Kurt Busch to Attempt The Indianapolis-Charlotte Double
posted by Phil Allaway
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Andretti Autosport announced this morning that Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet in the Sprint Cup Series, will attempt the Indianapolis 500 in a fifth entry for the IndyCar Series team. Once the Indianapolis 500 is completed, Busch will fly from Indianapolis to Charlotte, jump in his No. 41 Chevrolet and compete in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Busch considers the opportunity to do the double as an old-school throwback moment.
“This is really to challenge myself within motorsports,” Busch said in Andretti Autosport’s press release. “Perhaps I am a bit of an old-school racer; a throwback, I guess. I enjoyed the era of drivers racing different cars and testing themselves in other series. It is tough to do now for a variety of factors, but when the opportunity is there, I want to do it. While NASCAR is my home, I have been fortunate to compete in Pro Stock on the NHRA circuit a number of years ago and test a V8 Supercar. This opportunity was a talk with Michael [Andretti] over dinner one night, a “What if,” and now it’s becoming a reality for me to drive in the Indy 500 with Andretti Autosport. It’s literally a dream come true. To go to the famous Brickyard with the iconic Andretti name, it doesn’t get much cooler or better than that.”
Busch will be doing the Indianapolis-Charlotte double as a Memorial Day mission to men and women serving in the U.S. Military via the Armed Forces Foundation. Fans can contribute to the cause by texting AFF to 50555 to donate $10.
Busch, who has never raced an IndyCar, passed Rookie Orientation at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year during a test session. At the time, Busch was more or less testing the Dallara DW12 for fun.
Busch will be the fourth driver to attempt the Indianapolis-Charlotte double. John Andretti was the first driver to attempt it in 1994. After finishing four laps down in tenth in Indianapolis, Andretti crashed and had engine problems in the 600. Robby Gordon has attempted the double five times, most recently in 2004. However, Gordon failed to make it to Charlotte on time and did not start the 600 in 2000 (P.J. Jones started Gordon’s No. 13 Ford in that instance). Finally, Tony Stewart has attempted the double twice (most recently in 2001) and is the only driver to ever complete all 1100 miles. Neither of the three drivers has won either leg of the double. The best finishes are Stewart and Gordon’s sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis 500 (although Gordon’s came in 2000, the year he didn’t make it to Charlotte in time to start the Coca-Cola 600), and Stewart’s fourth-place finish in the 2001 Coca-Cola 600.
Danica Patrick, Justin Allgaier Talk About Phoenix Incident
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
A disappointing start to the year for Danica Patrick won’t include continued conflict. Patrick met with rookie Justin Allgaier Sunday, shortly after the Phoenix Cup race after a wreck ruined both drivers’ days. Patrick, who was critical of the No. 51 car on the radio, claiming Allgaier was “driving all over the track” appeared receptive to a conversation that quickly settled differences over what will be a long season.
“She was just upset because she got involved in the crash that we had,’’ said Allgaier to the Motor Racing Network. “She says she’s been through this and that she felt like I needed to settle down at that point. I explained my position on why everything happened. I think she understood where I was coming from. It doesn’t fix either one of our racecars. It doesn’t fix either one of our days. Unfortunately, we were both having pretty decent days.’’
Allgaier wound up 30th due to the incident while Patrick was 36th. The incident, which was caused by Allgaier’s spin also involved the No. 32 team and Travis Kvapil, which wound up 38th after sustaining heavy damage.
Camping World Close to Extending Title Sponsorship of NCWTS
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World, Grand Marshal of Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway, and star of CNBC’s “The Profit,” made the announcement over the weekend that the retailer is very close to announcing a deal that would continue its title sponsorship of NASCAR’s Truck Series. The original agreement with NASCAR is scheduled to conclude after the 2015 season.
According to the sanctioning body, no formal contract has been signed, but “the agreement between the two parties has proven to be a beneficial one.”
“In about a month, we’ll be announcing a significant extension to that contract. It’s been great for us,” said Camping World’s Lemonis in a statement. “The NASCAR relationship has worked well for Camping World. When we started, we had 35 stores. Now, we’re up to 120 stores. As we travel the country and we meet new customers in stores, they always are very appreciative of our relationship with NASCAR. It’s been good.”
Gaining a long-term commitment from Camping World to sponsor the Truck Series would be a relief for NASCAR, which is set to lose Nationwide Insurance as title sponsor for the NASCAR Nationwide Series at the end of the 2014 season. The sponsorship of the Cup Series by Sprint runs through 2016.
