Loganity: Why Ryan Newman Should Accept a Part-Time Ride with Roush Fenway Racing Next Season

The 2021-22 silly season has been another wild one thus far. The most surprising news was originally  Brad Keselowski going to Roush-Fenway Racing as the driver and co-owner of the #6 Ford. However, that quickly became the worst-kept secret in NASCAR. The real shocker came when Chip Ganassi sold all of his NASCAR assets to Trackhouse Racing.  Ross Chastain will drive a second car for Trackhouse, the #1 will transfer along with other team assets.

Sticking with the Ganassi/Trackhouse deal....While nothing has been confirmed in regards to Kurt Busch’s 2022 plans, there’s heavy speculation that he could be driving a second car for 23XI Racing. Busch himself has said his deal is “so close to being done”, though he gave no indication of where that could be.

Matt DiBenedetto is also a free agent after it was announced that Harrison Burton would be taking over the iconic Wood Brothers #21 Ford ride next season. While Dibenedetto's future currently looks very murky in the Cup series, it’s very likely he could find something in the Xfinity or Truck Series if needed until a better opportunity comes along. While Matty D has been around a while, he is a young 30 years old and still has plenty of time to prove himself regardless of where he lands.

One driver who could be running out of time is Ryan Newman. Newman is currently without a ride in 2022 and his options as far as Cup rides go appear to be few and far between. He is in the midst of arguably the worst season of his career. As of this writing, Newman sits 26th in points with four top tens, and only one top five. After his tragic but remarkable Daytona 500 crash in 2020, he finished a career-low of 25th place in the season standings. So it begs the question: 'Is it time for Ryan Newman to retire?' Veteran drivers stepping away has been a growing theme in recent years. Names such as Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Jimmie Johnson have all stepped away from full-time NASCAR competition in recent years. The difference between Newman and all of those men is that they decided when it was time for them to step aside. Newman stares down the very unfortunate prospect of being shown that proverbial door instead of choosing to walk through it. When you mention drivers who have stepped away in recent years you have to think about Matt Kenseth as well. Newman’s situation reminds me of Kenseth's in a lot of ways. Kenseth parted ways with Joe Gibbs Racing at the end of the 2017 season and was replaced by Erik Jones. Kenseth stepped away or as he called it “took some time off” only to be brought out of an unofficial retirement in the spring of 2018 by Roush Fenway Racing to split driving duties with Trevor Bayne. Why is that similar? Well, Kenseth was shown the door and was left without many realistic options to compete at the level he wanted to.

Newman appears to be in the same boat. For the sake of argument, let’s talk about what options may exist for Newman. If he were to stay in the Ford camp, Front Row Motorsports could be an option, however with growing speculation that Front Row could sell a charter to 23XI Racing, that would likely decrease those chances. He’s stated multiple times in recent years that his only remaining goal is to win a NASCAR Cup championship. Realistically, that’s probably not where Front Row is at the moment. While they have greatly improved in recent years, they are still lagging behind the top-tier teams. Given his more recent success, one has to assume Matt DiBenedetto would be first in line for that second car if it were to be an option next season.

Another unlikely option for Newman could be Richard Petty Motorsports. Similar to Front Row Motorsports they aren’t really a championship-contending team right now. They have had issues finding sponsorship all season. Could Newman help with that? In comparison to current driver Erik Jones, any help would be splitting hairs. On top of all that it appears, Richard Petty Motorsports is very close to picking up their team option to bring Jones back to the 43 in 2022, so the discussion is likely moot. 

Kaulig Racing bought two charters and we now know that Justin Haley will be in one next season. Who is the other?  We know AJ Allmendinger is going to drive part-time in Cup for the team next season, what we don’t know is if that will be the extent of their charters or if they could field a third car for Allmendinger. If so, who would fill the second full-time car? Kaz Grala seems like the obvious choice, given that he already drives a limited schedule for the team. 

JTG Daugherty has one charter but fields two cars. Both Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Ryan Preece are in a contract year. Could Newman land there? While anything is possible you’d have to think younger drivers would have the edge should a spot become available. GMS is going Cup racing next season, but there’s a lot of questions there. How much? How little? No one knows as of yet. 

