By admin | April 19, 2009
By Richard Allen
There are very few drivers who truly have the capability to win on every type of track used in NASCAR. Tony Stewart is one of those drivers. He has won on short tracks, intermediate tracks, super speedways and road courses.
With that said, I still had my doubts as to how successful he would be in his current driving venture with his new team, Stewart-Haas Racing.
I never questioned his leaving the highly successful pairing with Joe Gibbs Racing. After all, he essentially had half a NASCAR Sprint Cup team given to him in exchange for his name and his driving talent. He had little other choice but to accept the opportunity provided him.
However, a dose of reality had to considered in evaluating Stewart’s chances in regard to the 2009 season. After all, the two car team he joined was not exactly successful in 2008. One of their cars finished outside the Top 35 and the other barely made it inside the all important ranking. The two car effort only managed one Top 10 finish all season.
Even with support from powerful Hendrick Motorsports the Stewart operation had to be considered a work in progress at best. The potential for success was there, but not for a while.
Instead, Stewart has defied the odds and is in the process of putting together a remarkable season. His 2nd place finish in Phoenix shows just how far this team has come in a short period of time. So far, the Indiana native has compiled three Top 5 and six Top 10 finishes after only eight races. He currently sits 4th in the overall Sprint Cup standings.
No less remarkable is the success of Stewart’s teammate, Ryan Newman. After four races this season Newman’s #39 team was on the verge of falling outside the Top 35 and thus losing guaranteed status as far as qualifying for races is concerned.
Since then, Newman has scored two Top 10 finishes and has recovered all the way up to 17th in the standings.
I never questioned whether or not Tony Stewart was making the right move by becoming a part owner of Stewart-Haas Racing. It was an opportunity he could not afford to pass up. And, it allowed him to align himself with Hendrick Motorsports and re-align himself with Chevrolet. However, I was a bit pessimistic as to his chances in 2009. I thought this season would be a rebuilding year of sorts looking toward 2010.
Tony Stewart has far exceeded the expectations of many in 2009.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.
*For a chuckle, click on the link below to watch my latest animated short film, “Racing Re-Cap: Phoenix”.
In this epiosde racing reporter Mark Mustang finds out that his co-host, Daisy Dreamboat, actually travelled to Phoenix but he is disappointed when he finds out why.
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