The NCWTS is back in action on March 29th at 2:30 PM (ET) when the trucks visit Martinsville Speedway in the Kroger 250, which can be seen on Fox Sports 1. Ratings for the season opener were up 11 percent.
Harvick Takes Win At Phoenix In Second Race With New Team
posted by Justin Tucker
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Phoenix International Raceway has become Kevin Harvick’s home away from home. Sunday Afternoon was no exception as Harvick charged to the front early and would dominate for much of the day, leading 224 of the scheduled 312 laps to record his record fifth win on the one mile oval and his third win in the last four races at Phoenix.
Harvick, coming off of a disappointing Speedweeks which was capped by a last lap crash in the Daytona 500 in his debut with Stewart-Haas Racing, set the tone on Saturday by winning both practices while having the best 5 and 10-lap averages in the first practice of the day on Saturday. On Sunday, Harvick and his No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet was nothing short of flawless as he was able to hold Dale Earnhardt, Jr. by .489 seconds after a late race restart to claim his 24th career Sprint Cup Series victory.
“Man, this is awesome,” Harvick said after his dominant victory on Sunday. “Man, this just solidifies so many things and so many decisions. It’s been so much work with all the time and effort that these guys (the crew) have put in—but what a race car.”
Stewart Haas Racing co-owner Gene Haas shared in Harvick’s excitement after the race.
“It took long enough,” Haas joked. “This is phenomenal. I think there was a lot of skepticism last year about what myself and Tony (Stewart) what we were up to, was there a lot of madness to this. Quite frankly, it’s a great team, there’s a lot of synergy at the shop, people working together. I don’t know what we did, but I think we put together a great organization.”
Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt, Jr. continued his hot start to the 2014 season. Earnhardt Jr. would finish second on Sunday, marking his seventh consecutive top 10 finish since the end of the 2013 season. Earnhardt Jr. was pleased with the effort after a coast-to-coast whirlwind week after winning his second Daytona 500 and also gave great praise to the efforts of Harvick and the No. 4 team.
“I’ve got to congratulate Kevin. Those guys were two-tenths faster than everyone all weekend in practice. They were just phenomenal,” Earnhardt said. “To be able to run with them all day was a big confidence builder for us.”
Joining Harvick and Earnhardt in the top 5 of The Profit on CNBC 500K were Brad Keselowski with his second consecutive top 3 run of 2014 in third. Keselowski’s Team Penske teammate Joey Logano would finish fourth, and Jeff Gordon would come home fifth in his No. 24 Pepsi Max Chevrolet.
Jimmie Johnson finished in sixth, followed by Ryan Newman with a nice rebound after Daytona in seventh. Carl Edwards would carry the banner for Roush Fenway Racing by finishing eighth, Kyle Busch was ninth, and Jamie McMurray would finish tenth.
A look at the Profit on CNBC 500K by the numbers. There were 14 lead changes among eight different drivers, there were eight cautions for 39 laps which slowed the race pace to 109.229 MPH.
Next Sunday, the Sprint Cup Series heads to Sin City and the Las Vegas Motor
Starting Lineup: The Profit On CNBC 500K
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday March 1, 2014
Drivers in RED (i) are those ineligible to collect Sprint Cup points
Daytona 500 TV Ratings Down
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Wednesday February 26, 2014
What was the longest weather delay in Daytona 500 history turned out to bring NASCAR lower ratings and TV viewership Sunday night than expected. According to a report Monday from FOX Sports, the 56th running of the Daytona 500 airing at 8 PM (ET) posted a 5.6/10 national household rating/share which averaged 9.3 million viewers. That’s down 44 percent from last year’s 9.9, easily making it the least-watched Daytona 500 of all-time.
Due to the six-hour, twenty-two minute rain delay in Daytona, the race was up against the primetime coverage of the Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony from Sochi, Russia on NBC (15.25 million viewers). FOX also reported that 69% of the pre-rain delay viewers of the race, which began at 1 PM (ET) kept tuning in.
In comparison, the 2013 Daytona 500 on FOX was the most-watched race in five years, posting a 9.9/22 rating/share, commanding 16.7 million viewers. The Daytona 500 in 2012, the first to ever be run on a Monday and in the primetime slot did a 7.7/13 overnight rating/share which resulted in 13.67 million households viewing the race according to Nielsen TV ratings data.
