LONG POND — Ryan Newman enters today’s GoBowling.com 400 fresh off a victory at Indianapolis, his first win in his last 50 races. But the win at the Brickyard hasn’t produced any impending offers for the driver of the No. 39 Chevrolet, who is looking for a new team in 2014.
“The win helps,” said Newman, who will start fourth today, “but it’s not a light switch. It doesn’t turn everything on bright. It helps and gives you a vision, but there is more to it than that. The $20 million sponsor doesn’t jump right after you. I wish it did, but it doesn’t.”
Newman is in his fifth season with Stewart-Haas Racing, a team partial owned by fellow driver and teammate Tony Stewart. He has won four times during that span. He also won 13 races in his seven years with Penske Racing, but hasn’t been able to come close to duplicating his breakout season of 2003 when he won eight times.
Stewart informed Newman about three weeks ago that he was going to be replaced by Kevin Harvick once the season ends. Harvick is leaving Richard Childress Racing where he’s been since 2001. Harvick replaced seven-time champion Dale Earnhardt after his fatal crash at the 2001 season-opening Daytona 500.
Harvick is also taking the lucrative Budweiser sponsorship to Stewart-Haas. Childress has said he will maintain a three-car team next year, but has been mum in several media reports about the driver opening.
Meanwhile, Newman is caught in a waiting game.
“I don’t know,” Newman said. “You can sit there and talk to somebody, but until the writing is on the paper and the ink is dried, you really don’t know. But I am in a situation where the phone has not rung off the hook with sponsors or car owners or manufacturers or any of that.”
SIGN OF THE TIMES: Jeff Burton broke into the Cup series in 1994 as part of a promising rookie class. Also in that group were Loy Allen, John Andretti, Todd Bodine, Ward Burton, Steve Grissom, Joe Nemechek and Mike Wallace.
Only Burton and Nemechek remain as active Cup drivers. Burton is still racing competitively, while Nemechek has been reduced to a start-and-park driver in recent years.
The Class of 1994 didn’t live up to its billing, winning just 32 times in 2,709 Cup starts. Burton won 21 of those races. Still, it’s doubtful the Cup series will see such a large rookie class again.
“Because what has gone on in Nationwide, Trucks and other series, no driver has ever really stood out because not a lot of drivers are getting the chance that I got or some other guys got,” said Burton, who will start 13th today in the No. 31 Chevrolet.
“Sponsorship is dried up. A lot of things have happened that’s made it harder for younger guys to break into the Cup level.”
POOR DENNY: It’s been a very rough year for Denny Hamlin. He missed four races while recovering from injuries suffered in the fifth race of the season. He seemed to be back on track when he finished eighth at Pocono in June, only to fall into a slump that will keep him out of the Chase for the first time in his eight-year career.
And now he’ll start today’s race in the ninth position, the blackhole at Pocono. Winners in the 71 Cup races at Pocono have started in the top 10 on 49 occasions. But never in the ninth spot, the only top-10 starting position that hasn’t produced a winner.
WAYBACK MACHINE: Ryan Newman won his fourth Cup race 10 years ago at Pocono. Here are some other nuggets from that 2003 race.
• Of the 43 drivers in the field, only 17 of them will be on the starting grid today.
• Newman and four other drivers won at least $100,000. In the Pocono race this past June, 24 drivers collected at least $100,000.
• Newman won driving a Dodge. The 2003 field had 14 Chevrolets, 14 Dodges, 11 Fords and four Pontiacs. Today’s race will have 18 Chevrolets, 13 Fords and 12 Toyotas.
MARK-SETTING MARK: Mark Martin will tie Terry Labonte for second place in Pocono starts today. Both drivers will have competed at Long Pond in 54 races.
If the 54-year-old Martin returns for another season in 2014, he’ll pass Ricky Rudd (55) and become the all-time leader in starts at Pocono.
Martin has 40 Cup wins in 868 starts, but Pocono has been his White Whale. He has finished second here seven times.