Saturday, August 13, 2011

State of the Teams ?11: Stewart-Haas Racing

As we draw within sight of the Chase, let's take a look back at how the season has gone so far for NASCAR's top teams. We begin with Stewart-Haas Racing, a two-car outfit that's seen plenty of success in its first few years of existence.

Drivers: Tony Stewart (owner, driver of the No. 14, currently 9th in the standings), Ryan Newman (driver of the No. 39, currently 8th).

Wins: 1 (Newman, Loudon.)

Overall accolades: 1 win, 1 pole, 8 top-5s, 17 top-10s, 1 DNF.

High point: Loudon, without a doubt. The team qualified 1-2 to start and ended up 1-2 to finish. It was a satisfying end to what had been an extremely frustrating few weeks for Newman and few months for Stewart.

Low point: Infineon, where Stewart got cranky with Brian Vickers' blocking style and punted him, only to end up tail-first atop a tire wall when Vickers exacted revenge. Stewart tried to play garage enforcer, but ended up looking more like a cranky old coot frustrated by all these young punks. Also, when Newman and Juan Pablo Montoya may or may not have been secretly fined by NASCAR, nobody really came out looking very good.

Outlook for the Chase and beyond: Both Stewart and Newman are in line for the Chase, with Newman and his one win holding the greater edge. Stewart is getting closer to breaking through with his customary warm-weather win, but until he does it's going to be a nerve-wracking time in the 14's pit box. Once they get into the Chase, both are outside shots at best, though with good qualifying they can avoid some of the wrecks that will destroy some of the Chase hopes of others. A championship for Stewart-Haas this year is a remote possibility, but it's still a possibility, which isn't bad for an owner-driver team.

Key recent posts:
Newman, Stewart hammer down for 1-2 start, 1-2 finish
Vickers delivers Stewart some payback
Tony Stewart, Lewis Hamilton switch rides at Watkins Glen
Newman, NASCAR neither deny, admit to secret fines


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