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Newman to join Stewart’s team

Times Staff Writer

Tony Stewart on Friday picked Daytona 500 winner Ryan Newman to drive the second car of the new NASCAR Sprint Cup team that Stewart will co-own next season.

Newman, who currently drives the No. 12 Dodge for Penske Racing, already had announced plans to leave Penske after this year and was the odds-on favorite to join Stewart. Both are Indiana natives and cut their teeth driving USAC midget cars before eventually moving to stock-car racing.

Stewart, 37, is a two-time Cup champion with 32 wins on NASCAR’s premier circuit. Newman, 30, has 13 series victories.

“The thing that impressed me the most about Ryan was he asked all the right questions,” Stewart told a news conference at Michigan International Speedway, site of Sunday’s NASCAR race.

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“From day one, the questions . . . were all about how are we going to win races, how are we going to win championships, how are we going to get the right people in place to do the right jobs?” he said.

Newman, who has struggled since winning the season-opening Daytona 500, said his goal at the new Stewart-Haas Racing team would be “having fun again.”

“That’s what racing hasn’t been a whole lot of for me lately due to the fact we had success in ’02, ’03, part of ’04, and since then it hasn’t been as successful,” Newman said.

Stewart-Haas will field two Chevrolets next year, the No. 14 driven by Stewart and Newman’s No. 4. Crew chiefs for the pair have yet to be announced.

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Kyle Busch, who has dominated the Cup series this year with eight wins for Joe Gibbs Racing, said the new team should be competitive.

“I think it’s going to take some time to build that organization to where Tony might want to see it,” Busch told reporters at Michigan International. “It will be fine. I wish them both the best of luck.”

Stewart is currently seventh in points and thus a strong candidate to qualify for the Chase for the Cup, NASCAR’s late-season title playoff among the top 12 drivers in points.

Newman is 15th and in danger of missing the Chase for the third consecutive year.

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james.peltz@latimes.com


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