New Car, New Lineup at SHR
By: John Singler - @JohnSingler2 on January 21, 2013 | 4:46 P.M. EST
Tony Stewart (front, center) is flanked by Ryan Newman and Danica Patrick as Stewart-Haas Racing kicked off the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Media Tour on Monday afternoon. (Photo: Jeff Wackerlin)
Stewart-Haas Racing kicked off the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Media Tour on Monday afternoon in Concord, N.C., with much of the conversation centering on the new Sixth-Generation racecar.
The organization is nearing its 300th Cup Series race since debuting in 2009, and has expanded from two cars to three with the addition of Danica Patrick in the No. 10 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet.
Owner-driver Tony Stewart is eager to get its fifth season underway and likes what he sees so far in the new Cup Series car.
“The off-season has been very busy,” said the three-time champion, hoping to rebound from a ninth-place finish in the final 2013 point standings. “It’s taken a little while to get all the parts and pieces for the new car. But I’m proud of what I see in this team.
“If these cars race as well as they drive, we’re going to have cool year.”
Stewart’s equally enthusiastic about the new driver in his lineup. Patrick is moving up from the Nationwide Series to a full-time schedule in Cup, and Stewart says she’s ready to advance.
“When drivers first come along, it takes some time and then there’s one day when it just starts clicking,” Stewart said, noting that he believes that day will come soon for Patrick. “Watching her drive these cars, I see a lot of potential there.”
Crew Chief Tony Gibson concurs.
“The sky’s the limit,” said Gibson, who started last season on Ryan Newman’s No. 39 Quicken Loans Chevrolet but moves to Patrick’s team for 2013. “We’re setting small goals and when we achieve one, we’ll go on to the next one. We want to come out of each weekend with a positive.”
Patrick says all the resources and support needed for success is available to her at SHR.
“Tony (Stewart) has given me a great team and everyone’s upbeat,” she said. “He leads by example: he’s having fun, he’s going to work his butt off and we’re going out to get results no matter what it takes. Everybody wants to be a part of that.”
A full year of Nationwide Series competition in 2013, during which she placed 10th in points, has Patrick well-positioned for her rookie season at the next level.
“All the experience I had last season is going to make me a little more comfortable moving into this year,” she said. “We still have a lot to do and there’s much that I haven’t experienced. The goal in the beginning is always to finish laps and this year, we’ll have a little more of a focus on getting good results.”
Stewart was asked if he was considering a shift of owner points from his No. 14 Mobil 1/Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet over to Patrick’s No. 10 car, to assure her of a spot in early-season races.
“No,” he quickly replied. “That’s the confidence I have in her. She’ll do a great job on her own.”
As for Newman’s No. 39 team, it’s now under the direction of crew chief Matt Borland – who had previously worked with Newman in the same capacity at Penske Racing.
“Matt and I have a great past,” he said. “But we also failed together at times. We’ve learned from those mistakes and that’s why we’re back together.”
Newman, who’s been part of Stewart-Haas Racing since its debut in 2009, says team chemistry will be the key to a quick start in 2013.
“How the team adapts to the new car is probably more important than how the driver adapts to it,” said Newman, hoping to return to the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup after finishing 14th and missing the post-season in 2012.
As for Stewart’s No. 14 team, crew chief Steve Addington is putting the disappointments of 2013 away for good.
“We’re wiping the slate clean and getting a fresh start with this new car,” he said. “We’re hoping to get out on top of it before the other teams do.”
Regarding that new Sixth-Generation Cup Series car, Competition Director Greg Zipadelli put it in perspective.
“It’s still a racecar,” he noted, “four springs, four shocks, four tires – not radically different than what we’ve had.”
And on the sponsorship front, Stewart says the three-car team is on solid footing heading into the new season.
“We still have nine races open on the ‘14’,” he said, “eight or nine on the ‘39’ and three on Danica’s car. But the interest is there, so I feel good. If it wasn’t, then I’d be a little more concerned.”