NASCAR Notes: Sprint Cup Class Of 2013: Stewart-Haas Racing
By Dave Grayson
Stewart-Haas Racing will be an organization to watch this year for a lot of reasons. First, there’s the boss, Tony Stewart who will be running after his fourth NASCAR Sprint Cup championship. Second, there’s driver Ryan Newman a free agent who will be looking for a great season to shore up sponsors so he can sign a new contract for next year. Third, there’s Danica Patrick starting her first full time season in the Cup Series. Let’s face it, everybody will be watching her which is business as usual.
TONY STEWART. #14 CHEVROLET. CREW CHIEF: STEVE ADDINGTON.
“Smoke” goes into the 2013 season with that steel eyed look of determination that we’ve seen so many times before. He’s expected to be a major player in the Sprint Cup Chase For The Championship lineup while seeking his fourth NASCAR title. He will be making that title run with the help of veteran crew chief Steve Addington along with technical assistance and equipment from Hendrick Motorsports.
Stewart must be very serious about concentrating on that fourth title. He recently declined a standing offer from team owner Roger Penske to do the NASCAR/Indy Car double. Penske offered him a ride with one of his powerhouse teams in next May’s Indianapolis 500.
There are two Sprint Cup races on this year’s schedule that Stewart will really be paying attention to: Darlington and Kentucky. These are the only two tracks, on the modern day NASCAR schedule, that he’s never won at.
Sponsorship for the new season is somewhat of a concern for Stewart. It appears that his team still has nine open races to fill. Last year the team learned that Office Depot was leaving racing. The good news was Bass Pro Shops immediately came on board with sponsorship for 18 races. Mobil 1 returns to the #14 team as the primary sponsor for 11 races. Regarding the remaining open races, if push comes to shove, there is back up likely available from Haas Automation, a company owned by SHR co-owner Gene Haas.
RYAN NEWMAN. #39 CHEVROLET. CREW CHIEF: MATT BORLAND.
Ryan Newman’s 2013 season will bear a lot of scrutiny this year. His current contract with SHR concludes at the end of this season and that makes him one of the most high profile free agents in the Cup series. SHR is clear that they want Newman to stay if sponsors can be found and Newman is clear that he would love to stay.
Another interesting aspect here is a recent revelation from Roger Penske, Newman’s former team owner, who declared he would love to have Newman back as the driver of a fourth Cup team if sponsorship could be found. Penske is currently operating two teams but is looking to launch a third team but made it clear that long time company driver Sam Hornish Jr has the first right of occupancy for that ride. Again, if sponsors can be found, a fourth Penske team will be launched and Newman will get first right of refusal.
Looking at Newman’s prospects for 2013, one of the major positives is absolutely his reunion with veteran crew chief Matt Borland. The two men had a five year run together at Penske Racing that led to 12 Cup wins.
Late last year, SHR was informed that the U.S. Army would not be renewing their sponsorship agreement with the #39 team which sent the SHR marketing team scrambling to find replacement revenue. Meanwhile Newman signed a one year contract to remain with the team for the 2013 season. He was reported to have voluntarily taken a salary cut which is a move that has become quite common among drivers these days in view of the national economy impacting sponsorship dollars.
Regarding the team’s sponsor profile for the new season, Quicken Loans stepped up in a very big way by doubling their sponsor commitment from nine to 18 races. Wix Filters and Outback Steakhouse are signed for three races each while Aspen Dental and Code 3 Associates will be the primary sponsors for two races each.
The 2013 mission statement for Ryan Newman is very obvious: win races, make the 12 man lineup for the Chase For The Championship and develop sponsor equity that will allow him to select the program that is the best fit for him next year.
DANICA PATRICK. #10 CHEVROLET. CREW CHIEF: TONY GIBSON.
After running 10 Sprint Cup races in 2012, Danica Patrick, one of NASCAR’s most popular drivers, joins the series on a full time basis in 2013. There appears to be two basic missions here for this driver: the first is about seat time and gaining the learning experience that comes with it. That learning curve will be aided by the presence of crew chief Tony Gibson, one of the true veterans in the NASCAR garage area.
The second mission is to win the coveted NASCAR Sprint Cup Rookie Of The Year title. That mission may get a little interesting. It seems her main competition for the ROY is fellow Cup driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr the man she is reportedly dating.
Early this year there was speculation that indicated that the owner’s points from Tony Stewart’s #14 would be transferred to Patrick’s team. However, during last month’s annual NASCAR Media Tour, Stewart said he was keeping his owner’s points because he earned everyone of them and he felt Danica would be just fine without them. Stewart was effectively expressing confidence in his driver’s ability to earn a starting berth in a race based on her qualifying ability and not based on an owner’s points provisional.
In past seasons, teams in the top 35 in owner’s points were guaranteed a starting berth in the races no matter what happened during qualifying. However, new for the 2013 season, there has been a NASCAR mandated rule change that removes the long time special guarantee. Positions 1 through 36 for a race will be based solely on qualifying speeds. Positions 37 through 42 will be provisional starting berths based on the owner’s points standings. Position 43 will be reserved for a past champion’s provisional. If that policy isn’t invoked, then the final starting berth could be also based on owner’s points.
As far as the team’s sponsor profile goes Go Daddy (Dot) Com, Patrick’s long time sponsor dating back to her Indy Car days, is on board as the primary for nearly all of her races this year. There are reports that says the team has three unsponsored races on the books but that really shouldn’t be a real strain on the SHR marketing office. After all, it’s Danica Patrick in the car.