The 2008 Sprint Cup Series season hasn't quite been up to expectations. However, Tony Stewart still managed to grab our attention when he announced that he would be leaving Joe Gibbs Racing at season's end to begin driving for his own team beginning in 2009.
Stewart's team will field two cars on the cup level, with Ryan Newman leaving Penske Racing to drive the other car for Stewart. It's extremely hard to drive for your own team, just ask Michael Waltrip or Robby Gordon, but Stewart has a reunion that he's looking forward to. He'll be back in the seat of a Chevrolet Monte Carlo.
Stewart has driven for three different manufacturers in his Cup career and arguably had his best days in a Chevy. From 2003-2007, Stewart won 17 races, five each in 2005, when he won his second Cup championship, and the following year in 2006 when he narrowly missed the chase but ran strong in the final 10 races. Along with the wins, Stewart had 65 top-five finishes, 104 top-10 finishes, four poles, and led almost 6,000 laps in 180 races.
Stewart started his career in a Pontiac to great results. He had 15 wins, 54 top fives, 89 top 10s, six poles, and led over 3,600 laps in 140 races. However, unlike his time with Chevy, his championship season with Pontiac wasn't his best from a statistical standpoint. His numbers were better by almost every standpoint in 2000.
Stewart's best season was 2005 in a Chevrolet because he had more wins, top fives, top 10s, poles, laps led, earnings, and success throughout his time with Chevy. It was the only season in his career in which he averaged better than a top-10 finish, and he was running at the finish of every race but one. Stewart is hopeful that he can renew his past success with Chevy and get his new team off to a great start next season.
Stewart just hasn't has any success in a Toyota this season, and it is because of lack of equipment. Kyle Busch proved all season that Toyotas are plenty fast enough to win on the Cup level. I know Stewart has one win this season, but that is a career-low for him. He's well on track for one of his worst seasons since he started in Cup in 1999, and the problem for him is that there's barely any time left to change that.
Stewart has taken the direct approach into making sure his team is ready when they head to Daytona for Speedweeks in 2009. He has already begun putting the right people in place and taking a very hands-on approach so that everything is ready to be continued as soon as he finishes his time with JGR.
This is a big move for Stewart because he has at least until he's 40 to run very competitively, and you've got to wonder if he's making this decision too early in his career.
Whether it's right or wrong, it's certainly going to be fun to watch him next season.
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