Motivational speaker “Zig” Ziglar said it best- “If you help enough people get what they want, you’ll get what you want.” The man’s got more money than Davey Crockett, so I’d say he knows what he’s talking about.
If you’re like me, you’ve had the privilege of working for people who treated you so well, you’d run through walls for them. All things being equal (and sometimes they’re not), these folks get the top performers who produce top results.
By every indication, Tony Stewart gets this.
“Smoke” says the fundamental lesson he takes away from his 10 years at Joe Gibbs Racing was that having good people in your organization was the key to success. One look at the hires that have occurred since, and Stewart is surrounding himself with good people.
First- there’s racing teammate Ryan Newman. While his last 3 seasons at Penske have been nothing to write home about, we know from his track record that Newman is a master qualifier with over 40 poles and he’s won over a dozen races- including the 2008 Daytona 500. A fellow Hoosier, Newman fits hand in glove with Stewart.
It’s hard to imagine the “Rushville Rocket” without friend and crew chief Greg Zipadelli, however Stewart has chosen wisely with the hiring of Darian Grubb. You Jimmie Johnson fans may remember Grubb ably filled the gargantuan shoes of Chad Knaus when he was suspended at the outset of the 2006, and there’s no question he gained valuable experience while serving in the Hendrick organization. Tony Gibson will make the calls for Newman’s team. Gibson brings valuable experience from his days at DEI, having worked for the likes of Dale Earnhardt Jr., Mark Martin, Michael Waltrip and Steve Park among others.
Stewart- Haas also has good money coming in. As the revamped organization has come together, sponsors have been eager to jump on board. Former Carl Edwards sponsor Office Depot will sponsor Stewart’s #14 as well as a familiar Stewart partner in Old Spice. After speculation that they’d remain with DEI’s #8, the U.S. Army has come on board with Newman’ #39. Haas Automation will pony up the sponsor dollars when the Army is not on the hood. Burger King has also jumped on board.
Perhaps the biggest sign of good things to come is what will be under the Stewart- Haas hoods. Chevrolet has enjoyed a long and mutually beneficial relationship with Stewart, and while they’ll be the nameplate on the cars, even bigger is the Hendrick engines.
Even though the U.S. economy has been flagging, and it’s meant a more low-key approach in owner’s showing appreciation around the holidays, Stewart threw a big Christmas party as his way of saying “thanks” for a team that hasn’t had the chance to really do anything for him yet. It’s a small gesture, but its those kind of gestures that foster a culture of family, a culture of teamwork. It makes for a place you’re happy to go to on Monday morning.
There are no guarantees of success in NASCAR Sprint Cup racing’s highly competitive environment. Stewart knows what he’s up against at JGR, not to mention other well-heeled teams such as Roush- Fenway, Childress and HMS to name a few. It’s not hard to imagine those first few outings might be a little uneven in spots.
But Smoke and Newman won’t get cheated on effort. I expect at least one if not both drivers will be in the Chase.
It also doesn’t hurt that this organization is NOT being built from the ground up. The former Haas-CNC team already had the template in place- just needing someone to blend it all together. It’s got to be nice not have to hunt for office and garage space, and deal with all the small details a driver/owner would rather not hassle with.
Let’s also not forget that this isn’t Stewart’s first rodeo. He also owns a number of race tracks and has experience with other race team ventures.
Winning seems to follow some people wherever they go. Whatever you may think of his mercurial personality- let there be no doubt Tony Stewart is a winner and he’s surrounded himself with winners.
Considering his racing hero is A.J. Foyt- it makes sense that in some ways, Stewart is following in the legend’s footsteps.
You can’t help but cheer for this team. In a sport dominated by “super teams”- Stewart- Haas Racing seems to be the best poised to shake things up.
PHOTO CREDITS- Stewart, Newman and Newman car photo by stewarthaasfan. Stewart car photo by lanceold. More of their photography may be seen at flickr.com.