Earnhardt, Jr. Claims Second Daytona 500 Victory
posted by Justin Tucker
Wednesday February 26, 2014
Ten years is a long time. For Dale Earnhardt, Jr., it felt like an eternity. NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver endured many near misses and close calls at the Daytona 500 since his only win in the Great American Race in 2004. Earnhardt had finished second in two of his last three Daytona 500s coming into Sunday’s race. He was also riding the tail of a 55-race winless streak, dating back to Michigan in 2012.
However nothing would stop Dale Jr. on Sunday, not even a 6 hour and 22 minute rain delay from capturing his second Daytona 500 win. Earnhardt Jr. led a race-high 54 laps on the evening and used some timely drafting help from teammates Jimmie Johnson and, on the final restart, Jeff Gordon to separate from the pack and secure the victory.
“Winning this race is the greatest feeling that you could feel in this sport besides accepting the trophy for the championship,” said a jubilant Earnhardt after pulling into Victory Lane. “We could fight off battle after battle. We got a little help at the end there from Jeff to get away on the restart. This is amazing. I can’t believe this is happening. I never take this for granted, man because it doesn’t happen twice, let alone once.”
Aside from the race itself the big story of the race was the 6 hour and 22 minute red flag, which threatened to move the race to Monday evening (had the race been postponed, FOX Sports’ Chris Myers had tweeted that the race would resume at 5:00pm EST). However, Mother Nature would cooperate and would allow the race to be run under different conditions from which they practiced this week. Once the race resumed, the intensity picked up from the changing track conditions. This allowed the pack to race side-by-side and at times 3-wide up to seven rows deep.
Joining Earnhardt Jr. in the top 5 for the 2014 Daytona 500 were: Denny Hamlin who closed out a spectacular Speedweeks in second, Brad Keselowski in third, Jeff Gordon in fourth, and Jimmie Johnson who overcome two wrecks leading up to the 500 in fifth.
Rounding out the top 10 in the Daytona 500 were Matt Kenseth in sixth, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. in seventh and Greg Biffle would bring his No. 16 Ford home in eighth. Austin Dillon would come home ninth in his first Cup Series race in the iconic No. 3 for Richard Childress Racing, while Casey Mears would round out the top 10.
A couple of major contenders for the Daytona 500 win would see their hopes dashed early on as Martin Truex, Jr. would blow up just 30 laps into the race, relegating him to a 43rd-place finish in his debut for Furniture Row Racing. Crew chief Todd Berrier was already in Nashville for a test session before the race was even over. Kyle Busch, meanwhile would have a pit road violation just before halfway and would spend much of the race battling back from that mistake. Busch would eventually finish 19th after leading 19 laps.
Danica Patrick would also be bit by bad luck as she was caught up in a multi-car wreck on lap 145. Patrick would lead her second consecutive Daytona 500, but wouldn’t have the finish to show for it finishing 40th. Tony Stewart would encounter a frustrating evening as well, with a fuel pickup problem derailing his quest for his first Daytona 500 win. Stewart would finish 35th.
A look at the Daytona 500 by the numbers. There were 42 lead changes among 18 drivers, while seven cautions for 39 laps would slow the race pace to 145.290 MPH.
Next week, the Sprint Cup Series heads to the “diamond in the desert,” Phoenix International Raceway for The Profit on CNBC 500K. The Green flag is scheduled for 3:15pm EST.
Nationwide Series Post-Race Quotes: Drive4COPD 300
posted by Thomas Bowles
Tuesday February 25, 2014
Frontstretch Interviews – Courtesy Mike Neff
ELLIOTT SADLER – FINISHED 4th
Thoughts on the race?
It’s definitely a lot different racing than what we’re used to.
Comfortable with it?
Yeah, it’s just different. You’re worried about what you’re doing, but you’re also worried about what everyone else is doing and they’re not doing more than you’re doing. Physically pushing a guy is way better than just riding so you just gotta time it right and push it to the edge.
Happy to start the year with a top 5?
Yeah. Hell, that was the worst we ran all day, I think. I have no idea how they put the 3 car in front of us on that last restart. I hadn’t seen the 3 car hardly all day. When they put us from fifth to sixth, on the outside line, it just really boxed us in. I would have really restarted behind my teammate and given him a good push to the front. Anyways, it is what it is; we’ll take it and move on.
