Feb 18, 2014, 8:48 PM EDT
Caterpillar is one of the preeminent names in heavy machinery and equipment. But caterpillar can also mean an insect that goes through a catharsis and emerges a beautiful butterfly, ready to fly and begin a new life in a whole new world.
Both versions of Caterpillar/caterpillar apply to Ryan Newman.
First, he’s driving the primarily Caterpillar-sponsored No. 31 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing this season in the Sprint Cup Series.
At the same time, after being released by Stewart-Haas Racing last season under the pretense that there wasn’t enough sponsorship available to field his car – only to have Kurt Busch sign roughly a week or so later to essentially take Newman’s spot – Newman has emerged from his post-SHR cocoon ready to write a new chapter of his career with RCR.
One that potentially could finally reward him with what he’s chased for more than a decade: the Sprint Cup championship.
Given the way he was let go at SHR, you’d think Newman would have some lingering resentment at how the whole situation went down. But in a recent interview, Newman was anything but bitter.
“I have nothing to prove this year from any other year in my entire career, other than the fact of what I want to do and achieving my goals and winning the Chase,” Newman told MotorSportsTalk. “There’s nothing I need or have to prove to anybody else other than myself.
“It’s all over (his tenure at SHR). It’s more important not to burn a bridge behind you.”
Stewart-Haas’s loss is definitely RCR’s gain. Newman has replaced Jeff Burton, who has shifted to a part-time role with Michael Waltrip Racing this season in preparation for a new career as a TV analyst next season on NASCAR on NBC telecasts.
Not only has Newman quickly became acclimated to his new surroundings, in what could be a prelude of things to come, his new team has done a heck of a lot better thus far in Speedweeks than his old team.
New teammate Austin Dillon is on the pole for Sunday’s Daytona 500, while Newman and fellow teammates Paul Menard and Brian Scott were part of an RCR onslaught that recorded four of the 12 fastest speeds during this past Sunday’s pole qualifying.
And don’t think Newman doesn’t have thoughts of winning the Great American Race for the second time in his career on Sunday.
“We have everything that we need at RCR to be successful,” Newman said. “The biggest and best resource you can have is people, and Richard has put together a great group of people and I have a great crew chief in Luke (Lambert).
“I’m excited about it, about the way the cars drive, with some of the new rules on height and suspension, it kind of opens up a little bit of old school/new school stuff that we can work on and kind of tie things together.”
In a sense, Newman’s move to RCR is completing some unfinished business. Before he agreed to join fellow Hoosier Tony Stewart at the rechristened Stewart-Haas Racing in 2009, Newman was courted heavily by Childress in 2008 to join his team, as well.
SHR ultimately won out in the battle for Newman’s services, but he never forgot the impression he got of Childress’ overall organization, to the point that Newman told himself if he ever had a chance to go to RCR again in his career, he’d definitely pursue it.
So in a roundabout way, Newman has SHR – particularly team majority owner Carl Haas, who chose Busch over Newman – to thank for changing his fortunes for what he believes will definitely be for the better in 2014 and beyond.
“The biggest thing is they’re in control of their own destiny,” Newman said of RCR. “They build their own engines, chassis and bodies, they have a great group of people. I had experienced a little bit about what they had to offer five years before, so I still kind of had that taste in my mouth of what the potential was.
“Albeit, things didn’t work out for us back in 2008 for the 2009 season, but in my additional experiences with Stewart-Haas Racing, I know the importance about being in control of your own destiny.”
So with SHR now nothing more than a distant memory, and no lingering bitterness at how it all went down, it’s everything’s positive and full steam ahead for Newman and RCR from here on out.
“Change is good,” Newman said. “We saw last year, especially with Matt Kenseth’s move, that moving a driver into an existing team still gives him a great opportunity.
“That doesn’t mean it’s going to happen every time or every season or with every driver, but that was a good example at least to say that yes, it can be done. I look forward to all of this year.”
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