So, the switch has been made. The news has broken. The waiting is over. Tony Stewart is leaving Joe Gibbs Racing.
How could one possibly want to leave the clear-cut best team in NASCAR this year?
Tony Stewart is ready to move on and tackle the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in 2009 with a team of his own, but is this the right move?
There's no doubt about it. Love him or hate him, Tony Stewart is a championship contending driver annually. Can he do it as an owner/driver?
When I think of drivers becoming team owners, I always think of Michael Waltrip.
Of course, Tony is in a completely different league than Waltrip, but the principle remains the same, once you're an owner, you have more priorities.
Now, Stewart will not be in this alone in 2009. Haas CNC will be combing with Stewart to form Haas/Stewart racing, but Haas CNC racing has never shined on the Sprint Cup Series level.
Johnny Sauter has the best finish for Haas CNC, a fifth place at Richmond in 2007.
Tony will have to focus more on the ownership aspect of racing, rather than focusing on winning his third Sprint Cup championship.
Daytona 500 winning driver Ryan Newman is to join Stewart/Haas racing in 2009, but will that really make things better for Stewart since Newman has been struggling for the last three seasons?
Seems like 2009 is already a struggle for one of NASCAR's most popular drivers.
Toyota powertrain seems to have been the deciding factor for Tony to leave Joe Gibbs Racing.
It really hasn't hurt him this season. He stands tenth in the race for the Sprint Cup title.
Toyota certainly hasn't hurt his teammates Denny Hamlin or Kyle Busch either.
Hamlin has scored one win and is twelfth in the point standings.
And Kyle Busch has dominated the series all year long in a Toyota. He stands in first place with seven wins this year.
How could one leave the most dominant team in NASCAR this year to start anew?
I firmly believe this will be the end of Tony Stewart's "prime."
Just becuase he is now back behind the wheel of a Chevy does not mean that he will be successful.
NASCAR is extremely competitive, and the Car of Tomorrow makes the playing field level for all teams, therefore, the powertrain is not nearly as significant as it was years ago.
Toyota should not be reprimanded for causing Stewart to leave. The competition is so close, there is a chance for anyone to shine now. Just look at David Ragan and Brian Vickers.
Stewart is going to have to earn everything himself next year. No more Greg Zippideli as crew chief.
When drivers become owners, the driving gets put on the back burner, and the ownership tasks take precedence.
Now, Stewart will be focusing on getting all of his cars into the race since they will most likely be out of the top thirty-five at next season's start.
Also, he will be thinking of the many ways to generate revenue for the team, and searching for sponsors.
There will be a heavy weight on Stewart's shoulders next season. Lot's of questions for 2009.
Stewart made a mistake leaving JGR for 2009. Don't expect Stewart to be hoisting any trophy next year. 2008 is his last hope.
Aaron Stella MT(ASCP)