Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Driver #14, Tony Stewart
It appears that Tony Stewart, who recently became equal partners in Haas CNC Racing, forming Stewart Haas Racing, will be driving the number 14 Chevrolet next year, with Office Depot and Old Spice as sponsors. I'm not sure whether Old Spice will sponsor one car and Office Depot the other, but it appears that sponsorship will be present in 2009 for both Stewart Haas Racing cars.
I am happy for Tony Stewart, for it appears that he has achieved both of his primary goals, which were team ownership and a move back to Chevrolet after driving Toytotas for Joe Gibbs Racing in 2008. Tony's cars will be supplied with Hendrick engines and other Hendrick technology. With the right people behind the scenes, there is no reason that Stewart Haas Racing should not be competitive next year.
The number of the car that Tony will be driving is significant as well. A.J. Foyt drove the number 14 from the early 1980's until 1992. A.J. never raced full time in Nascar, but still managed an impressive 7 wins out of only 128 starts. A.J. Foyt's first start in Cup was in 1963 at age 28. His last start was in 1994 at age 59. A.J. Foyt was a winner in virtually every type of racing he ever attempted.
The same can be said for Tony Stewart, a former IRL champion, a former Sprint car champion, and a two time Cup champion with 32 wins to his credit thus far. Like his hero, Tony has won at every level of racing, and he's won races in every type of car he's every attempted to race in. Tony, like his hero A.J. Foyt, is a true champion in every sense of the word. That Tony Stewart picked the number 14 came as no surprise to me. Back when the talk first surfaced that Tony wanted to be a team owner, I thought at that time that the number 14 would be perfect for Tony.
Tony and A.J. Foyt are a lot alike in other ways besides their prowess behind the wheel of a race car. Both are known to be outspoken men who are not afraid to speak their minds. A.J. Foyt was known as somewhat of a brawler, and though we haven't seen Tony in an outright fist fight with anyone, he has been known to lash out, sometimes physically when he's frustrated. Neither of these men appear to have a very high tolerance for nonsense. In a lot of ways, I think Nascar would be a better sport if there was less nonsense and more racing, but I'll discuss that further at a later time.
Both A.J. and Tony are known for being hard chargers on the track as well. Their style could possibly be termed as 'finessed aggressiveness'. Both drivers grew up racing on dirt, where precise car control is a must for success. Both learned early in their careers how to find the limits of their race cars and how to push those limits. Both drivers have had hard wrecks in their careers, but both drivers have also won a ton of races.
I've been a fan of Tony Stewart since he began driving in Nascar back in 1999. Tony is without a doubt the most successful driver to come straight from open wheel racing to the stock cars of Nascar. In his rookie season, Tony won 3 times, which is twice more than did Juan Pablo Montoya in his rookie year in 2007. To me, Tony is somewhat of a throwback to the heydays of Petty, Allison, Yarborough, and Pearson. Tony is a tough guy, not afraid of a fight. He would have fit right in with the tough guys who drove and won a lot back in the 1960's and 1970's, where sometimes on track disputes were settled off the track behind the hauler after the race. Racing at any level has always been a tough business, and in racing, it could be said that the difference between a good driver and a bad driver is the degree of toughness they can achieve, or at least display. It's pretty much survival of the toughest. Tony Stewart is one of the toughest.
I'm happy for Tony Stewart in his new endeavor. I'm glad to see him walk away from Joe Gibbs Racing, because though I've got a lot of respect for Coach Gibbs, I really hate seeing Tony drive in that highly paid kindergarten class made up of Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and the greatest thing since sliced bread, Joey Logano.
This week, we're off to Indianapolis, which is probably by far Tony's favorite track. Tony hasn't won the Indy 500, yet, but he has won the Brickyard 400 2 times. I'm going to make an early prediction, which I never do, but I'm going to go out on the limb right now and say that Tony Stewart is my odds on favorite to win at Indy in 2008. If he does, it will be his first win of 2008, and to me there's not a better sight in the world to see than Stewart win at Indianapolis. Well, except maybe seeing an Earnhardt win at Daytona.