NASCAR: Drivers often have to balance future plans, current rivalries at the same time
The last thing Ryan Newman needed heading into unemployment was the kind of controversy that can make a car owner, or even more important a potential sponsor, think twice.
But that’s what happened last Sunday during the race at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Ryan was blamed for a three-car accident that also included Kurt Busch and Matt Kenseth. Kurt Busch, who also is auditioning for future work, had led a race-best 102 laps before getting pinched into the third-turn wall.
At a time when both Busch and Newman are working on future plans, they left New Hampshire in an even deeper hole.
And that triggered outrage by Kurt’s younger brother, Kyle Busch.
“But man just stupidity,” Kyle said during a post-race interview on ESPN. “I mean Ryan Newman is the biggest stupid idiot out here. And he’s a big ogre and he can do whatever he wants because he can probably kick anybody’s butt, so no sense in getting into a fight with him. But glad he is out of a job.”
Newman officially was told last week he was out at Stewart-Haas Racing next year. Kevin Harvick announced he would leave Richard Childress Racing and take Newman’s spot on the SHR roster.
Busch has a one-year deal with Furniture Row Racing. While that team has surprisingly been close to the top 10 in points this season, the 2004 series champion would like to upgrade of a top-level team.
A 31st-place finish – and a drop from ninth to 14th in the point standings – was the kind of setback Busch couldn’t afford.
Newman and Kurt Busch are in tough spots because right now there aren’t any top-tier rides open for next year. Both hoped a possible spot with Childress may open up, but he’s committed to promoting his grandson Austin before doing anything else.
At the same time, both Newman and Busch know it’s important for both to remain loyal to their current teams. Any potential employer certainly wouldn’t like to see them give up with four months remaining in the season.
Newman has hopes there may be moves ahead that nobody expects, even with Childress. Until his options run out, all he can do is race hard, make a good impression and avoid controversy.
He finished 39th at New Hampshire to fall back to 19th in the standings.
If the playoffs started this weekend, neither Newman nor Kurt Busch would be in it.
Getting a four-month notice didn’t help Newman, either.
“I can’t say that I’m happy with how everything unfolded,” Newman said. “I know that there are business decisions and business decisions sometimes trump friendships. I don’t feel like that was the case, but in the end I’m happy with the three wins that I’ve had so far with Stewart-Haas and the performance and the cars and everything else. There will be a change for me in 2014 and I don’t know what that change is.
“There are organizations out there that are capable of winning championships and capable of racing I guess into the Chase to give themselves and opportunity at a championship. It’s obvious that there are some seats that are moving around and becoming available and potentially coming available.”
Busch seems to be in a better spot to negotiate. He’s helped Furniture Row exceed all expectations this year, turning them from a middle of the road team to a legitimate contender. And if nothing else works out, it’s not a bad place to spend another year.
Busch would rather concentrate more on qualifying for the Chase for the Championship than a new contract. If he makes the playoffs, he knows everything will take care of itself.
“We have these [seven] weeks to focus on, get into the Chase but then it’s not going to change anything if we’re in the Chase because I want to run for the championship,” Busch said. “But also contract negotiations and things are in discussion, but you try not to let that weigh any of what’s going on right now.
“Right now is the most important thing, living in the present. That’s some of the things going on behind the scenes too. There are a lot of irons in the fire.”
Kurt Busch’s comeback has caught the eye of a lot of other drivers and car owners. And it’s rallied his younger brother to his defense.
And while Newman can’t afford any rivalries in the next four months, he seems ready to deal with Kyle Busch.
“We know he’s not very bright,” Newman told Sirius XM Radio. “I’m sure if I rearrange his face I might fix it.
“Just imagine how I feel. It is what it is. We know he's not very bright. He's a heck of a talent, but not very bright. If he’s going to run his mouth, he better be able to back up running his mouth. It seems like after his comment about me not having a ride it seems like he has way more to lose than I do.”