As the first half of the 2013 NSCS comes to a close, many teams are preparing for the chase and focusing on laying down the framework to take a run at the almighty Sprint Cup championship. Meanwhile other drivers in the Sprint Cup Series garage who may not have the opportunity to taste championship glory this season have turned their attention to securing a ride in preparation for the 2014 NSCS season. Yes! It’s that time of year again folks. When the garage is a buzz and the rumour mill is overflowing with continuous speculation as to where free agent drivers will call home next season. What’s this phenomenon, I speak of you may ask? Here in NASCAR we call it silly season.
Silly season may not be in full swing at the moment, but as the summer months roll on prepare to be bamboozled by the flurry of action that changes on a week to week, day to day basis. With big names such as Ryan Newman, Brian Vickers, Kurt Busch, Juan Montoya, Jeff Burton, and AJ Allmendinger all on the open market expect negotiations from NSCS teams looking to acquire their services to be pertinent and meaningful.
Today’s NSSC demands have all teams working round the clock to find that perfect combination of driver and crew chief that they deem suitable to build a championship contending organization around. I can’t remember a time in all my years of following NASCAR Sprint Cup racing when securing your future plans nearly half a season before the green flag fell on Daytona in February was this imperative. The institution of the chase nearly a decade ago constructed a sense of urgency among all competitive NSCS teams. A level playing field means? Yes, we have a chance to take home the trophy in November. Silly Season over the last couple of years has greatly impacted chase ramifications. Look for example how the marriage between Clint Bowyer, and MWR exceeded expectations last season. In their first year together the duo finished 2nd in the overall driver standings. Back in 2009 most people within the industry thought Tony Stewart was crazy to become a majority owner of lowly CNC Haas Racing. The racing world doubted even a driver of Smoke’s caliber could turn this sinking ship around. Even though Owner drivers were a dying breed in NASCAR competition towards the late 2000’s Stewart was determined to succeed at any cost. In his first season as owner/driver of Stewart- Haas Racing Tony scored 4 wins and made the chase finishing 6th in the overall standings. Two years later Tony won his 3rd Sprint Cup Series title. Perhaps not all marriages formulated during silly season will result in championship glory, but over the next few months it will be exciting to see which new driver – owner combinations develop before the Daytona 500 next February.
Let’s analyze, where all available NSCS free agents may call home next season.
Ryan Newman –
Current team – #39 Stewart –Haas Chevrolet, 5th season with team
Accolades – 3 wins, 2 chase appearances in 4 seasons.
Last November Kevin Harvick announced he would be leaving RCR after 13 seasons for Stewart- Haas Racing at the conclusion of the 2013 campaign. The announcement sent shock waves through the garage at Phoenix. None more surprised was long-time friend and team owner Richard Childress. Initially Childress downplayed the announcement as just a rumour, but as the weeks went by it was clear Harvick would be departing from the only team he has ever competed for on the NSCS tour. Stewart- Haas’s signing of Harvick raised some pertinent questions regarding the future of current SHR driver Ryan Newman. Would Newman be the odd man out at SHR ? Would Stewart add a 4th car for Harvick? Although no answer has yet to be provided to both questions raised regarding the Harvick signing. All indicators point to Newman leaving SHR at the conclusion of the 2013 season. Last month Newman was rumoured to be atop Richard Childress’s list of potential candidates to fill the vacant seat of the coveted #29 chevrolet. Seeing that nothing regarding Newman’s future has yet to be made official, here is a list of possible destinations the rocket man may call home next season.
Richard Petty Motorsports – Since Gillett Evernham Motorsports evaporated into Richard Petty Motorsports at the end of the 2008 season the organization continues to make gradual progress towards becoming a legitimate contender. In those five seasons the team has managed to record 4 victories two of which belong to former driver Kasey Kahne. Adding a driver with the resume of a Ryan Newman would add that star power to the organization has lacked since the departure of Kahne at the end of 2010. Attracting Sponsors has hindered RPM’s progress to elevate its performance to that next level of competing for a title. Newman’s current sponsor Quicken Loans has expressed interest in remaining with Newman regardless of where he decides to drive in 2014. The package deal of Quicken Loans and the rocket man could be a nice added touch to the growing RPM stable for next season and beyond.
