NASCAR: Re-Signing Ryan Newman A Win For RCR

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports /

Richard Childress Racing announced Monday they have come to terms with the current NASCAR Cup Series driver Ryan Newman to remain in the No. 31 machine in 2017. The new multi-year deal is a win for both Newman and RCR.

Extending former NASCAR Rookie of the Year Ryan Newman’s tenure with the organization (RCR) opens up a tremendous window of opportunity for both team and driver as they continue to build their racing program following a disappointing 2016 campaign. Having qualified for the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship in two of the past three season’s expectations were particularly high coming into the 2016 season for the combination of Luke Lambert & Ryan Newman.

After two strong NASCAR seasons of flying under the radar and falling a lap short of winning the Sprint Cup championship in 2013, the No. 31 team hit a brick wall down the stretch ultimately costing them a third Chase berth in three seasons.

After weeks of speculation regarding his future with the organization Newman’s contact extension with RCR comes as somewhat of a surprise since Richard Childress’s youngest grandson Ty Dillon had emerged as a top candidate for the No. 31 ride over the summer months. Even though his future was in doubt for most of 2016, Ryan Newman always remained totally committed in terms of returning behind the wheel of the No. 31 car in 2017 and beyond.

One certainly has to admire Newman’s undying determination. He could have easily walked away from RCR knowing that there was a chance he would not be retained past this season. Instead he chose to fight hard right until the final race before the Chase cut-off at Richmond in September. Simply he wasn’t fighting for his job; he was fighting for the greater good of the No. 31 team. Now that his return has been made official Ryan Newman and Luke Lambert can focus on getting the No. 31 team back on track as this duo enters their fourth season working together.

While Ryan Newman has achieved moderate success in NASCAR with Richard Childress Racing, the duo has yet to taste the thrill of victory together despite running up front on a consistent basis for much of the past three years.

Regardless if Ryan Newman is the driver that shatter’s RCR’s nearly three year winless streak remains to be seen, he certainly represents the organizations best chance to end that dubious drought. Although RCR’s future may lie in the hands of team owner Richard Childress’s talented grandsons Austin & Ty Dillon retaining a seasoned veteran with the skills of a Ryan Newman allows those two youngsters the extra time they need to make adjustments to their individual programs.

For most of his cup career Ryan Newman has stood in the shadows watching his teammates shine. A talented driver capable of winning races yes, but never the main draw despite winning two of the sports most coveted races the Daytona 500 & the Brickyard 400 in 2008 and 2013 respectively.

Still nearly fifteen years removed from winning 2002 Rookie of the year honors, a battle in which he outlasted six-time series champion Jimmie Johnson. Newman’s career path remains something of an enigma.

I’m not saying had he found a way to pass Kevin Harvick on the final lap of the 2014 season finale at Homestead Miami things would have been any different, in fact the more things change with Newman the more they stay the same.

Amazing things happen when a driver is fighting for relevancy towards the end of his career.

That’s exactly where Ryan Newman stands heading into the 2017 season.  Like the organization he drivers for Ryan Newman carries the burden of a winless drought that dates back to 2013.

On the one hand his career was given new life by an organization he’s kept relevant himself for the past three years as Austin Dillon prepares to become the eventual face of his grandfather’s empire that was once home to two the sport’s greatest drivers (Dale Earnhardt Sr & Kevin Harvick)

While Ryan Newman is certainly no Intimidator nor is he even Kevin Harvick for that matter he still brings that level of excellence along with tons of credibility to Richard Childress Racing, an entity that could have been completely lost all together when Kevin Harvick departed for Stewart Haas Racing at the end of 2013.

Replacing one of the sport’s most influential figures ultimately was one of the most demanding tasks Kevin Harvick had to endure in his illustrious Sprint Cup career, but somewhere along the way he made RCR his organization. Of course the skeptics were out in full force when Ryan Newman replaced Jeff Burton in the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet thus making him RCR’s most experienced driver once Harvick left for greener pastures.

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In what could have turned out to be a complete disaster has worked out nicely for all parties involved.  Now the ball is truly in Ryan Newman’s court as he prepares for one last career renaissance. Truly for the last stage of his career to be considered a smashing success Ryan Newman must put all past failures behind him, wipe the slate clean. With his future safe for the time being hopefully Ryan Newman can indeed win a race next season and keep himself visible among the sports best drivers as he heads into the twilight of his cup career.