Auto Racing: Tony Stewart has full plate as driver/owner
By Tina Akouris firstname.lastname@example.org September 14, 2012 9:36PM
Tony Stewart looks at a timing screen Friday in his garage during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet. | AP photo
Updated: October 17, 2012 6:26AM
There was news Friday going around Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet that Tony Stewart was nearing a deal to get Bass Pro Shops to replace Office Depot as his primary sponsor for 2013.
When Stewart heard that, he buried his head in his hands and said he wouldn’t comment.
Such is the life of Stewart, the defending NASCAR Sprint Cup champion and team owner of Stewart-Haas racing. His title defense as a driver and owner begins Sunday in the GEICO 400, the first race in the 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup.
“I have a lot more gray hair than I used to have,” Stewart said at a personal appearance Thursday. “And I have a lot more sleepless nights and a lot less downtime than I did when I was (solely) a driver.”
Since Office Depot announced two weeks ago that it was not renewing its primary sponsorship for Stewart’s No. 14 Chevrolet, Stewart has taken on more stress than he’s already had.
Earlier in the summer, Stewart learned that his team’s other driver, Ryan Newman, lost his U.S. Army sponsorship. That’s two major sources of revenue that Stewart-Haas needs to replace for next year.
After Office Depot bailed, Stewart even made a pitch during driver introductions before the Sept. 2 race at Atlanta, saying, “We’ve got a great spot for someone now.”
Stewart is mum on his primary sponsor, and all he said about Newman’s was that he and his team are “working on it.”
So far the only primary sponsor locked in for 2013 is Mobil 1, on Stewart’s car, and GoDaddy.com on Danica Patrick’s No. 10. Patrick will run a full Cup schedule for Stewart-Haas next year.
“I already started in May, especially getting Danica’s team assembled,” Stewart said. “This isn’t a sport that is seasonal. It’s a 12-month-out-of-the-year business.”
Stewart may have captured the Cup last year in dramatic fashion when he won the finale at Homestead-Miami and earned the title on a tiebreaker.
He made news off the track when it was revealed that Stewart fired crew chief Darian Grubb — before the season even was over. He allowed Grubb to stay on for the remainder of the Chase. Stewart replaced Grubb with Steve Addington, and so far the pair have won three races.
There was no doubt Stewart was going to have a spot in this year’s Chase, but he couldn’t control three incidents that dropped his standing from fifth to 10th going into last week’s Richmond race.
Stewart spun out at Watkins Glen, blew an engine at Michigan and wrecked with Matt Kenseth at Bristol. After wrecking at Bristol, Stewart threw his helmet at Kenseth’s car as it drove by on pit road.
“We were going to be locked in regardless, and the only thing that was a question was whether we stayed in the top 10 and kept our bonus points,” Stewart said. “I was more worried about trying to win, and I felt like the way we ran there in the spring (when Stewart finished third) we had a good shot at winning but we weren’t quite as strong.”