Stewart-Haas Racing, The Next Super Team?

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Stewart-Haas Racing, The Next Super Team?
(Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)

It’s often said “miracles happen everyday.” Sometimes we stumble upon an ingredient that completely changes the dynamics of a recipe, or we find that perfect balance in the soil in the garden that miraculously enhances our entire yard. Then there are times, maybe three or four times our entire life, when we find out what it is we are meant to do….and we take off with it not really knowing for sure how successful we will be with it.

It is obvious what Tony Stewart is meant to do as he enters his next phase in his racing career. Tony has found that magic we all look for when we dream of what our next phase is. It came to him in the form of becoming a Sprint Cup Team Owner.

Overnight success in not an exaggeration when it comes to Stewart-Haas Racing. In a matter of months, Stewart-Haas Racing, formerly known as Haas CNC Racing, has transformed itself from a struggling operation, into a masterpiece two-car operation piloted by drivers Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman.

MEET THE MAKER OF THE OPERATION:

Gene Haas earned a Bachelor of Science at California State University Northridge in 1975. In 1978, Haas opened Pro-turn Engineering, a small machine shop that employed two workers.

In 1980, Haas noticed that it took one of his employees a long time to manually position an indexer. Haas thought building his own indexer with a stepper motor drive would make his shop more efficient. He built one for himself and a few more for other machine shops. In March 1983, he displayed his indexer at WESTEC (an industry expo). After seeing the positive reaction of attendees, he decided to form Haas Automation to mass produce them. His first commercial product, the HBI-5C (Haas Brothers Indexer), sold well because it was programmable and inexpensive. In 1986, Haas and a partner were awarded a U.S. Patent for their invention. Pro-turn Engineering took off from there.

In 2001 Gene Haas became an associate sponsor for Hendrick Motorsports. His interest in the sport of NASCAR broadened and Haas began seeking advice from the NASCAR community on the best way to start a Sprint Cup team.

THE TEAM AND ITS FIRST FEW YEARS

In 2003, Haas and Hendrick partnered up and launched a Sprint Cup team. Jack Sprague was hired to race the car, and NetZero was introduced as the primary sponsor. The car fielded the number “zero” to incorporate the sponsor.

In the 2003 Daytona 500, the NetZero Pontiac posted a 14th place finish but fell off the map after that. John Andretti was brought in mid-way through the 2003 season. Jason Leffler and Ward Burton also ran with the team in 2003, but Haas-CNC Racing never posted a top ten finish in 2003.

In 2006, Haas fielded a second car out of the shop, making its debut in the 2006 Coca-Cola 600 as the No. 70 Yellow Transportation car with Johnny Sauter as its driver.

The next few seasons the 2-car operation enjoyed moderate success in some events, posting various top 10 finishes. The teams also went through several different drivers, car numbers, and sponsors, as well as switching to Chevrolet's after Pontiac left the sport.

OWNERSHIP MERGER

In 2008 NASCAR driver Tony Stewart announced his purchase into the Haas Racing Co. and it would become Stewart-Haas Racing. The teams 2 car operation would be housed in a race shop in Kannapolis N.C.

Sponsors Office Depot, Old Spice, and Army came on board. The team’s first car, then the No. 66 car, changed over to No. 39, and U.S. Army became the primary sponsor for the 2009 season. After the ownership merger announcement, it was announced that Ryan Newman would be the driver of the No. 39 Chevrolet.

The team’s second car, the No. 0 Chevrolet, would change over to the No. 14 Old Spice Office Depot Chevy and be raced by Stewart, as he takes his first venture into the world of driver-ownership.

It was also announced that Burger King came on board as an associate sponsor, and the ownership merger was complete.

BATTLING THE ODDS

Since the early to mid '90s, driver/car owners have never had too much success in the sport of NASCAR, although many have tried.

The best results came from the late Alan Kulwicki who won the Winston Cup Championship in 1992 as an owner/driver, and is considered by most as the only true success of the owner/driver operation.

It is believed that the lack of success from driver/owners was the primary reason that seven-time Winston Cup Champion Dale Earnhardt never left his driving duties at Richard Childress Racing to drive his own car in the series, which became competitive with driver Steve Parks behind the wheel.

Coming into 2008, the last driver owner/driver to win at the Sprint Cup level was Ricky Rudd in Martinsville Sept. 1998. Looking at the history of the sport, it was clear that Tony Stewart was looking at an uphill battle.

BECOMING A SUPER TEAM

NASCAR racing like most other sports has “dynasties” in the form of certain teams that constantly get the best of the best working for them creating what is called a super team. Super teams dominate events on a regular basis, and become the Goliath while others merely dream of even consistently competing against the super team.

In Sprint Cup Racing the super teams are viewed by most as Hendrick Motorsports, Roush Racing, Richard Childress Racing, Penske Racing, and Joe Gibbs Racing. These super teams make up almost half of the field on any given race day. Going into Dover Sunday, super teams accounted for all but three wins in 2008 and 2009. That’s 46 of 49 races.

Yet in just 14 races in 2009, Stewart-Haas Racing and its two car operation have exploded onto the scene as one of the best operations in the sport. Together Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman have combined for a total of 12 top 5’s, 18 top 10’s, and sit in first and fourth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Points Standings. Add to that a win in the Sprint Cup All-Star Challenge and this past weekends Pocono 500, and it’s safe to say that Stewart-Haas Racing and its two-headed monster will be a regular among Championship contenders for many years to come.

Even if you are not a fan of either Stewart or Newman, it’s hard not to respect the accomplishments this organization has achieved in such little time. Just think, a few more weeks under their belt, and the big red “S” will be even more visible to the rest of the racing world.

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