Looked like you were up front all day.
The guys did a good job. We had a fast race car. Great pit stops, just really proud of these guys. The car’s in one piece and we can take it to Talladega now. Great job by my guys. A lot of effort came into coming down here to Daytona and giving ourselves a shot to win. We had that chance to be up front and make some things happen. Fifth is not what we want, but we’ll take it and move on.
Bumping vs Pushing?
It’s way harder. You don’t want to lay on the guy in front of you, so it’s tough racing. A lot different than what we’re used to, ‘cause you gotta go. You gotta drag the brake too ‘cause you don’t want to hit the guys and you don’t want to stay on him. It’s a lot harder mentally than what we’ve done in the past.
Car was strong all day. Pushing vs. Bumping, is that harder to do than just getting on somebody and pushing them?
Yeah, it is a little bit. When you bump ‘em, you jar ‘em, it kinda jacks ‘em a little bit. It’s a little more abrupt, obviously. I thought it was OK there at the end. It was certainly fun and hopefully entertaining. But a little bit of a struggle in the early part of the race and the midpart of the race to see a good race. And that’s unfortunate for the fans. You can’t do that the whole race, you can’t tear up your stuff, knock your grill in, overheat your motor, all that stuff so there’s no sense in doing all that until you get down to the last lap. The 7 and the 6, they did a good job. Man, the 7 really held the 22 and I tight on the bottom. I was rubbing his door and hitting the apron at the same time, no room whatsoever. So it was good; wish we were the ones who could have won but a lot better now than what we were last year.
Going home in one piece makes it a lot better, right?
Yeah. My back feels good. My foot feels good. Past years here, I’ve been going home with pain so I’m alright.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Truck Series Post-Race Quotes: Daytona (Exclusives)
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday February 22, 2014
When you’re on the outside like that, how frustrating is it?
It’s so hard. Timothy Peters has won here. Kyle Busch has won everywhere. Ron Hornaday has been running Trucks forever, probably before I was even born. I was surrounded by veterans there, and like I told them I don’t have a rookie stripe but I’m a rookie. This is only my fourth Truck race ever, my fourth superspeedway race, and man, I figured out when the 17 got up in front of me, I pushed him. And as soon as I pushed him, he took off. And I went with him. And I just kept doing it, and before I knew it, he was leading. And I saw Ron in my mirror, backed up to him, and if it wasn’t for him, I don’t know what would have happened. I gotta thank him big time for that. That was a true teammate move right there. I really appreciate that. He just bounced off me and we got to the front. I tried my hardest to sidedraft Kyle. I was probably touching his door.
Top 5 in the No. 30 truck. This deal come together at the last minute, but you had a heck of a truck. Tell us about your night.
Yeah, I’ve got to thank Turner Scott Motorsports. The guys worked so hard on this Rheem Comfort Products Chevrolet. Exciting! Just got hung up on the outside and had to wait for my teammate there to catch up. And then he got to the bottom, so… I got the old 32 and started pushing ol’ Ryan to the front. So, it’s not bad. We’ll take it. You just don’t want to step over that boundary. You don’t know how far to push and shove. We bumped about six times down the straightaway without latching onto them. Hopefully, that was OK and we came home with a top 5.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Budweiser Duels Post Race Quotes
posted by Matt Stallknecht
Friday February 21, 2014
BUDWEISER DUELS POST-RACE QUOTES
They’re saying the wheel bearing burned up in it. I don’t know what caused it, they’re taking it all apart to figure out what the heck happened. Something abnormal that’s for sure I don’t think I’ve ever had that happen at all. Hopefully, we made the race and hopefully we can fix the problem before Sunday.
WHAT WAS THAT LOUD BOOM ONCE YOU TURNED INTO THE GARAGE?
Loud pop was a tire… thankfully, it popped, hopefully it didn’t hurt anybody. All the heat created in the left front that popped was pretty weird.
REALLY GOOD RUN. WHAT DID YOU THINK OF IT?
Yeah, it was good. We have a car we can work with for the 500. Got a good starting spot, so we’re going to rest easy, fluff and buff our car for a couple of days and get ready for Sunday.
ANY DIFFERENCE ON WHETHER THE TOP OR BOTTOM LANE WORKED?
Yeah, I was just moving around, trying to stay with the flow. For me, this car works on all parts of the racetrack. So I’m pretty happy with it.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.
