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Friday, August 15, 2008

Newman announcement has Stewart smiling, hopeful for future

BROOKLYN, Mich. -- Grinning from ear to ear, Tony Stewart was downright giddy, playful and relaxed as he spent about a half hour answering questions from the media after the long-anticipated announcement that he has chosen Ryan Newman to drive the second car next season at Stewart-Haas Racing.

Yes, I’m talking about Tony Stewart, who is not usually the chummiest with the media. It appears this team ownership deal (for now) has him smiling a bit more.

After joking he had to sedate Newman and feed him subliminal messages in order to get him to join the team, Stewart said he was thrilled with Newman’s attitude during the process.
“We’ve still never spoken about a dollar in the contract … From day one, the questions that he had for me were all about how are we going to win races, how are we going to win championships, how are we going to get the right people in place to do the right jobs.”

Likewise, Newman, usually a pretty straightforward interview, was laughing it up as he spoke about the gamble he is taking by jumping to what is essentially a new team, with most of the parts (crew chiefs, etc.) not even in place yet.

Newman said he talked to three other teams about rides (without naming names), but decided to jump to Stewart’s team after seeing the effort Stewart had already put into the program.

“It was mostly Tony,” Newman said. “I saw the shop. I saw the backbone, the foundation that Haas has laid with their efforts … I was fortunate having options, to have that option to go what I thought was the best place to do the best thing for me and my long-term goals.”

For a team that’s far from assured success next year, these two Hoosiers are sure having a good time.

And good for them.

Both are leaving situations that were not working for them, and may get lucky and strike gold in this new venture.

They could also fail miserably, but that‘s why it‘s called a gamble.

Stewart didn’t appear to be taking well to being second banana to Kyle Busch at Gibbs, and he also had dreams of ownership, so this is his blueprint to have a presence in the Cup series for decades to come, long after he stops driving.
And Newman … well, his results speak the truth about his situation. Other than his Daytona 500 win, he’s pretty average, and he’s a better driver than that.

One key point I took away from the announcement today was how much Stewart is already acting as a co-owner of this team, even as he finishes out the year for Joe Gibbs. This was most evident when he spoke of the team’s current points predicament.

“Obviously, we’re working really hard to keep Scott (Riggs) in the top 35 right now, and that would ensure that Ryan doesn’t have to do what he does best, that’s going out and getting front rows and poles … We’re trying to work really hard the rest of the season to accomplish that so we don’t put that pressure on Ryan”

That’s a lot of “we,” and Joe Gibbs can’t be happy Stewart is already thinking of next year instead of focusing his attention completely on winning now. But it’s the reality of owning a team, and Gibbs surely understands how much effort must be put in to create a winning team.

The bad news for Riggs is that he’s out of a job, but getting back in the top 35 would still benefit him as it could help get an offer for next season. Still, it has to be a terrible feeling knowing you’re working to improve the car’s spot in the standings but won’t be driving it the next season.

Another interesting thing I learned Friday is that, apparently, Tony and Ryan both raise baby deer … but that’s neither here not there.

Vickers extra quick
Though it’s too late for him to get into the Chase, Brian Vickers’ Toyota made a great pole run of 188.536 in Big 3 country, demolishing second-place Jimmie Johnson’s run of 187.028. If he has that kind of speed Sunday, he’ll be hard to beat.
Among the surprises in qualifying were Patrick Carpentier in 6th, Regan Smith in 8th, and Scott Riggs in 10th … but don’t expect them to stay up front for long.


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