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Ryan Newman in limbo for 2022

Tuesday’s news that Brad Keselowski would enter a partnership with Roush Fenway Racing next season clicked some puzzle pieces into place for 2022. Other pieces in the ever-changing tumult of the NASCAR Cup Series’ team-and-driver alignments remain unsolved, including one of the prime names involved — Ryan Newman.

The Roush Fenway organization will have a new driver of its flagship No. 6 Ford next year in Keselowski, who will leave Team Penske at season’s end to take the split role of driver, minority owner and head of the team’s competition committee. The team’s full driver lineup is still to come (Chris Buescher currently drives Roush’s second car, the No. 17), but that leaves Newman looking for a new role for next season, though the door remains open that the 43-year-old driver may remain with the team in a part-time capacity.

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RFR president Steve Newmark indicated that its deal with Keselowski was reached in March and that talks of expanding to a three-car Cup Series operation soon followed. Ultimately, Newmark said, the organization opted to continue as a two-car effort but with the possibility of keeping Newman with a partial schedule.

“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,” Newmark said, “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.”

Keselowski indicated he had been involved in those talks with Newman, saying he was bullish on keeping the veteran driver in the fold if sponsorship and support allowed.

“I did have a discussion with him to share that interest, and too early to tell what that’ll be,” Keselowski said. “And of course, depending on the proper partnership to fund it, but if there’s a partner out there to fund it, I think it’s a no-brainer for us to try to do.”

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Newman joined Roush Fenway in 2019, leading the No. 6 team to a playoff appearance in a consistent first year together. He missed three races last season after a severe crash in the final lap of the Daytona 500, but recovered from injuries to finish out the year once the racing calendar resumed in May after the COVID-19 outbreak.

This season, Newman sits 27th in the Cup Series standings with just one top-five result and three top-10 finishes. But Newmark was quick to credit Newman’s role in elevating the team’s competition meetings and providing a steady presence as a 20-year veteran and an 18-time winner at the sport’s top level.

“I will say unequivocally that I have a ton of respect for Ryan and his professionalism and what he’s brought to our team,” Newmark said. “We didn’t achieve our collective goals and there were a lot of factors that kind of intervened in that, but it’s just fair to say that we really respect Ryan and appreciate the relationship with him and want to help him do whatever he wants to do next. He deserves that.”