By Toby Christie (Originally appeared on RubbingsRacing.com)
Tony Stewart made a huge mistake. He decided to leave a team that has helped him reach two Nascar Sprint Cup Championships. What is he thinking? Is he preparing to retire?
That’s what everyone was saying last year around this time following Tony Stewart’s announcement that he was leaving Joe Gibbs Racing, to drive for Haas CNC racing which he was given part ownership in. Heck I’ll admit it I had my doubts in the move… I mean sure he was basically just handed ownership of a Sprint Cup team, but lets be honest Haas CNC racing was far less than stellar until 2009.
Tony Stewart turned around the shaky team by bringing in all new people such as Bobby Hutchins (formerly of Richard Childress Racing) and his crew chief Darian Grubb (from Hendrick Motorsports). Also with Stewart came strong sponsorship backing which the team was lacking in the past, and a talented teammate in Ryan Newman. The team was an over night transformation from Haas CNC to Stewart-Haas Racing.
The team came out strong and fast and performed excellent all season, Stewart captured the checkered flag in four points paying races this season, as well as taking the top spot in the Sprint All-Star Challenge, Stewart was also the points leader before the Chase For the Cup reset took place.
Not only was Tony Stewart’s performance amazing this season, but so was Ryan Newman’s. Newman had been written off and forgotten by many, but he came out this season and proved he still has the talent to make it into the chase.
Nobody would have been able to predict that Tony Stewart would have been this competitive this fast in his own equipment, except Smoke himself of course. Now it appears Stewart is poised to eventually become the first owner/driver to win a championship since Alan Kulwicki did so in 1992.
His run for the title in 2009 may be over, but considering he was in the chase he is far ahead of where everyone was expecting him to be going into year two of being an owner. Trust me I won’t be under-estimating what this team can do next season and neither should anyone else.