Ryan Newman wants to return to Stewart-Haas Racing in 2013 and team owner Tony Stewart wants Newman to return next year, too.
But depending on sponsorship, that may not be possible. That's why, even though SHR hopes to retain Newman, the driver has been given permission to look around in case sponsorship isn't found.
"I want him back next year," Stewart said. "Obviously, we're trying to work on sponsorship to find funding to keep that going. Ryan and I are on the same page; he knows what we're trying to do. I have every intention of keeping him next year."
Stewart-Haas Racing spokesman Mike Arning said the team is focusing on "one driver and one driver only" for the No. 39 car in 2013, and that's Newman. But SHR also doesn't want to leave Newman high and dry if funding is not found, and Arning acknowledged Newman is being allowed to talk with other teams who may have open seats next year.
"We're still trying to get the sponsorship," Stewart said. "We've never had a year where we've had all of Ryan's races sold yet. We're still working on that."
SHR has put a variety of different sponsors on Newman's car so far this season, including the U.S. Army, Quicken Loans, Wix Filters and Outback Steakhouse. The team is working to try and re-sign those sponsors as well as attract new ones.
"I like him as a teammate," Stewart said. "He's been somebody from Day 1 who believed in what we were doing. I still think he can win a lot of races and I think he can win a championship with us.
"It's just a matter of trying to get all that funding lined up for next year."
Newman is among several high-profile drivers whose contracts expire at the end of the season, a group which also includes Matt Kenseth (who will likely re-sign with Roush Fenway Racing), Joey Logano, Martin Truex Jr. and Kurt Busch.
That adds another level of intrigue to the dustup between Newman's pit crew and Busch after the Darlington race on Saturday night, since Newman and Busch could potentially be competing for the same rides.
Newman told SI.com after Darlington that Busch "blew a fuse" and had a "chemical imbalance," comments which help add to the perception Busch is a loose cannon (though some would argue Busch does much to hurt his own image).
As far as the Darlington incident, Stewart said he hadn't spoken to Newman or anyone on the pit crew about what happened yet. The team owner planned to speak with competition director Greg Zipadelli first and then talk to Newman.
NASCAR is set to announce today whether or not there will be any penalties stemming from the incident.
"I don't even know what happened or what led up to it," Stewart said. "I know NASCAR has talked to both groups of those guys, so I'm sure they've handled it from their side. I'm not sure me saying anything is going to add to it."
Stewart, though, said it's important for him to find out all the facts and react to the situation if needed.
"I'm responsible for my guys on that team, so if there's anything our guys did wrong, I want to know about it and do what any other car owner would do to address it," he said.