GOT SHUFFLED BACK, AFTER PIT STOPS AND THEN COULDN’T GET BACK UP TO THE FRONT. WHY?
Nah, we were just sitting there waiting until the last few laps to make a move. You didn’t want to pull down and get sent to the back. Seen a couple of guys get sent to the back really quick so we were just kind of waiting for the end. I felt like we had a good situation there with Ambrose behind us — we had a good run off Turn 2 and I went. It was the last lap, time to go do something, nobody went with us but hopefully Sunday is a different story.
We got a great car. We don’t have to work hard. We learned, we got a good race car. Got a car in one piece, ready to go so we’ll try and get through the next couple of practices, deliver it to the starting group this Sunday and we’ll be real happy.
YOU’RE IN THE DAYTONA 500!
Yeah, it’s pretty awesome. This Whitetail Chevrolet was so fast that I knew all I had to do was stick it behind smart, intelligent drafters and we could have a good finish. That’s what we did in the Duels and I’m excited. I’m excited to go do some stuff with the Nationwide car and have some more practice with this. But to know that we’re locked in the Daytona 500’s pretty cool.
YOU WERE OBVIOUSLY IN FRONT OF THAT MELEE AT THE END. WHEN YOU WERE UP FRONT THERE IN THE BEGINNING, WERE YOU HOPING TO JUST STAY IN LINE AND LET YOU FINISH TOP 5?
I was pretty content to ride and luckily I knew a lot of people around us were. It was nice to have a little calm and not really have to be racing hard the whole time. I knew that the pit stop was going to shake everything up and that’s exactly what happened. Fell back a little bit there but made the right moves at the end to get a good finish.
HOW STRONG ARE THESE RCR CARS?
They’re very strong! They definitely have the capabilities to be winning one of these races.
YOU’RE IN THE TOP 5 FOR YOUR HEAT IN THE DAYTONA 500. YOUR PRIMARY CAR IS SITTING RIGHT IN THE GARAGE, KIND OF WADDED UP. DID YOU THINK THIS ONE HAD IT IN IT?
Yeah, it’s a brand new car also. It’s just not quite as good as the primary but still a damned good car. I’m just proud of everybody at RCR for building such fast race cars. All of our cars have been fast, ECR motor’s been strong, even our affiliate teams have been qualifying really good and racing good. So… excited about 2014! It’s going to be a good year.
WELL MAN, YOU STARTED IN THE BACK BUT WORKED YOUR WAY TO THE FRONT WHEN IT COUNTED MOST. WERE YOU JUST BIDING YOUR TIME THROUGHOUT THE RACE?
Eh, you never know if you’re going to get back up there or not. We had to start at the back, we had to make a run early and see what we could do. We drove right to 10th, or something like that and then it got stagnant. We tried to make something happen, and went to the back again. Drove back up to the front. Again, just really proud of my guys. Matt Kruder did a hell of a job on that pit stop getting just enough gas in to gain some spots there.
RCR CARS SEEM PRETTY DARNED STRONG. DO YOU THINK THE RCR CARS HAVE SOMETHING FOR THEM ON SUNDAY — ESPECIALLY THE THREE JOE GIBBS RACING CARS THAT SEEM TO BE THE CLASS OF THE FIELD RIGHT NOW?
Oh yeah. The 20 car was extremely fast. The 11 didn’t qualify that good, but he’s a good drafter. I think he won. We definitely have something for him.
Check in with Matt and Jay on their site at CareyandCoffey.com.
The Yellow Stripe · Danny Peters · Tuesday April 7, 2009
When Tony Stewart signed on the dotted line in July 2008 to assume 50 percent ownership in what was the struggling Haas CNC Racing outfit, there were plenty of people lining up to tell the irascible Columbus, IN native that he was making a colossal mistake.
That it was a great deal financially speaking was the one thing that couldn’t be argued; Stewart didn’t have to pay so much as one dollar for a half-stake in the two car outfit. But all numbers aside, the real issue was that Haas CNC Racing had hardly set the racing world alight in its first six years of operating. Indeed, a driver who’d spent the last decade defined by stock car success had purchased a team seemingly destined to fail.
