Stewart Haas Making Hendrick Look Super
By Rick Minter | Senior Writer
Hendrick Motorsports and its affiliated teams continue to build strength as the Sprint Cup season rolls along. Saturday’s win at Darlington by Mark Martin was the fifth in the past six races for a Hendrick or Hendrick-affiliated team.
Six of the first seven finishers in the Southern 500 were Hendrick related and five of the top 11 drivers in the points standings, including leader Jeff Gordon, are either with Hendrick Motorsports or Stewart-Haas Racing, which gets technical support and engines from Hendrick for drivers Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman.
The lone struggler in the group is Dale Earnhardt Jr. who is 18th in the standings, with just one top-five finish, a runner-up at Talladega. He has finished 20th or worse in four of his last five starts.
Hendrick driver Jimmie Johnson, who has won the past three championships, cautions that it’s too early to say the championship this season will be settled among the Hendrick team and its affiliates.
“We’re all very proud of what our equipment has done [but] it’s just too early to tell,” he said, adding that Hendrick’s success is due to having both good equipment and good people.
“You look at the depth on the teams, the drivers, I think that explains a lot of it,” he said. “It’s just a great group of people. We certainly hope it stays this way.”
Newman said that depth is a lot deeper now that he and Stewart are somewhat in the Hendrick fold and their teams are swapping information with the folks at the home team.
“I’m sure they look at our notes just as we look at their notes so that there’s a true two-way street there, the essence of sharing information, making it a performance gain for both organizations to be united,” he said.
Johnson said he and his No. 48 team haven’t done a lot of interacting with the Stewart-Haas group, and haven’t turned to them for hints on finding more speed, but he does see the benefits that come with the arrangement.
“With Chad, we’re usually off in our own little world developing stuff, and we’ve been probably more different than our teammates at all these tracks than anything, including the Haas guys,” he said. “I’d say that the No. 5 and the No. 24 have been very similar with set-ups, and I think that the Haas cars have been in that area as well…
“Over time, as we all spend more time together and work together that the information will certainly come back in some way, shape, or form.”
Knaus said there’s more information flowing this year now that Darian Grubb, a long-time Hendrick employee, is Stewart’s crew chief.
“Obviously going over there straight from Hendrick Motorsports has opened up that line of communication a little bit more maybe than what we did last year,” Knaus said. “As far as what they’ve got for tools and how the information flow goes back and forth is no different than what we’ve had in the past. Quite honestly it’s quite a lot. They get just about everything that we’ve got.”
And he expects to get more information coming back to the home base as time goes by. “The more people you’ve got that you can draw information from, whether the information be good or bad, only makes you the wiser,” he said. “We haven’t gotten huge fruit f rom that yet, but I can promise you with Darian and Tony, those guys over there, we’ll definitely get it.”
The sharing of technical information so far hasn’t led to the Hendrick drivers treating Stewart and Newman like teammates on the track, Johnson said.
“I don’t know if I want to think of them as teammates, because some of the toughest decisions to make on track are when you’re around a teammate,” he said. “At times, it’s nice not to have any allegiances out there. I’ve already got three other guys to worry about and try to keep an eye on. I really don’t want two more.”No Comment