Stewart, Newman find successPublished 8:50am Tuesday, July 21, 2009
By SCOTT NOVAK
Niles Daily Star
No one knew what to expect when two-time Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart left Joe Gibbs Racing to form his own team.
Now, heading to the All-State 400 at the Brickyard in Indianapolis, Ind. on Sunday, no one knows how to react to the fact that both Stewart and teammate Ryan Newman are solidly inside the Top 12 of the driver standings.
With just a handful of races remaining to the Chase for the Championship, Stewart and Newman appear to be a lock to qualify for NASCAR’s post season.
The two recently traveled to Indianapolis Motor Speedway to discuss their success and how much the Brickyard means to the Hoosier state natives.
“You know, honestly this was a project that was so big that I’m not sure that we really actually set goals other than what I had instilled in Bobby Hutchens and Darian Grubb and Tony Gibson and Ryan,” Stewart answered at the press conference. “I wanted us to go to the racetrack each week, give 100 percent, and our competition meetings are on Monday. I wanted us to go back on Mondays and sit down and discuss everything that happened during the weekend; talk about the things we did right, talk about the things we did wrong, and talk on both of those sides how we can make things better for the next week. So that was my goal was just to make progress every week.
“You know, the success that we’ve had up to this point of the season has come much quicker than any of us I think would have dreamed, but we’re very pleased with it, very excited about it. I feel fortunate about it,” he added.
Newman is no stranger to the speedway and looks forward to coming each year.
“I bring different worms for the pond out here. They don’t always work,” he joked with reporters. “Realistically, it’s a place that I’m a big racing historian. I like the history of the sport, and I’ve always said to know that people A.J. Foyt and Mario Andretti and Jim Hurtubise and Mel Kenyon, all those people have been through here at some point walking the same path out to the pit lane and driving the same line on the racetrack.
“That to me means more than anything else, just the history of all of auto racing here at this racetrack. It’s a great race. It’s a unique racetrack. We all know that. It’s a lot of fun, especially when you’re up front. It seems like the straightaways become forever and you can just sit there and relax and drive the race car. I just look forward to coming here with our U.S. Army Chevrolet and trying to run good. We’re working our way to kind of solidify ourselves to be in the Chase, and that’s our goal at this point in the season is to make sure that we can lock up that position, or a position. It’s a great racetrack, a lot of great fans, both Tony and I being from this area, meaning Indiana, with the open wheel side of things, the racing that we’ve done all across every part of Indiana pretty much. I would speculate there’s very few racetracks in this state that either one of us hasn’t raced at. It’s just a great place to come back and enjoy the racing and the fans.”
Stewart has been able to find success both as a driver on the track and an owner.
He says that he has been able to keep them seperate on race weekends.
“No, honestly you can’t,” he answered when asked if he approaches races different as an owner rather than a driver. ” You know, it’s obviously an important race for both of us. That’s why we’re here today to talk about it. But it’s kind of the same that you do what got you to the dance. You hear people talk about it when it goes to playoff time or anything like that in any other sport. You pretty much stick to what you’ve been doing and what’s working for you. You don’t come here and try to do anything any different. That’s when you get yourself outside the box.
“You know, the great thing for me is I’ve got a great support structure at Stewart Haas. The great thing is it allows me the flexibility and Ryan the flexibility to just come here and worry about doing what we do best, and that’s drive.
“It’s hard to play the owner role and the driver role on the weekends. I mean, I don’t want to sit there and worry about what the tire bill is for the weekend. I want to worry about making sure I know what I need to do as a driver. You know, we’ve worked really hard to establish that system before we ever got to Daytona, and it’s worked to this point, so we won’t change it when we come here.”
Newman has found success driving for his friend, but he says while it’s is imporant, so is keeping everything in perspective.
“No different than anybody else on the team, whether it’s Tony Gibbs or Tony Stewart or the guy that’s sweeping the floor at the shop, we all have to do our part,” Newman pointed out. “Like Tony was talking, it’s a people business. People make the big difference in everything that we do. They build the race cars, they work together to do pit stops and everything else.
“Our friendship is definitely important. As I stated, our friendship off the racetrack to me weighs sometimes more than our friendship on the racetrack.”
When asked about Stewart as an owner, Newman didn’t hesitate with his answer.
“I’d say overall just his ability to manage the people and get the right people, which is not an easy thing to do,” he said. “But his level headedness, his calmness when it comes to the different situations, just how he’s adapted himself from a driver to a driver/car owner is pretty amazing.
“I think that’s the same thing that a lot of people have asked, just like was asked earlier, what’s it like to be a driver/owner in your situation and be successful. It takes a big person to do that. I didn’t mean that size wise, I meant that mentally.”
Stewart and Newman will try to continue their dream seasons on Sunday at the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard.
The race can be seen live on ESPN beginning at 1 p.m.