Well I did.
Don’t believe me? Click here for a post I wrote last July about Stewart becoming half owner of then Haas CNC Racing. At the time, there was a lot of talk that Tony Stewart may never win another race, and that he may be ruining his career. I disagreed.
I don’t think anyone (including myself) thought he would be doing as well as he is at this point, but I said then that I knew he would not be fighting to stay in the top 35 week after week.
Currently, after seven races, Stewart sits fifth in the standings with two top fives and five top tens. His Stewart Haas Racing teammate, Ryan Newman, struggled early on, but appears to be turning his season in the right direction. He currently holds down the 17th spot in points, and has two top ten finishes.
The keys to their success so far this year have been the decisions made by Stewart and his management, and the support from Hendrick Motorsports.
One of those decisions that has made a huge impact was the hiring of Bobby Hutchens. With Hutchens leading the way at SHR, the transition for Stewart & Co. has been very smooth. Hutchens came to SHR after very successful stints running the competition areas at both Richard Childress Racing and Dale Earnhardt Inc.
Add to that the hiring of Darien Grubb, Jeff Meendering, Tony Gibson, Kevin Pennell, and the decision to retain Matt Borland, and you’ve got a very stout core. All have had success and Grubb, Meendering, and Gibson all come to Stewart Haas with experience at Hendrick and direct knowledge of their system. They know how to get the most out of the support they are receiving from HMS.
What I think is truly interesting about Stewart and Hutchens taking control at Haas, is that while some changes were made, they did retain quite a few original Haas employees. It would seem that many of the right elements were in place, they were just missing that something extra to make it all work.
That all important support from Hendrick is the other main key to their success. While Haas was getting help before this season, it took the right folks to make it work. And I think the question of whether or not Stewart would be getting good stuff from HMS has been answered. How could Rick Hendrick not take full advantage of having six championship caliber drivers in his equipment?
A third important factor for SHR this season has been the addition of key sponsors. Stewart coming over to Haas gave them credibility and notoriety over night. Office Depot, Old Spice, and the US Army all signed on for the season and have provided the much needed funding to take this team to the next level.
Going forward, it certainly isn’t unrealistic to think that Stewart will compete for wins this season. He’s already led laps and shown he can contend. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Stewart make the Chase, and for Newman to come very close.