Saturday, January 26, 2013

Stewart-Haas Racing Gears Up for 2013 Season

Credit: Jamey Price/Getty Images for NASCAR
Ryan Newman, Tony Stewart and Danica Patrick of Stewart-Haas Racing
on Jan. 21, 2013 in Concord, N.C.
When the NASCAR Media Tour stopped off at Stewart-Haas Racing, there was plenty to talk about. Heading into his fifth season as a team owner, Tony Stewart fielded questions about the inaugural NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Eldora Speedway and about either he or Danica Patrick running the Indy 500. Patrick faced questions about a potential showdown with her former boss, Dale Earnhardt Jr., for Most Popular Driver and of course, about Indy.

Stewart indicated he hasn't ruled out accepting Roger Penske's offer to field an entry in the prestigious race, just not this season. "I feel like that's the perfect team to go and do enough with the month of May with," Stewart explained. "But I still feel like for me as a driver, I would need to start the year with that team and run through the month of May to really feel like the first day of practice that I was competitive and where I needed to be." As for Patrick running at Indy, he said, "I'm supportive of it if she wants to do it. The biggest thing, though, is the primary job at hand, and that's the Cup Series and making sure that we're where we need to be here."

Patrick agreed, saying perhaps in the future both she and Stewart could run the prestigious race. "I mean, it's something that obviously it just didn't work out for this year," she said. "I think it's most important to focus on the Cup effort. It's going to be two handfuls of work this year. It's going to be very challenging."

Regarding Most Popular Driver, Patrick said, "I'm sure there will be plenty of opportunities to show some personality and some character this year, so we'll just have to see if that's enough to make it interesting. Dale obviously has a huge following, and he does a great job, and he deserves it. We'll just play it by day."

Stewart was asked if he planned to switch points with Patrick to ensure she makes the first few races now that the qualifying rules have changed. “No. I worked hard for my points," he quipped. While the media corps laughed, Stewart said, "That's the confidence I have in her, though. I really feel like Tony and that team has done a great job with building her a great car for Daytona, and I feel like she's definitely got the talent and capability of racing her way in and hopefully just qualifying in where we don't have to worry about the qualifying races. But I think she'll do a great job on her own."

The Truck race at Eldora comes up in almost every conversation about the 2013 season, even for fans who don't follow the Camping World Truck Series. Stewart said the race had less than a thousand reserved seats available. "We've sold over 16,000 seats to the event already. Things are going well and progressing, and it's ‑‑ pretty excited about it. It's moving along very well." He didn't say that he would be entering the race himself, but he didn't rule it out either.

Jamey Price/Getty Images for NASCAR
(L-R) Greg Zipadelli, Ryan Newman, Matt Borland, Tony Stewart,
 Steve Addington, Danica Patrick, Tony Gibson 
Also on hand to answer questions were Director of Competition Greg Zipadelli and crew chiefs Steve Addington, Matt Borland and Tony Gibson. Addington is beginning his second season with the No. 14 team and Borland is atop the pit box full time for the first time since 2006. Zipadelli relinquished his seat atop the No. 10 to Gibson for the last two races of 2012 and can now focus fully on his position as Director of Competition.

When asked to rate the SHR cars against the others on the track at the Daytona and Charlotte tests,
Zipadelli replied, "Daytona all the cars showed decent speed. They made some gains. And the same thing at Charlotte, if you just look at the speeds. I think you've got to wait until you see when you're in competition. There's 43 cars on there, how your cars drive, and just how they react and things of that nature. I think so far I don't think we're in any panic, but there's certainly a lot more work to do."

Addington looks forward to the new car and season. “I'm excited about it. It's wiping the slate clean to go out and try to figure this new car out," he said. "Made a few changes on the team with a couple of guys that moved in to give us support back at the shop off the 14 car and got new engineer and shock guy and a couple of mechanics and just getting a team to work together. But moving guys that were really, really good and smart guys into seven‑post room to give us support at the shop to go to the racetrack and be competitive." He concluded, "But looking forward to getting on top of this thing before other teams and excited about it, to represent Bass Pro and Mobil 1 and go out and win races."

In preparation for Patrick's transition to full-time Cup racing, Gibson was moved over to the No. 10 team and Borland, whom Stewart promoted from Technical Director to Vice-President of Competition in 2011, came out of R&D to reunite with Ryan Newman. Newman and Borland earned 12 wins and 37 poles in 187 races between 2000 and 2006 while at Penske Racing, and did well in the Texas and Phoenix races at the end of 2012 when Gibson was working with Patrick.

Borland said about Newman that he's "really looking forward to working with him again, just kind of we got a little taste of that end of last year, and looking forward to getting that rolling again. We've got a whole new group of guys on that team, and looking forward to starting gelling and getting better and better, and then when we get to the racetrack, get back to winning poles, leading laps, winning races, representing everybody well, and that's what our goals are."

Newman agreed. "Matt and I, as you alluded to, have a great past. We have also failed at times, so we've learned from those experiences, and that's why we're back together. It's not just us; we have a big part of the team from a crew standpoint behind us that have a very big impact on how successful we are."
Credit: Lisa Janine Cloud/Skirts and Scuffs

Veteran crew chief Tony Gibson, moving over from the No. 39 team, seems to get along well with Patrick. Gibson climbed on the No. 10 pit box in Texas and Phoenix for Patrick last season, which were her two best Cup finishes of the year, 24th at Texas and 17th at Phoenix.

“We want to run good, we want to gel as a team," Gibson explained. "And like I said, it's so exciting to have a driver that is so pumped up each day to get in the car, and the feedback that she's been giving us is tremendous, and it's been a lot of fun to experience that again."


Janine, aka Lisa or LJ, Cloud, a fifth-generation Texan, lives in Houston and considers Texas Motor Speedway her home track. She's been a part of the Skirts and Scuffs team since May, 2011, going from contributor to media rep, photographer, and associate editor covering both NASCAR and IZOD IndyCar. Janine considers it a privilege to represent the site at the track and to share with readers the excitement of the world of motorsports.

Follow her on Twitter @ljc777.

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