Having started life in 2002 as a Research and Development car for the mighty megalith that is Hendrick Motorsports, Haas CNC drivers snagged just 14 top 10 runs in 284 attempts in the Cup Series, with Johnny Sauter’s fifth place effort at Richmond in September, 2007 the highest ever finish for the fledgling team. So, why on earth would Tony Stewart — with two championships, 33 race wins, 129 top 5s, 207 top 10s, and an almost uninterrupted history of success at the Sprint Cup level — want to leave the safety of the No. 20 car and Joe Gibbs Racing after ten glorious years? Especially when you consider that the team he drives for is the car that finished 43rd in owner points in 2008?
Well, turns out Stewart seemed to know something the rest of us didn’t, right?
Let’s take a look at his season so far. Smoke recorded his first top 10 at Daytona – despite his and Ryan Newman’s efforts to wreck as many cars as possible – with an 8th place effort in the 500. Now Daytona, a restrictor plate track, is far from a reliable guide to the season. But when Stewart duplicated his 8th place finish in Fontana the following Sunday, signs were there that maybe, just maybe, Stewart-Haas Racing could be a contender for a Chase berth. 26th in Vegas, Stewart’s lowest finish to date, tempered the optimism a smidgeon; but another 8th place effort at Atlanta gave him three top 10 runs in his first four races – a tremendous start by whichever measure you want to use. A 17th place run at Bristol was followed by his highest finish to date at Martinsville (3rd) and backed up by another strong run at Texas Motor Speedway, where the No. 14 car led 16 laps on the way to a very respectable 4th place.
To say such a start was unexpected is fast becoming an understatement of the year. Even if you told Stewart three months ago he would lead laps in three races (Daytona, Fontana, and Texas) and have two top 5s and three other top 10 finishes by the second off week, he’d have pretty much bitten your hand off. So, how has Tony managed such a good start? Well, as you might expect, there are a number of good reasons; and as always in NASCAR, it starts with the people.
Hiring Bobby Hutchens, a DEI veteran, as Stewart-Haas Racing’s Director of Competition was both inspired and paid major dividends as the team reorganized under a major shift of personnel. Even Tony noted at the time that “Bobby brings a ton of technical and management experience to SHR.” It’s that level of experience that the “new” team needed in order to operate effectively. The other crucial hire for Stewart was crew chief Darian Grubb from Hendrick Motorsports, where he had been temporary crew chief for Jimmie Johnson — winning the Daytona 500 when NASCAR’s Doctor Evil himself, Chad Knaus, was suspended for (yet another) rulebook violation. Grubb then spent a year atop the pit box with the hapless Casey Mears before spending 2008 working on the No. 5 and No. 88 programs.
After such a symbiotic relationship with the savvy Greg Zipadelli, how Stewart reacted to the new voice in his earpiece was in some ways going to define his season. But as Stewart pointed out after Martinsville, it seems to be going a-OK so far: “I feel like Darian makes good calls,” he said. “There were times during the race [at Martinsville] he was making changes that I questioned, but they were better and made the car work. He’s really good. The thing is, he’s very sure of himself. He’s very sure of his decisions.”
Those decisions from Hutchens and Grubb don’t just stop at the race track, either. The softening economy and the sheer number of talented and dedicated workers available in the NASCAR pool helped, too; and both men found exactly the right combination of old and new crew members to work for them.
“Hiring those right people in those right spots, it’s taken a lot of pressure off of me having to oversee everybody,” said Stewart. “I feel like I could literally not go to the shop for the whole year almost, and other than signing paperwork, it would run just fine with or without me [there].”
Another crucial component in Stewart’s early success has been the equipment and technical support from Hendrick Motorsports. This vital element gives Stewart a baseline to build from, and for a racer with as much street smarts as driving ability, this was a gift horse of the highest order — a key component in Stewart making the move in the first place. The fact that Rick Hendrick makes himself available as a sounding board just enhances the deal, giving Smoke a fantastic outlet as he takes his formative steps into Sprint Cup ownership. But then again, Hendrick was a believer from the first day Stewart made his announcement that he can be successful on his own. “I think Tony has put a lot of sweat equity into it,” he explained. “I think he’s surprised a lot of people. I haven’t been surprised because I know the dedication and what they’ve tried to do.”
Of course, Stewart was not brand new to team ownership in one sense, having presided over World of Outlaws and USAC racing teams for the past three years. Coupled with that responsibility is Stewart’s ownership of Eldora Speedway, that jewel of a half-mile, high-banked dirt track in Ohio which plays host to some of the largest dirt racing events in the country. The Prelude to the Dream, Kings Royal, and World 100 all attract over 20,000 spectators annually to a speedway that only continues to grow.
