By admin | January 11, 2009
By Richard Allen
Over the next few days and weeks I will be presenting a review of 2008 and a preview of 2009 for each of the drivers and teams who appear to be set for a full time run in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. For the most part these pieces will run in order by car number. If you should miss out on your favorite driver simply type his name into the search box at the upper right hand portion of the website.
#14- Tony Stewart
Of all the most intriguing on track stories going into 2009, Tony Stewart’s could be the most interesting.
Stewart left one of the most successful racing teams in NASCAR and has split up one of the best pairings in motor sports history. Stewart won 33 races and two Sprint Cup championships while driving for Joe Gibbs Racing. He is one of the recognizable faces to be associated with a sponsor. That is, of course, his now former sponsor, Home Depot.
Now, ‘Smoke’ will be starting over with his own team, or at least partially his own team.
Whether or not Stewart can drive is not a question. He is one of the few drivers who is a legitimate threat to win on every type track the circuit competes on. What is a question, however, is whether or not his new team will be able to provide equipment to match his ability as a driver.
In 2008, Stewart won in Talladega for the first time. Along with that one win he had 10 Top 5s and 16 Top 10s on his way to qualifying for the Chase for the Championship. He was part of what turned into the JGR Chase debacle as he finished 9th in the final standings.
In 2009 Stewart will drive the car that formerly wore #70. The car did not place in the Top 35 last year so the team will have to rely on their driver’s past champion provisional in the season’s first five races should there be any problems in qualifying.
Stewart will have Darien Grubb calling the shots on the pit box this season. Grubb comes over from the Hendrick Motorsports organization, which is where Stewart Hass will get their chasis and engine components from.
In recent years, owner/drivers have struggled. Ricky Rudd had to give up on owning his own team and went back to driving for other owners. Michael Waltrip had a particularly rocky first season as an owner but did show some improvement in his second year.
Stewart has many obligations. He is a team owner. He is a track owner and promoter. And, he is a driver. Will he be able to focus enough of his attention on driving? The answer will be interesting.
Driver: Tony Stewart
Owner: Stewart Haas Racing
Sponsor: Office Depot, Old Spice & Burger King
Crew Chief: Darien Grubb
Scanner Frequencies(?): 466.5000 & 469.1375
Chances of making the Chase for the Championship: I don’t think so
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.
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