Well, the worst-kept secret in NASCAR this year has officially been announced: Kevin Harvick will be joining Danica Patrick and Tony Stewart at Stewart-Haas Racing beginning in 2014.
Harvick will be bringing his Richard Childress Racing sponsor, Budweiser, with him as he will drive the No. 4 Chevrolet SS. There will be someone missing at Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014 though. Ryan Newman, who’s been driving the No. 39 car since 2009, is now looking for a fresh start.
Newman hasn’t found much success since leaving Penske Racing the year after he won the 2008 Daytona 500 and clearly isn’t a fit at Stewart-Haas Racing. Since the team has expanded to three cars, there simply isn’t enough room for Newman.
After they signed Patrick to drive the No. 10 car, Newman has been the sitting duck. His team just hasn’t clicked like they should have and now with Harvick’s arrival, there is certainly no room to expand to four cars in 2014.
Throughout his time at Stewart-Haas Racing, Newman has just three wins and has only made the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup twice in the last four years. Meanwhile, Harvick has certainly shown he can lead a team, as he’s been leading Richard Childress Racing to contend for a championship each of the past three seasons.
Now that Harvick is leaving that team, there’s an opening for a new driver. It’s probable that Austin Dillon will take one of the seats there, but the team is still considering adding a fourth car.
In the past, when Richard Childress Racing has run four cars, things just don’t seem to play out in their favor. However, team owner Richard Childress has stated that he wants Newman to replace Harvick, and rumors say Quicken Loans would follow him.
If that deal falls through, Newman will be in quite the pickle. He could drive a second Furniture Row Racing car or even go back to Penske Racing if that option is available. It seems like he is one of the many sitting ducks in NASCAR’s version of free agency and will have to figure out sooner rather than later who he’ll be driving for in 2014.
For some reason, Newman was never a good fit for Stewart-Haas Racing. He appeared to have trouble adapting to the tougher competition over the last few years. Once known as one of the best qualifiers in the sport, he just hasn’t shown the same ability he once did, which is worrisome as he now enters free agency.
However, for Harvick, going to Stewart-Haas Racing is a hit or miss. He could either do what Matt Kenseth‘s doing and over achieve all expectations, or he could struggle just as Newman has done.
It’ll be interesting to see how both of these drivers do in the future. Harvick likely will do better than Newman simply because he has a lot more job security than Newman ever did at Stewart-Haas Racing.
Joseph Wolkin can be followed on Twitter at @JosephNASCAR.