decade long career. He is a proud graduate of Marshall University.
- Motor Racing
- Sports & Recreation
- Ryan Newman
- Tony Stewart
- Danica Patrick
- Kevin Harvick