Flyin' Ryan has landed -- with an organization he believes in
FEB 05, 2014 2:53p ET
The transition at Richard Childress Racing has begun in earnest.
Kevin Harvick and Jeff Burton, who collectively drove for RCR for 22 1/2 seasons, are gone for 2014, replaced by a savvy veteran and a promising rookie who's already shown he's capable of winning championships. Steady Paul Menard, meanwhile, returns for a fourth season with RCR.
This will be Newman's third team in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, having put in eight seasons at Penske Racing, where he edged Jimmie Johnson for Sprint Cup Rookie of the Year honors in 2002. From there, Newman moved to Stewart-Haas Racing, joining fellow Hoosier Tony Stewart in the quasi- start-up team at the beginning of the 2009 season.
Stewart, of course, won the series championship for SHR in 2011, but Newman was solid, too, qualifying for the Chase for the Sprint Cup three times in five seasons and winning races in four of those campaigns.
Newman's best season at SHR was his first one in 2009, when he finished ninth in points. In those five years, Newman always ended the year no worse than 15th in points.
Now the challenge is to go somewhere new and do it again, or, ideally, continue to improve. Fortunately for Newman, he's moved on to a seasoned team.
"It's a great opportunity for me," said Newman. "I feel like I'm part of a great organization that's in control of their own destiny. They (RCR) build their own engines, they build their own chassis, hang their own bodies. There are only three organizations out there, to my knowledge, that are doing that. RCR's a great place to be."
Newman said his experience so far at RCR has been very positive in his mind -- and very different from the start-up years at SHR.
"It's different from a team standpoint," said Newman. "I'm the plug-and-play person. They put me in a seat. We're not building a whole new organization. We're not starting a team. I'm the new guy. Yeah, it's different for me, but in the end, we're still doing the same things."
Newman will be working with crew chief Luke Lambert, and it will be very important for the veterans to get on the same page as quickly as possible. That will be a critical task for both men.
"For Luke and I to be able to communicate, and talk about what we need for the race car, and away from the racetrack, and what our strengths and weaknesses are, pit stop-wise and things like that," said Newman. "It's all the same, it's just with a different group of people. We're doing it to be stronger and win a championship. I have a lot of confidence in Luke that we'll be in the hunt to do that."
Team owner Childress is glad to have Newman on board after almost landing him pre-SHR.
"I tried to hire Ryan Newman six or seven years ago, and now to have him with us now, I'm really excited," said Childress. " ... Ryan Newman's a proven winner."
And Childress is hoping Newman brings RCR its first Sprint Cup championship since the late Dale Earnhardt claimed his seventh and final title back in 1994.
"We want to get in there and win a championship," said Childress. "It's been way too long since RCR won a Cup championship. We've won a lot of other championships, but we haven't gotten that Cup championship."