RICHMOND, Va. – Team owner Jack Roush said the deal was for “years” but wouldn’t say for how many.
But Saturday’s announcement at Richmond Raceway confirmed that Ryan Newman’s immediate future lies behind the wheel of the No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing Ford in 2019, after Newman closes out his current tenure in the No. 31 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet.
“I’m in a position where I’ve never wanted to quit, never wanted to stop, never wanted to retire, and I want to win a championship,” said the 40-year-old driver. “I look forward to this opportunity — obviously, finishing out this year as strong as we both can in our respective positions — but also, at the same time, with enthusiasm for the Daytona 500 in 2019.”
Newman will replace 2011 Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne in the No. 6 Ford. Matt Kenseth, who has spelled Bayne behind the wheel for the bulk of the races in the second half of the season, opted not to seek the ride full-time for next year, according to Roush Fenway president Steve Newmark.
“He’s been on the road and has been sacrificing a lot of family time,” Newmark said. “He just wasn’t prepared to run full-time. We talked a lot about that, and he said he owed it to his family.”
Newman, who started his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career in a Team Penske Ford, has accumulated 18 victories in 611 starts in NASCAR’s premier series. The 2002 Cup rookie of the year earned the nickname “Rocket Man” for his qualifying prowess, which has produced 51 career poles, ninth on the all-time list.
Newman’s last pole came at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in the 28th race of the 2013 season. He scored his last victory at Phoenix in 2017, thanks to a bold call to stay out on old tires near the end of the race.
Newman’s most noteworthy wins came in the 50th running of the Daytona 500 in 2008 and the 2013 Brickyard 400, which he won from the pole.
Newman achieved his best result in the final standings in 2014, the first year the elimination format was used to decide the championship. Driving for Childress, Newman qualified for the Championship 4 finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway without winning a race and managed a runner-up finish, a half-second behind champion Kevin Harvick.
Newman is the only driver in the garage with an engineering degree, which he earned at Purdue University. Famed for his own engineering innovations, Roush prizes that sort of knowledge.
“The fact that he has an engineering degree makes him more valuable to me as a driver than he might be without that,” Roush said.
ELLIOTT SADLER REFLECTS ON FINAL RICHMOND RACE AS FULL-TIME DRIVER
It wasn’t until the end of Friday night’s GoBowling.com NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Richmond that it dawned on Elliott Sadler and Dale Earnhardt Jr. that they had probably raced together for the last time in one of NASCAR’s top three touring series.
Sadler is competing for a championship in the series. Earnhardt, who also is Sadler’s car owner at JR Motorsports, was running his only scheduled race of the season in the No. 88 JRM Chevrolet.
More than that, Sadler and Earnhardt are long-time friends, dating to the days when they drove Late Model Stock Cars. On Friday night, after Earnhardt led 96 laps and finished fourth, and Sadler came home sixth, they shared a heartfelt hug on pit road.
“We started racing together 25 years ago, and we have a special relationship,” Sadler said afterward. “It kind of hit us both there that this is our last time racing on the same track together. He and (Earnhardt’s sister) Kelley have meant so much to my career.”
Both Sadler and Earnhardt agreed that they may race Late Models at some point, but with one stipulation.
“He won’t let us do it together,” Sadler said. “I’ll be his crew chief, and he’ll be mine.”
–Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service. Special to Field Level Media.