By admin | July 10, 2008
By Richard Allen
At the close of the 2008 season Tony Stewart will end his long time relationship with Joe Gibbs Racing to start working for his own newly formed team, Stewart Haas Racing. Many people are quick to look at the move and label it a mistake. I, however, do not.
The mistake many are making in judging this move is to look solely at the driving aspect of the change. Granted, Hass/CNC Racing’s list of accomplishments is not even on the same page as that of Joe Gibbs Racing. Any comparisons between the two organizations in their current form is not even worth the time.
However, Tony Stewart is not joining Hass/CNC racing in its current form. Haas/CNC’s General Manager Joe Custer acknowledged that in Thursday’s press conference. “I’m not sure I realized how much this will change our organization, but I’m ready,” he said when describing the attitude change that has already begun to take place within the team.
I do not believe Stewart will win more races or championships in the future as he has in the past, but here is why I think this is a good move for Tony Stewart. He will be doing what he is doing on his own terms.
Some are quick to point out that other driver/owners such as Kyle Petty, Michael Waltrip and even Darrell Waltrip have not faired well. But Stewart is not any of those people. I would be more inclined to compare his personality with that of Alan Kulwicki than any of those mentioned. A hard nosed, self doer with a maverick mentality.
“I am excited about the opportunity to win with a team I had a part in building,” Stewart said during his press conference.
Stewart also has an eye toward the legacy he will someday leave behind. “The thought of being another Richard Childress is very important to me,” he said referring to the championship model Childress has built with his own team after his driving career ended.
I believe Stewart will have success as a driver with his own team. As I said before, I do not believe he will win as many races and championships in his future driving as he has in the past, but I would have also made that statement if he had stayed with Joe Gibbs Racing.
With the driving aspect aside, here is the main reason I do not think Stewart is making a mistake.
Tony Stewart is now a business man as much as he is a race car driver. He has other things to consider at this stage of his life. That is not to say winning races is not still important to him because I believe it is. However, like so many others before him, at this stage of his life he has come to realize there are other things out there.
He owns a very successful sprint car operation. He runs the Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio. And now, he is a partner in a Sprint Cup team.
This was a busniess deal that any good businessman could not have passed on. He was essentially given a half interest in an established team. And more, with the reputation and popularity he has as a driver it was almost a certainty he would be able to attract lucrative sponsorship, which he apparently has from Office Depot. So, he is racing with other people’s money but instead of doing it for someone else, he is doing it for himself.
Also, he may well be leaving one of the most successful teams in the sport, but at least through a partnership, he is joining the most succesful team in the sport, Hendrick Motorsports. Haas/CNC has a deal with HMS that supplies engines, chasises and engineering.
And more, think of the marketing opportunites an association with HMS and its drivers provides.
It also allowed him to realign himself with Chevrolet, which is important due to the fact that his sprint car team never disassociated itself with the American manufacturer even when JGR made the switch from Chevy to Toyota.
Ultimately, to judge this deal, the driving aspect has to be considered, but the other pieces and parts have to be given consideration as well.
Time will tell whether Tony Stewart will succeed or fail, but either way, he will be doing it his way. And to a guy like Stewart at this stage of his career and life, that is probably the most important thing.
Richard Allen is amember of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday
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