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DATE News (chronologically)
07/18/08
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Stewart-Haas to get plenty of help from Hendrick  A lot of teams breathed a sigh of relief a couple of weeks ago when it was announced that Mark Martin would fill the empty seat at Hendrick Motorsports.

They were happy because the rumor that Tony Stewart was in line for the job turned out to be untrue and that NASCAR Sprint Cup’s super team would not become even more super by adding a two-time points champion.

Then came last week’s announcement that Stewart had become a partner in Haas CNC Racing and that he would become an owner/driver next season with that team — which would be renamed Stewart-Haas Racing.

Rival racing organizations are now breathing a bit more cautiously. While the name Hendrick Motorsports will not be stitched onto Stewart’s driver’s suit next season, the Hendrick name will be stamped on important parts of Stewart’s car.

Haas CNC has been operating in conjunction with Hendrick in the past, and Stewart-Haas Racing will continue to do so in the future.

Those who were asking Stewart last week whether he was prepared for the tough times that lie ahead may have been overly pessimistic. The times may not be as tough as they appear.

Haas CNC was founded by businessman Gene Haas. He owns Haas Automation, the largest machine tool manufacturer in the United States. For the last dozen years or so, the company has been involved in technical partnerships with racing groups, including Hendrick Motorsports.

In 2002, Haas CNC Racing took to the track with Jack Sprague as its driver. Since then, a host of drivers has been in Haas cars, including Ward Burton, Jason Leffler, Jeff Green and Johnny Sauter. In 2007, the team began fielding two cars. Sauter gave the team its first top-five finish that season.

The Haas team is an associate partner with Hendrick. And now, Hendrick is an associate sponsor with Stewart. Joe Custer, general manager of Haas CNC, said that Hendrick does not own Haas CNC and will not own Stewart Haas Racing. And he said that Rick Hendrick does not make decisions for Haas CNC.

“We are separate organizations,” Custer said. That being said, Custer also said his cars use Hendrick engines and, “We are a customer and a technology partner on the chassis side of it. We purchase chassis from (Hendrick). We get support for that.”

It all means that Stewart now shares a direct relationship with the team that employs Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Martin. It’s a relationship that is fraternal in addition to being mechanical.

Asked whether the relationship now makes him teammates with Stewart, Gordon said, “I’ve had conversations with (current Haas driver) Scott Riggs several times and I know that Brad Keselowski (who drives a Nationwide car under the Hendrick directed team of JR Motorsports) tested for them when we were at Nashville or Kentucky and we were all there together with some of the crew chiefs. So it’s not the same as a teammate relationship, but it’s not too far from it.”

Stewart, of course, knew of the Hendrick-Haas relationship when he acquired 50-percent ownership of Haas. And there is little doubt that relationship played a part in Stewart’s thinking.

Greg Zipadelli, Stewart’s current crew chief at Joe Gibbs Racing, said as much. “Obviously the success that the Hendrick (teams, which have won seven points championships in the last 12 years) have had in the past is a big reason why Tony would take that challenge and go over there,” Zipadelli said. “It’s become a big-team sport. You need good people on both sides — in your pit stops and your support back at the shop.” - kansascity.com CaptainThunderRacing.com

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