2011 Team Preview: Stewart-Haas Racing

Stewart-Haas Racing

Stewart-Haas Racing returns with Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman in 2011. (Photo: Getty Images)

The 2011 to-do list for Stewart-Haas Racing has a clear top line. Get the two-car team back to where they were two years ago. Both Owner-Driver Tony Stewart and teammate Ryan Newman are by no means pleased with where they find themselves today.

Stewart: “We finished seventh the last two years, and that’s definitely not where we want to be." (Photo: Jeff Wackerlin)“We finished seventh the last two years, and that’s definitely not where we want to be,” Stewart said. “We’ve got to make sure that we give Ryan (Newman) and me the best opportunities we can to not only win races and make the Chase, but have an opportunity to win the Chase, too. We’ll keep building this program and trying to grow and make sure that we’re insuring the future of this team by making sure we can compete for race wins and championships.”

Newman isn’t happy with his final 2010 numbers, but believes that the final 10 races set the stage for this year.

“We had some really good runs,” Newman explains. “We had some really good finishes. With the exception of Talladega and losing the rear gear at Martinsville, I think we would have been a top-four car in those last 10 races. It’s the strongest end to a season I’ve had in a long time and that definitely carries over. “

Stewart admits, though, that getting two cars, including his Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevy, into the Chase is no easy task.

Tony Stewart's Office Depot and Mobil 1 paint schemes. (Photo: Jeff Wackerlin)“You sit there at the end of the year and you evaluate what you did right, and what you did wrong,” Stewart says. “Even the things you did right last year aren’t necessarily going to be right this year. That’s the hard part. It’s really hard to gauge where you’re going to be and how successful you’re going to be until you get around everybody else.

“I think a perfect example of that is Richard Childress Racing. Two years ago they were really behind. Then last year, they were ahead of the game. They were a factor every week. Everybody’s going to make their programs better. It’s just who makes the biggest gain, and is that going to be good enough to get you on top of the field.”

Newman thinks that his biggest contribution to success for Stewart-Haas could come from getting a better start to his third season behind the wheel of the U.S. Army/Tornados Chevy.

“Everybody wants to get off to a good start, but ultimately, you control a big part of it, and racing luck controls the rest,” Newman said. “We started the season with two DNFs last year. By the first Pocono, we were back in the Chase by a few points. That was a really good comeback, but we didn’t follow through. Our last 10 races proved that we should have and could have followed through and made it into the chase.”

This is definitely the time of year for goals, and Newman has a couple.

“Ultimately, my biggest goal this year is to win a race for the U.S. Army,” Newman said. “We haven’t done that the first two years. With a four-star General in attendance, I’d love to win the Daytona 500.”
 
Although Newman won at Phoenix International Raceway last year, it was with Tornados as primary sponsor.

Newman also knows what he doesn’t want in 2011.

Stewart-Haas enters its third season in 2011. (Photo: Jeff Wackerlin)“I don’t want to be 12th going into Richmond (in September). I don’t want to be eighth. I want to be first, going into Richmond, knowing that I have a championship caliber team, and that we can focus on those next 10 races,” Newman said. “We haven’t done that yet as a team. I’ve always said that we’re capable of it. We, as a team, have to do our jobs, have to put ourselves in position each and every time, each and every opportunity, to not fail, and to succeed as drivers and teammates, and as an organization.”

When people start discussing expansion, Stewart-Haas Racing often is brought into the mix. Stewart says he agrees with partner Gene Haas’ vision of becoming a four-car team, but maintains there is no set timetable for growth.

Tony Stewart's hauler is ready to return to Daytona to kick off the season. (Photo: Jeff Wackerlin)“I think the one thing that’s important to us is making sure that when we make that decision to add a third car, and add a fourth car down the road, that it’s calculated, and done at the right time,” Stewart said. “We’ve seen organizations that have tried to build too quick, too soon, and have really put themselves behind the 8-ball doing that. We’ve got a good group of people here, and we’ll make that decision when we all think it’s the right time. It’s got to be the right opportunity. We’re not going to add teams just to add teams.”

Tune in tomorrow when MotorRacingNetwork.com previews Roush Fenway Racing.

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