Pros to signing with RPM – Newman has the support of his current sponsor.
A chance to be the top driver in the organization, for the first time in his
Cons to signing with RPM- Team is behind the eight ball against the growing competition in the NSCS
Newman’s recent struggles to make the chase consistently may follow him to a
Odds he signs with RPM- 45% – Newman could relish in a leadership role at RPM, but the team’s historical lack of success in the NSCS is hard to ignore. A guy of Newman’s caliber and competitive spirit may not have the patience to run middle of the pack every week.
Joe Gibbs Racing- JGR president J.D Gibbs has made it known for years that with the right sponsorship package in place that his dad’s powerhouse organization would have no reservations to adding a 4th team to their successful three car stable. Adding Ryan Newman to an already star studded line up at JGR would put the rest of the NSCS garage on notice. Sponsor Quicken Loans ultimately would be the definite factor behind a Newman/JGR marriage coming to fruition. Newman is a great driver and he has a committed sponsor willing to back him. JGR would be foolish to not entertain the possibility of signing the rocket man.
Pros to signing with JGR – JGR could elevate Newman’s career to new heights much like the team has done for Matt Kenseth, and Kyle Busch.
Quicken Loans comes as a package deal with Newman.
Cons to signing with JGR- Newman would once again be a driver lost in the crowd, overshadowed by his star powered teammates.
Odds he signs with JGR – 60%- On paper a Newman/ JGR marriage looks like a perpetual winner, however some things just look better on paper.
Michael Waltrip Racing – Quietly over the last two seasons MWR has become a proverbial championship contender on the NSCS circuit, a far cry from the organizations lackluster beginnings when the team expanded to a three car operation in 2007. Popular Team owner Michael Waltrip appears to have built a bona fide winner with drivers Clint Bowyer and Martin Truex Jr. The inevitable departure of Mark Martin from the organization now leaves Michael Waltrip actively looking to add a third driver to its already overachieving lineup. Newman would bring that grittiness to MWR that Waltrip admires. The Purdue graduate would also bring a strong technical background to MWR. Newman is a proven racer, and MWR would be a perfect fit for the South Bend, IN native to extend his NSCS career.
Pros to signing with MWR – Newman has the backing of Quicken Loans if Aaron’s bolts for Hendrick Motorsports with Chase Elliott.
Newman would fit right in with Bowyer and Truex Jr who are gritty racer’s in their own right.
Cons to signing with MWR – Waltrip remains committed to signing Brian Vickers, if he can win Aaron’s over providing they stay. So that would mean no Newman.
Odds of signing with MWR – 69% – I can really see this combination coming together. That would be a great fit for both parties involved.
Stewart- Haas Racing – Automatically we assumed last November the signing of Kevin Harvick to SHR for 2014 season spelled the end of Ryan Newman’s tenure with the organization. Although team owner Tony Stewart has yet to confirm this to be true, you get the feeling Ryan will not be behind the wheel of the #39 in 2014. Also consider the fact that Stewart was reluctant to sign Newman beyond this season when his contract expired at the end of 2012. Despite the fact Newman has undoubtedly been the most consistent driver at SHR this season; his strong efforts will likely not be rewarded. Partially in large to Newman’s inability to make the chase consistently in his five year tenure with SHR. Tony Stewart may have no choice but to let the rocket man seeking other employment options for 2014.
Pros to signing with SHR – He stays put. The team could invest solidly in Newman by surrounding him with some newly hired personnel from other outside organizations to elevate the #39 team’s performance.
Cons to signing with SHR – He continues to be overshadowed by his star studded teammates (Harvick, Patrick).
