Tony Stewart threw down some whoppers this year, literally and figuratively. Not only was Stewart involved in the single best promotion of the year, but he also stunned the NASCAR world with his work on and off the track. As a result, Whopper Man is our No. 8 story of 2009.
Stewart left the stability of Joe Gibbs Racing and Home Depot sponsorsihp to become a driver/owner at Stewart Haas Racing. Before Stewart arrived, Haas was a complete non-factor, even though they had an engine relationship with Hendrick Motorsports. Most views SHR as an expansion team that was going to take its lumps for a few years before making a real impact.
Stewart pooped on that premise. He won in his 14th career start as a driver/owner and was first in the points before they were reset for the Chase. Stewart ended up with a fourth place finish for the season, and his teammate Ryan Newman finished ninth. Keep in mind, not a single soul associated with Haas had ever won a race, let alone sniffed the Chase
Where are we now?
SHR has gone from afterthought to major player. Stewart was linked to a possible deal with Danica Patrick. There are also tons of rumors suggesting SHR will add a third team, possibly with Kevin Harvick. SHR also has blended sponsors to better ensure success long term. On a personal note, I can only hope it means more promotional opportunities to use the word "Estrada."
Why should you care?
As a racing fan, you’re probably frustrated with all the stories talking about how financially challenged certain elements of the sport are. Others are sick of Hendrick cleaning everyone’s clock. SHR is the first team to take the leap from mid-major to big time in this modern conglomerate ear of racing. And while many thought it would eventually happen, to happen this quickly is a sign good people with good relationships can do good things. Some may not like Tony Stewart, but 2009 cemented his legacy as one of NASCAR’s kings. At least he has access to a cool crown.