By admin | November 15, 2008
By Richard Allen
After ten years and 356 starts one of the most successful unions in modern day NASCAR history will come to an end Sunday at the Homestead-Miami Speedway. Tony Stewart will make his last start for Joe Gibbs Racing.
Stewart has driven for the same team owner with the same crew chief and the same sponsor since 1999. In today’s NASCAR that is somewhat of a remarkable feat. That combination has been made up of the right ingredients to amass 33 Sprint Cup wins and two championships over that time frame.
An era of unprecedented fence climbing was also ushered in by the driver of car #20.
However, all was not necessarily fun and games for Stewart in his tenure with Gibbs. There were a few bumps in the road along the way. A trail of pushed cameramen, roughed up local track officials, angered NASCAR brass and agitated competitors have been left in the orange wake of Stewart’s often temperamental tidal wave.
Stewart was even hit with a most unusual fine after one of his run ins with the media. He was fined by Home Depot, his sponsor.
With all of that said, however, there can be no mistaking that the pairing of Tony Stewart and Joe Gibbs Racing has been good for each party. Now, it will be very interesting to see how each fares without the other.
Stewart is moving on to a new driving and business venture with Stewart Haas Racing in 2009. While some might question how he could leave such a successful team as the one he has been with for a decade, Stewart has to feel as though he was given an offer he could not refuse.
His new team will receive technical and engineering support from Hendrick Motorsports, which should mean there will not be a significant drop off in the equipment he will have available to him.
Also, after a year in the Toyota camp, Stewart felt the need to realign himself with Chevrolet. His sprint car teams had maintained an alliance with the American manufacturer despite the fact that the owner himself was wheeling Toyotas. Placing himself back in a bow tie vehicle will no doubt bring harmony back to his business life.
On the other hand, Joe Gibbs Racing will be entering a new realm for themselves in 2009. After ten years of having the same driver behind the wheel of Greg Zipadelli’s #20 car, a new driver will take over.
Talented, but very young, Joey Logano will try to pick up where Stewart has left off. The Gibbs organization showed they have tremendous confidence in the 18 year old when they did not seem to seriously pursue any other driver to replace the championship caliber Stewart.
No one can know what the future holds but it would seem likely that both Stewart and JGR will, at least initially, not experience the same success they have had in the past. However, the potential is there for both to return to prominence in time.
Having had so much success over the past decade it is almost a certainty that both sides will be going into their new ventures with some degree of apprehension. But, there is no doubt a feeling of excitement as well.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.
Topics: Articles |