STEWART STILL A TRAILBLAZER

Since day one of his NASCAR career, Tony Stewart has been doing what they said couldn’t be done. Let’s examine the evidence.

Open wheelers don’t succeed in NASCAR. Tony Stewart was a winner right out of the gate. The former IRL and USAC stud won three races his rookie year, won a championship in his fourth year and won yet another championship by his seventh year.

Passionate, politically incorrect drivers are a pariah for sponsors. While I’m sure Tony Stewart caused former bosses Joe and J.D. Gibbs to grimace, he not only enjoyed a positive relationship with Home Depot during his JGR career, he was also able to quickly secure sponsorships when announced his move to Haas-CNC as a driver/owner.

It’s too difficult to enjoy success in this day and age as a driver/ owner. There are too many hats to wear. One could understand the sentiment. While his organization is beginning to gain success, Michael Waltrip appears headed for retirement as a driver next year to focus his energy on ownership. Robby Gordon works incredibly hard but struggles to stay competitive.

What makes Tony Stewart different?

The answer is the cardinal lesson he took away from his days at Joe Gibbs. The reason the team founded by the legendary football coach succeeded was because of people. Coach didn’t attempt to be chief cook and bottle washer. He hired good people and he let them do what they do best.

Tony Stewart has done the same thing. Former HMS supervisor Darian Grubb has been a stellar hire for Stewart. Smoke trusts his pit boss and Grubb has rewarded that trust by hooking up his driver with front-running cars every week.

Darian Grubb, left, has done the impossible. He has kept Tony Stewart happy.

Stewart forged another winning relationship with the driver of SHR’s second team, the No. 39 piloted by Ryan Newman. The two make a great combination in that they balance each other out. Where one driver is weak, the other is strong. It’s not hard to imagine the exchange of information benefits each and the results speak for themselves with both drivers running in the top five for the season.

Speaking of Newman, Tony Gibson has proved an excellent choice as crew chief for Newman. The former employee of DEI provided the leadership to help Newman’s crew through mechanical problems at Pocono for a top-five finish. After fits and starts early on, the 39 team has hits stride and may provide Stewart with fierce competition.

Competition director Bobby Hutchens is also a person whose name in mentioned frequently by Stewart as a major player in the success of the Stewart-Haas team. Hutchens also came over from DEI, an organization that was a formidable player earlier this decade.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. There are numerous others behind the scenes that enable Stewart to direct his focus to the track. He’s the first to tell you that.

As we watch Tony Stewart achieve goals in his new venture at a far faster rate than anyone envisioned, it’s not hard to imagine that we’ll look back several years from now and see that, once again, Tony Stewart was a trailblazer.

(Editor’s note: All Left Turns guest columnist Jim McCoy edits bump-drafts.com.)

Jim McCoy’s previous column:

‘Mr. Clutch’ comes through again