Odds of signing with SHR – 10% – SHR inability to offer him a long term contract beyond this season (2013) says it all.
Richard Childress Racing – Since last November Richard Childress had come to the realization he would spend a majority of his 2013 season searching for an adequate replacement to pilot his coveted #29 Chevrolet for the 2014 NSCS. Losing long-time friend and driver Kevin Harvick unquestionably casted a dark cloud over the organizations future when Harvick announced he was leaving for SHR at the end of 2013. Harvick’s impending departure from the NSCS mainstay organization has yielded to affect the #29 teams on track performance in 2013. In recent weeks Childress has made it known who he would like to acquire as his new premier driver, and that driver is none other than Ryan Newman. Acquiring Newman would quintessentially uphold that veteran presence within the organization. That veteran presence is paramount for an organization dealing with the impending arrival of Childress’s grandson Austin Dillon to the NSCS ranks next season.
Pros to signing with RCR – Newman has a legitimate shot at winning his first NSCS championship with proven winner RCR.
Newman could relish in a mentor role to Childress’s grandson rising star Austin Dillon.
Cons to signing with RCR – Newman gets lost in the organization that’s tailor made for the Dillon boys, and their future.
RCR’s equipment is not up to par with some of the other teams on the market, and Newman remains a mid pack driver.
Odds of signing with RCR – 65% – Another good fit on paper, but we all know RCR is for the Dillon’s. Newman may find the fountain of youth driving the famous car once piloted by the legendary Dale Earnhardt.
Roush Fenway Racing- Jack Roush admires guys who love to race hard. He built his organization on that credo some 26 years ago with Mark Martin as his driver. Like Mark Martin, Ryan Newman fits that same bill to a tee. Roush’s famous #6 car that started it all back in 1988 has been absent from full time NSCS competition since 2011 due to lack of sponsorship. Wouldn’t it be nice to see the #6 car return to the track in 2014 sporting the Quicken Loans colors with Ryan Newman? Albeit the possibility of this prospect becoming a reality is thin at best, it warrants some potentiality.
Pros to signing with RFR – He brings a quality sponsor in Quicken Loans to slightly sponsor deprived RFR.
Cons to signing with RFR – He would once again be a big fish in a crowded pond.
Odds of signing with RFR – 25% – It would be great to see the #6 back on track with a driver the caliber of Ryan Newman behind the wheel, but it seems like nothing more than a pipedream. Hey! We can dream can’t we?
The longshots to sign Ryan Newman
Front Row Motorsports- David Ragan scored the organizations first win back in May at Talladega. Adding a marquee driver with the credentials of Ryan Newman could add more W’s to the underdog teams win total. Odds of signing with FRM – 6%
JTG- Daugherty Racing- Desperate to turn their NSCS program around for the future. JTG Daugherty Racing may surprise the NASCAR world and go to the ends of the earth to woo the rocket man into the fold. Since technical issues have burdened the overall performance of the #47 car since debuting in 2009, Newman’s technical background seems like an obvious choice for this weak team to build around.
Odds of signing with JTG- Daugherty – 15%
Furniture Row Racing – Newman would be a nice fit to replace Kurt Busch if he chooses to depart at the end of 2013 or Newman could reunite with former Penske teammate Busch to field a 2nd FRR car in 2014.
Odds of signing with FRR – 20% –
Andretti Autosport- Last season, open wheel racing legend Michael Andretti expressed a mild interest in expanding his successful enterprise into the world of NASCAR. Andretti’s successful organization has achieved great success in the Izod Indy car series through the years, and under the right circumstances could duplicate that success on the NSCS tour. Selecting a solid driver lineup is imperative for Andretti to excel at this level. Assuming Michael takes that leap of faith in 2014 and forms a NSCS team(s), he should look no further than Ryan Newman to build his stable around.
Odds of signing with Andretti Autosport – Assuming they exist, 15%
Up next – We will examine Kurt Busch’s 2014 prospects for employment.
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