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Will A Stewart Victory Be A Shared Victory?

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Thursday, October 27 2011

Tony Stewart and his team owe a lot to Hendrick Motorsports. But do they owe everything to HMS? (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

Barring a minor miracle – and NASCAR rules have banned both minor and major miracles – Hendrick Motorsports will finish the 2011 Sprint Cup season sans a champion.

Or will it?

While Hendrick Chase drivers Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. have been all but eliminated from championship contention, the Hendrick-affiliated team of Tony Stewart remains a strong contender.

Stewart races, of course, for the Stewart-Haas Racing team he co-owns. But the Chevrolet cars and engines that spend weekdays under the roof of the SHR shops in Kannapolis, N.C., were bred and built in the Hendrick shops on Papa Joe Hendrick Blvd. down the road in Charlotte.

Both the Hendrick and Stewart teams like to downplay their relationship to each other. Of course they don’t deny the relationship exists – they can’t. But both quickly, and sometimes brusquely, wave off suggestions that SHR is a “satellite” operation of HMS.

They wave off those suggestions even though that in addition to equipment, the two shops share data and even people from time to time.

So you have to wonder just how robustly a Stewart championship this year would be celebrated over at the Hendrick campus. Would the Hendrick people view such a championship as a shared

Stewart is greeted by some of those responsible for making his car go fast. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Erik J. Perel)

championship?

Stewart says probably not.

He was indirectly asked this week if his team is a clone of Rick Hendrick’s; if SHR is, in essense, HMS North?

More like Joe Gibbs Racing East, he said.

“It’s hard to pattern yourself off of them because I have not been internally involved with Hendrick Motorsports,” Stewart said. “Obviously we have our relationship with them on the engine and chassis side and technology that we share, but it’s hard to know the inner workings without being directly involved with it.”

Stewart has been, however, internally involved with the Gibbs organization. He spent 10 years at JGR. He won two Cup championships and 33 races with Gibbs.

That is, he learned and honed his craft at JGR.

“From my standpoint,” Stewart said, it has “been easier for me to emulate what Job Gibbs has done and what we saw over there. I think that’s the great thing about Stewart-Haas Racing is that we have had so many guys come from so many different organizations, Bobby Hutchins coming from RCR, and Dale Earnhardt, Inc., and Ryan Newman and Matt Borland coming from Penske, and myself coming from Job Gibbs Racing, Darian coming from Hendricks.”

So if anything, a championship by Stewart this year would be more of a credit to Joe Gibbs than Rick

Tony Stewart is his own man on his own team. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Greg Ellman)

Hendrick.

In reality, of course, it will be a hybrid victory with tips of the hat to Gibbs, Hendrick and Stewart and his current organization.

“We are trying to take the best of what we have seen from each organization,” Stewart said, “and trying to incorporate them into our own package and try to make our organization the best we think it can be trying to take the positives we saw in each of those organizations and take the lessons learned that we think are negative from those and try not to make those same mistakes. We try to learn from a lot of different teams and try to take the best from each.”

All of the above – if true – leads to yet another question: Why, during the course of the season, would HMS send equipment of equal quality to that used by its four in-house drivers over to Stewart-Haas?

I asked that question to a Hendrick official once. He had a simple answer: It’s an essential business practice.

Hendrick sells its equipment to Stewart and other Chevrolet teams. And for a lot of money. HMS would not be able to do that if  his customers thought they were getting vastly inferior product.

Stewart firmly believes that.

“I don’t think that there’s anything that they are holding back from us that we could ask for to be honest,” he said. “We work very closely with them every week with the setups. Our engines, I have the ability, and Ryan (Newman, his teammate) does, too, if we feel like we aren’t getting a good enough engine, we can sit there and look at all six dyno sheets for our engines and hand-pick the one we want if we so desire.
“I have confidence that our relationship with Rick and his whole group is very solid and that we are getting everything that we need from them. It’s just our job to execute it and finish it out on the weekend.”
Sounds logical here. And it must sound logical to those in the board rooms at Lowe’s, du Pont and Mountain Dew as they continue to funnel millions to HMS.
But you’ve got to believe that at least a little bit of champagne will be proudly sipped on the Hendrick campus should Stewart win this year’s championship.
– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com
Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Thursday, October 27 2011
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