Senior staff writer
Ever wonder about Tony Stewart’s abilities to be a NASCAR team co-owner?
Hoosiers who have followed his career know about his USAC, IndyCar and NASCAR championships as a driver, but only a few are on the inside as his team drivers.
First-year Stewart-Haas Racing driver Clint Bowyer provided a great insight as he recalled that Stewart was Santa Claus at the team Christmas party last year.
“He was jolly ol’ St. Nick,” Bowyer said. “He made all the employees there feel like family.”
Then Bowyer grinned and said, “By the way, Tony fit perfectly in the outfit.”
Bowyer is Stewart’s replacement in the No. 14 Mobil I Ford for the NASCAR Cup Series with teammates Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch and Danica Patrick.
Harvick, in his fourth year at SHR, said, “When you’re around Tony you know how he can be (with) the competitive element. He’s good with people, gathering information, processing it and going out and making things happen … he just says something when he has his thoughts gathered.”
Stewart retired from NASCAR driving after 18 years, three championships and 49 wins, including two Brickyard 400 triumphs.
Nevertheless, Stewart’s desire to race finds him looking at 60-plus sprint/midget races, mostly on dirt, including two quarter-midget events at county fairs close to home. The earth-shaking Little 500 at Anderson Speedway on the night before the Indianapolis 500 is on his bucket list too.
“It’s going to be fun trying,” he said to reporters at the recent Chili Bowl in Tulsa, Okla., where he helped prepare the dirt surface.
His sprint car efforts will be sponsored mainly by Rush Truck Centers, an associate sponsor of his recent seasons. He will stick with longtime Chevy power until Ford develops an engine.
He will have an involvement in the Indianapolis 500 with the Tony Stewart Foundation emphasis on Team One Cure for cancer as car sponsor on the No 77 Schmidt Peterson Dallara-Honda entry.
Earlier this month at his racing headquarters, he explained the team’s historic NASCAR switch from Chevrolet to Ford. SHR is building its chassis and aligned with Roush-Yates engines for the first time.
“When we first started meeting with Ford it was very apparent that there were a lot of things they had to offer that we hadn’t seen before and were huge asset for us,” Stewart said. “That’s why we made a serious look at it and ultimately made the decision to switch over.”
SHR will field an Xfinity Series car for the first time.