When Ryan Newman’s phone rang late Wednesday evening, he knew one of his close friends was on the line, but it was also his boss.
Tony Stewart needed to talk. He was making an announcement about the future of Stewart-Haas Racing, and Newman, who had driven the No. 39 Chevrolet for SHR since 2009, wasn’t a part of it.
“We talked for 20 minutes,” Newman said. “He stressed the importance of our friendship and that to me will never change. We’ve only ever argued over how hard we race. That is the kind of friends Tony and I are.”
Stewart parted ways with Newman to make room for Kevin Harvick to drive the No. 4 Chevrolet. The decision was difficult because of the thin lines between friendship and business.
“That’s probably what’s made this a bittersweet day,” Stewart said. “I’m bringing in another one of my friends to the organization, but also knowing that I’m losing a friend at the end of the year. The No. 1 thing when Ryan and I spoke is that our friendship will not change. This was a business decision that was Gene [Haas’s] as well as mine and it was a hard decision.
“There is a personal side and there is a business side. For Ryan and I, we had to put the personal bit of it aside and work through the business part. I’ll do everything I can to help Ryan in any way I can moving forward and try to help him in his effort to find another team next year. I’m behind him 100 percent. I believe in him 100 percent.”
Harvick, who qualified 18th and currently sits fourth in the points standings, will leave Richard Childress Racing, where he’s been since 2001.
“For me, the Stewart-Haas piece was intriguing just for the fact that you have Tony as a teammate,” Harvick said. “We have a friendship that goes beyond the racetrack.”
“The entire organization is excited about having him come on board,” Stewart said. “It was a lot of work to get to that.
“It started two years ago, I guess, the thought process of hiring another driver. Just went through those steps obviously to get where we are today. It’s not something that a decision was made overnight.’’
No naked ambition
Sleek, provocative, arty, and largely nude photos of some of sports’ biggest stars helped ESPN Magazine make waves with its first “Body Issue” in 2009.
So it only made sense for the magazine to reach out to Danica Patrick, the female face of racing, to see if she wanted to be a part of it.
Patrick gave it some thought.
“I asked one of my most liberal friends if I should do it and she was like, ‘Um, that’s naked right? Last I checked, that’s naked.’ ”
Patrick had to roll the idea around more.
“Would I feel comfortable?” she said. “I’m sure it’d be a little bit borderline.”
In the end, she declined. And although she said ESPN still reaches out “every year,” she’s passed every time.
“I just never felt it was something that I needed or wanted to do,” said Patrick, who qualified 32d for Sunday’s Camping World RV Sales 301.
In the past, she’s done revealing shoots for Shape and FHM magazines, but she said, “a lot of the stuff that I’ve done that has been scantily clad has all been swimsuit stuff.”
Coming of age
At 71, Morgan Shepherd will become the oldest driver in the history of the Sprint Cup on Sunday. He was guaranteed to qualify with only 43 cars in the field. Even though he ran only 128.290 in qualifying, he’ll start ahead of points leader Jimmie Johnson, who’s qualifying time was disallowed after failing a post-race inspection . . . A $100,000 bonus payout will be waiting at the finish line for Elliott Sadler, Austin Dillon, Kyle Larson, or Sam Hornish Jr. at the end of Saturday’s CNBC’s Prime the Profit 200 as a part of the Nationwide Series’ Dash 4 Cash.
Julian Benbow can be reached at email@example.com.