With his options beginning to dwindle..should Ryan Newman retire? In my opinion, that answer is no. There’s an obvious option that I haven’t discussed yet.  During the official announcement that Brad Keselowski would be taking over the 6 car, Roush Fenway Racing team president Steve Newmark confirmed his interest in having Ryan Newman run a part-time schedule in a third car for the team this season. “So I’ve talked to Ryan regularly, as recently as yesterday, and we’ve talked to him about whether he’d be interested in a part-time role with us, what he wants to do next year, and I think it’s fair to say that he’s still trying to make that decision on what’s his best path and what his best direction is. I don’t think he has a timeline on when he’s going to kind of solidify his plans for 2022."

Ryan Newman should take that offer for a multitude of reasons. As mentioned before, he’s in the midst of arguably his worst season following a career-threatening accident last year at Daytona. Barring an upset win at Michigan or Daytona Newman will miss the playoffs for a second consecutive season. He hasn’t won since 2017, a couple more chances at ending that drought is a good thing. He deserves the chance to go out on a higher note. Given the respect the team has for him he could likely pick out his own schedule of somewhere in the neighborhood of fifteen to twenty races next year that would likely include another shot at a second Daytona 500 win. He shouldn’t just fade away like Matt Kenseth, no disrespect to Kenseth of course, but the long layoffs in-between his comeback attempts clearly took a toll on him as a driver.  An underrated plus would be that he would get to spend more time next season with his daughters. After his scary crash at Daytona in 2020, we were all reminded all too well that Newman is a father first. The now-infamous photo of him leaving Halifax Medical Center while clutching both of his daughter’s hands in his sticks with us all forever.

Spending next season not as busy or consumed with NASCAR could give him a chance to be around his daughters more, and maybe that is enough for now. Another added bonus could be that it would give Newman a chance to just have fun again, and go trophy-hunting. Look at the joy we witnessed when AJ Allmendinger won the Verizon 200 on Sunday. The win didn’t feel any less meaningful just because he’s not competing full-time in the Cup series. If anything, it made it feel more special. Maybe a more relaxed environment would improve his on-track performance.    

(Photo Source : Twitter.com/CTVNews)

There’s also nothing that says he has to be part-time until he retires. Who could forget when Mark Martin went part-time in 2007 for Ginn Racing? In his first ever race he lost the Daytona 500 by an eyelash to Kevin Harvick. He continued to have solid runs throughout the season and followed it up with respectable part-time performances for Dale Earnhardt, Inc. in 2008 and 2009. Those performances did enough to draw the attention of Rick Hendrick, who offered Martin the #5 Chevrolet car and the rest is history. You never know where an opportunity may lead. Had Martin stepped away entirely maybe he wouldn't have had the chance to drive the five. Who’s to say that can’t happen for Newman? Don’t get me wrong Hendrick appears to have their stable of drivers locked up long-term but we don’t know what the landscape will look like for other teams after next season.

While an opportunity the caliber of Martin’s appears highly unlikely, if Newman would have a bounce-back season in a part-time capacity next year for Roush-Fenway it’s fair to speculate that they could want him back full-time in 2022. If not, the landscape of NASCAR is always evolving. If he has any chance of getting a full-time ride in 2022 he’s going to need hands-on experience with the next-gen car to prove he can drive it successfully.  At one point or another everything that has happened over the last two years in the sport in terms of ownership and driver changes seemed inconceivable, yet here we are. Never say never. 

Ryan Newman and Ryan Newman alone should decide when it’s time for him to retire.  After over two decades in the sport, he’s earned that. He shouldn’t give up on his dream of winning a championship, he should simply put it on hold for a season as he attempts to write a fitting final chapter to his career and reevaluate afterward. What does he have to lose?

When it comes to aging drivers and athletes like Ryan Newman I often think of the iconic poem by Dylan Thomas “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night” where the first stanza kicks off with its namesake. If Newman isn’t ready to hang it up then he shouldn’t. While Newman’s resume speaks for itself on a lot of levels, and the idea that he has anything remaining that he has to prove may be irksome to some, the reality is NASCAR is a results-driven business. So, if he competes at all next year he will have to prove something. There’s a lot of people who view “The Rocket Man” as thing of the past. It could very well come down to take a part-time deal or confirm that.  If he takes the part-time deal with Roush, at least he’s in a familiar setting with a team on the upswing. Newman is at a crossroads. Is he going to go into the night or will he choose to rage at the dying of the light? I know which one I’m rooting for.

It’s not Insanity... It’s Loganity!