By admin | May 17, 2010
By Richard Allen
As I have said many times before, I am the mistrusting type who often falls for conspiracy theories. With that said, I have wondered lately if Tony Stewart is getting as much help from Hendrick Motorsports as everyone seems to think.
Take a look at the statistics compiled by Stewart in the time since he began driving for Stewart-Haas Racing. In the first 26 races of 2009, he won three times, had 13 top-5s and 18 top-10s. He was leading the points going into the Chase for the Championship cutoff by more than 200 points over the competition.
Since then, Stewart has won once in Kansas last fall. He has nine top-10s over the last 22 races. He has ten finishes outside the top-15 in that same time span.
While Stewart has been known as a slow starter throughout his NASCAR career, 2010 has been especially slow. Until the Autism Speaks 400 in Dover, he had gone six consecutive races without a top-15 finish. That was the longest the two time Sprint Cup champion has ever gone with such a poor streak.
Perhaps only one time this season has Stewart looked dominant. He has led only 104 laps so far in 2010, the vast majority of those coming in one race at Texas. He currently ranks a somewhat disappointing 14th in the standings.
It is well known that SHR receives both cars and engines from Hendrick. Also, a good number of employees and technical support come from the sport’s top organization.
So, has HMS stopped sending the same level of support to its subsidiaries?
Conspiracy theories aside, I think there may be a logical reason for the team’s slide. When crew chief Darian Grubb and the other former HMS employees first came to Stewart-Haas they were up to speed on the latest tricks of the trade that the Hendrick crews were using. However, as time goes by, things change. The HMS teams developed new ideas and left their former cohorts out of the new loop. Thus, SHR has fallen a bit behind.
Keep in mind that SHR driver Ryan Newman did win in Phoenix earlier this season. However, that was the result of a green/white/checkered situation and he only led a less than dominant four laps in that race. Otherwise, Newman’s season has been filled with inconsistency as he sits 13th in the standings.
So, are the recent struggles of Stewart-Haas Racing the result of their parent company not revealing all of their trade secrets? I don’t know for sure but I would guess that it is possible, along with a little bad luck and improvement by teams such as Joe Gibbs Racing, Richard Childress Racing and Penske Racing South.
There is a bright side to consider here. Even with their struggles, the two SHR cars are easily within striking distance of the all important top-12.
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Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly columns appear in The Mountain Press and The Knoxville Journal.
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