Stewart Haas Racing Could Get Loose in Turn 3
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Tony Stewart has won 32 races, finished in the top-five 125 times, and has recorded 200 top-ten finishes through 9 1/2 seasons of racing in the Sprint Cup Series for Joe Gibbs Racing. He has also brought home two championships for the organization during that timeframe, but at the completion of his tenth season with the company, Tony will say goodbye to the Gibbs family and venture out into the unknown as a 50% owner and a full-time driver for what was formerly known as Haas CNC Racing in 2009.
Stewart Haas Racing, as the new company will be called, will take on a new image with Tony Stewart behind the wheel and serving as the face man for the organization. While they will continue to receive support from Hendrick Motorsports, a great deal remains unknown about the team’s inaugural season together. Car numbers, sponsorship, and a second driver are all question marks, as is the team’s performance capabilities coming right out of the gate.
Earlier this week, the “Loose in Turn 3″ panel was asked to discuss what Stewart Haas Racing can accomplish next season compared to what the expectations are for them in 2009.
Q: What are the realistic expectations for the newly formed Stewart-Haas Racing in 2009?
TZ: It’s going to be a long, tough road for this team for the first couple of seasons - probably moreso than many people realize. But, the fact of the matter is that Tony Stewart is one of the smartest and most talented race car drivers of the modern era, so if anyone can get this done, I really believe he’s the guy. They’ve always said that Smoke’s a guy that can drive anything, anywhere, so now I guess we’ll get to find out firsthand. I look for them to get out there and win 2 or 3 races between the two cars, though that could largely depend on who winds up in the second car. But, as much as I hate to admit it, I think a bid for the Chase could be a longshot in their first go ’round.
Bruce: I expect, with his experience running teams in other racing leagues, that he’s got great insight into what needs to be done. I’d be surprised if they do win a race, but I expect the team to do well enough to give everyone a sit up and stare moment as they contend for the cup. I mean with the top 12 cars in the Chase, that’s 27.9% of the field. It won’t be that hard I think.
Charlie: Realistic expectations the new owner/operators of a team that has both cars sitting outside the top thirty five right now. Anybody who qualifies can - I say can - win a race in todays NASCAR. Particularly plate races. But it isn’t reasonable to expect. Neither is a finish in the Chase. I say one car in the top twenty in points and the other a top five qualifier. That would not be a bad result for 2009.
Quite a bit of controversy has been “brewing” as of late throughout the country as it was learned that InBev, the largest beer European beer distributor (and in the world) has purchased the Anheuser-Busch company for the sum of $52 million. Anheuser is the maker of Budweiser - “the Great American Lager” - and has one of the top marketing strategies in the US, which includes a major role in an array of professional sports, to include NASCAR. We’ve already seen Anheuser pull out as the official beer of NASCAR this season, and now many analysts are discussing whether or not this corporate takeover will have an effect on the Budweiser sponsorship of the no. 9 Gillette-Evernham car driven by Kasey Kahne, as well as their other sponsorship roles in the sport.
Read more on this over at Bruce’s NASCAR Bits ‘n’ Pieces.
Penske Racing has recently announced that they will part ways with 8-year driver of their no. 12 Alltel Dodge, Ryan Newman, at the end of their 2008 campaign. Will many people firmly believe that Newman is on his way over to Stewart-Haas Racing to reunite with former Crew Chief, Matt Borland, and to create the first Indiana “Hoosier” connection in NASCAR, there has been much debate over whom Roger Penske has slated to drive for his team next season. Casey Mears remains on the free agent market after his release from Hendrick Motorsports, and Penske already has David Stremme in their pocket as a backup and test driver, but there are also a few drivers out there lurking that we haven’t talked much about during the early stages of this Silly Season.
Read more on this over at On Pit Row.