Ryan Newman hired by Richard Childress Racing

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) – Ryan Newman was hired Monday by Richard Childress Racing to drive the No. 31 Chevrolet next season.

Newman, a 17-race winner, will replace Jeff Burton, who announced last week he is leaving RCR at the end of the season.

“This is a great opportunity for our team,” said team owner Richard Childress. “I am very proud to have Ryan in our No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet starting next year. We have high expectations for this No. 31 team. Ryan has proven himself to be a great driver and I’m looking forward to winning races with him.”

Luke Lambert will remain with the team as crew chief, and Caterpillar was the only sponsor announced for the program Monday. Burton said in announcing his departure the CAT funding wasn’t enough to run a proper program in 2014, and it’s assumed Newman has additional backing to add to the deal.

“Ryan will be a great fit with CAT and RCR in many ways,” Childress added. “He’s an outdoorsman, a c! onservationist and is very familiar with CAT equipment as an owner of some of their products.”

The announcement came on the heels of Newman’s controversial miss of a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.

He came up short Saturday night at Richmond in part because Clint Bowyer spun to bring out a caution that is now under investigation by NASCAR.

Newman was leading with seven laps remaining when Bowyer’s spin set in motion a chain of events that cost Newman the victory that would have put him in the Chase. The final berth in the 12-driver field instead went to Bowyer teammate Martin Truex Jr.

Newman, who won the Brickyard this year, isn’t being retained by Stewart-Haas Racing because team co-owner Tony Stewart said the organization didn’t have room for him because Kevin Harvick is coming aboard next season. Harvick is leaving RCR.

But SHR has since done an about-face and is expanding to four cars with Kurt Busch.

“We’re going ! to finish this season strong with the No. 39 team and give it our all to win races,” said Newman, adding he first talked to Childress about a potential deal five years ago “before I signed with my current team but things just didn’t work out. However, we were able to make it happen this time, and I’m looking forward to the next chapter of my career.

“RCR has a long history of winning races and championships, and I want to add to that tradition.”

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