While this is speculation, it could evolve into reality. The 2008 Sprint Cup season could be a pivotal one for Ryan Newman.
His contract with Penske Racing ends at the conclusion of the coming season, and, if things don't improve competitively, he might be tempted to move on.
Newman has been with Penske full time since 2002, and he was a winner three years. From 2002-2005, Newman won 12 races and accumulated 34 poles. He was firmly entrenched in NASCAR's upper echelon.
Funny how things can change.
Newman hasn't won a race in two years. In fact, he's had only nine finishes among the top five. He's not used to that sort of thing.
In 2006, he had only two top-five finishes and seven among the top 10. Things were better this year, with seven top-five finishes and 15 among the top 10.
Newman didn't make the Chase this season, but as it wound to a close, he had a string of good performances that helped elevate him to 13th in the final point standings.
Newman had four top-five finishes in the last seven races of the Chase, including three in the last five. He should have won the Bank of America 500 at Lowe's Motor Speedway, where he easily sped into the lead on a late restart – and was going away - but crashed due to a tire problem. He wound up 28th.
There have been some changes at Penske, notably among crew chiefs, intended to provide improvement. And while Newman did have it bit better this season than last, he still hasn't returned to winning form.
While it is simply conjecture, it's not hard to think Newman might listen to proposals from other teams should he go winless again in 2008. I think he'd be an attractive commodity.
But that might not mean anything if Newman becomes the old Newman in the new year.