But while this has been useful training, it’s fair to say there’s nothing quite like Sprint Cup ownership these days; just ask Michael Waltrip, who has stumbled and bumbled his way through the past couple of years and is only now coming out the other side, so to speak. But making matters slightly easier, too, is Stewart’s solid sponsorship situation. Office Depot will sponsor the car for 22 races, while Old Spice will do likewise for 14 events — with Burger King picking up the final two remaining events of the 38-race slate.
So, with this team already well above their expectations, can Stewart do the unthinkable and actually win the Championship in his first year as an owner? Well… why not? He has the engine and technical support, a fantastic group of dedicated employees, a crew chief not scared to argue and overrule him in terms of setup changes — not to mention years of accumulated experience working with the good folks of Joe Gibbs Racing. He’s firmly ensconced in 5th place, some 144 markers up on 13th place Juan Pablo Montoya, and has notched top 10 efforts at all three of the Chase tracks we’ve run thus far (Fontana, Martinsville, Texas).
Cautiously, then, there is plenty of reason for optimism. In sport, like in life, it’s all about taking the opportunities you’re given and running with them as hard as you can. In the first few months of operation, Stewart and indeed the entire SHR team has done just that… and it’s a team that only seems to be getting better with time. Even teammate Ryan Newman in the No. 39 has picked up the pace, scoring three straight top 15 finishes after four poor-luck performances to start off the 2009 season. As Smoke himself observes: “It’s like we say every Monday in our competition meeting, we’ve just got to build a database first. Once we get that established, then I think the second time we come around we’re going to be a little better yet.”
Now, other than my slight discomfort here with a guy like Smoke talking databases, if ever there’s proof positive SHR is moving on up — then this is it. There are still 19 races to run before the Chase field is set, but there’s every reason to believe Stewart can be part of the elite field. He’ll still have to go through the Jimmie-Robot, Big Daddy Jeff Gordon, Rowdy Busch, and his collection of oversized, ridiculous sunglasses (among others) to win it all. But remarkably, all things considered, there’s no compelling reason not to assume Stewart can challenge for a third Sprint Cup crown.
And were he to win one as an owner/driver — this season or in the future — it would have to go down as one of the best stories in NASCAR for years.
©2000 - 2008 Danny Peters and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
I guess I can say that I’m mildly surprised on how well SHR is running, but not all that surprised considering the equipment they get to run, combined with Stewart and Newman as the drivers. Its funny how a change of the symbol on the front of the car can change your perspective on a guy. But I wish Tony all the best.
You ask WHY would Stewart want to leave Gibbs. I think when Gibbs went to Toyoto it pissed off Tony and I can’t blame him. That move was kept quite until the last few races of the season. It was all about money and probably lots of it. J D Gibbs stated the probabal reason his dad went back to coaching again was the money.I think it was a stab in the back to Tony and Chevrolet when Joe moved but as expectd he has been succesful with it. I for one have less respect for Joe because of it. Money ain’t everything but it takes lots of it to go racing.
Everything Tony Stewart has ever done has been wildly successfull , owning a Cup team won’t be any different . He’s proven he can run companies , race teams , and race tracks . He also has a very good understanding of the physics involved in racing . Not to mention an enourmous driving talent . Tony and Ryan will both be in the Chase this year , they will probably both have at least one win , and don’t be surprised if the 2009 Cup Champion is Tony Stewart .
I have never doubted that Tony would make the Chase this year. As for the Championship. I would never bet against Tony.
I never understood why people doubted Tony Stewart. He has proven what he can do in a racecar and in business. The pieces were in place at Haas. They just needed the right people. Tony brought in the right people to run things and then put himself and Ryan Newman in the cars. I expected Tony Stewart to do just what he is doing. I think he will win and be in the chase and Newman might be too. As far as the Cup goes, I think Jeff Gordon looks really strong right now but as Melissa pointed out, never count Tony Stewart out.
If Tony wins another championship, & he well could. To in any way equate this with what Alan accomplished, would be fighting words. Not to take anything away from Tony, but to have been given a half interest in a team, plus all the help, & support from Hendrick are luxuries that were never afforded Alan. Say what you want, he will be the last real owner/driver ever in Cup. End of story.