TONY STEWART: Two-Time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion MAJ. GEN. MONTAGUE WINFIELD: Commanding General, U.S. Army Cadet Command RYAN NEWMAN: Future Driver of the No. 39 U.S. Army Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing MIKE ARNING: Moderator, Vice ...
TONY STEWART: Two-Time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion
MAJ. GEN. MONTAGUE WINFIELD: Commanding General, U.S. Army Cadet Command
RYAN NEWMAN: Future Driver of the No. 39 U.S. Army Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing
MIKE ARNING: Moderator, Vice President of True Speed Communication
Stewart-Haas Racing Press Conference to Announce U.S. Army Will Sponsor Ryan Newman's No. 39 Chevrolet in '09
MIKE ARNING: "Good afternoon, everyone. I'm Mike Arning with True Speed Communication. On behalf of everyone at Stewart-Haas Racing and all of our partners, I want to welcome you to today's press conference and thank you for coming.
"Joining us today are Ryan Newman, the future driver of the No. 39 Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing, Major General Montague Winfield of the U.S. Army, and Tony Stewart, two-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion, and Stewart-Haas Racing team owner.
"Tony, I'll start it off with you. With the military presence here today, you've either done something terribly wrong or you've got a pretty cool announcement to make. So tell us about it."
TONY STEWART: "I can't say we've done anything wrong. If anything, we've done something just the opposite. We've done something very, very right here. Extremely honored and proud to announce that the U.S. Army has joined forces with Stewart-Haas Racing with the sponsorship on Ryan's 39 car next year. A total of 23 races that include the All-Star race here at Charlotte. So I know that it's obviously something that we're very, very proud of. We immediately gain a fan base of around 1.2 million soldiers that are on our side each week. We are so very, very excited and proud about this opportunity and partnership with the U.S. Army and excited to see Ryan in the U.S. Army car."
MIKE ARNING: "Ryan, you've developed a legion of fans in your seven years in the sport. Now it's safe to say that you do, in fact, have an Army behind you. This is more than just a sponsorship, and especially in this day and age this kind of partnership carries a little bit more weight, wouldn't you say?"
RYAN NEWMAN: "Absolutely. It's an honor for me to be part of the United States Army, the men and women that serve our country and fight for our freedom. It's a neat and unique situation for me. The first time I've gone through a transition like this with a sponsor and a team, and couldn't have put any plan together any better than to be part of Stewart-Haas Racing with the No. 39 U.S. Army Chevrolet. So it's truly an honor, and I look forward to it."
MIKE ARNING: "General Winfield, this will be your seventh year as a NASCAR sponsor, and you'll kick it off in impressive fashion with Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman. The U.S. Army is aligning itself with two dedicated racers who are extremely passionate about what they do. Is that one of the many reasons that the U.S. Army decided to go with Stewart-Haas Racing?"
MAJ. GEN. MONTAGUE WINFIELD: "First of all, let me tell you it's a great day to be a soldier, and it's a great day to be in the service of this wonderful nation of ours and its citizens. But more specifically to answer your question, yeah, we looked at it very closely. As a racing fan, I will tell you that I've watched these two individuals very closely with great interest. Needless to say, we know about the great race at Talladega last week. We know about the Daytona 500, the race that Ryan won kicking off this season. So when you think about the power of the two individuals coming together, the leadership coming from Tony's side as the owner, and then, of course, our driver (looks at Newman) under Tony's great leadership and I agree. Needless to say, that's what we were looking for. We were looking for an individual to represent our great Army. When you take a look at what this team brings to the table, the training, the teamwork, and the technology, those are the exact same things that we're looking for, the attributes that we're looking for in Army teams. So, again, there is a lot in common between the U.S. Army and racing, but more specifically, this great team of Stewart and Haas. So, again, we're excited about car 39. We're excited about the 2009 season because we know that these two individuals will be representing the Army well. And if you've seen the commercial where it says, "I've got people," whenever you see these two individuals and you see car 39 with one of them standing in front of the car, you can visualize 1.2 million soldiers standing behind them. We bring our own fan club. It is a pretty big deal. There was a great article I saw that says, "Newman Gets Bulked Up." Yes, he does, because he's a part of the "Army Strong" team."
MIKE ARNING: "Questions for our panel, please?"
Q: Tony, 23 races. Do you have an announcement pending? Do you have crew chief information? Fans want to know as much detail as they can know about your and Ryan's plans. Do you have anything to announce?
RYAN NEWMAN: "We're running the full season, right?" (Laughter)
TONY STEWART: "Yeah, you're running the full season. I didn't mean to break it to you that way, Ryan. (Laughter.) Actually, I was meaning to talk to you about that. I was going to talk to you after this. (Laughter.) No, we are very close on a crew chief situation, and there will be another announcement down the road on a second sponsor, hopefully coming soon. So I don't have the details of that to announce today. Obviously, this is a day that we're proud to be announcing the Army, obviously. We hope, just like we've said in the past here, I love making announcements like this, because the sooner I can make them, that's one more variable that's in the puzzle and the equation that's ready to go. So we're working on those, but I think you probably will be hearing an announcement on a crew chief here in the next couple of weeks."
Q: Are you interviewing crew chiefs, Ryan? Do you have a short list already selected? Have you narrowed it down at all? And second, when you were younger, had you thought about what Army soldiers thought about being in the Army, and did you want to jump out of helicopters? And any thoughts about what you want to do representing the Army?
RYAN NEWMAN: "As far as the people go -- the crew goes -- we're working. It is a short list. We're talking to some people just finalizing some of the details to make sure it's the right person in the right situation. I'm very excited about that. Look forward to it. Look forward to next year because of that, for sure. As far as the cool things about the Army, they've already told me they're going to push me out of a perfectly good airplane, so that's correct. There are some cool things, obviously, with Krissie. And my wife and the helicopter situation, to get her up in a helicopter would be really special, for me as well as her. We look forward to doing a lot of fun things together."
Q: You talked about you going to hire a bunch of new people and build the infrastructure of the team. Approximately how many people have you hired so far? And do you have a number in mind that you're going to add?
TONY STEWART: "We have a large stack of resumes right now that we're going through and assessing people at the shop that are already there, trying to assess which ones will be staying, which ones won't make the cut. But, really, we're trying to get the process of getting Ryan's crew chief hired, first, and let the two crew chiefs work together and decide who they want as people, versus Darian (Grubb) hiring everybody right now. So we feel like it's the right thing to do first, to decide who Ryan's crew chief is going to be, and let those two guys work together to know who they're comfortable with and who they have to work with. So there's still a lot of work that has to be done. That's why it's very important for us to get Ryan's list narrowed down and get his crew chief hired as soon as possible and work forward from there. We felt that was the right decision to make as far as not getting ahead of ourselves and making sure that the leadership of each team, with the crew chiefs, that they're comfortable with the people that are going to be working for them."
Q: With Gene Haas being in jail for tax fraud and his company being involved with this team, was that an issue at all in deciding to do this sponsorship and, if it was, what allowed you to overcome any issues you had?
MAJ. GEN. MONTAGUE WINFIELD: "Clearly we took that into consideration. But there were things that overrode that particular issue. First of all, we're talking about the Stewart-Haas Racing team. We're talking about a new team and more or less a new beginning. So there is some history back there, but the individual that deals with us, the individual that talks racing is, in fact, Tony Stewart. So when you think about our connection with racing, it's all about Tony Stewart, and that's why we ultimately made the decision to go with him. And then finding out that one of his home boys from the same state, Ryan, was a part of it. That was sort of the icing on the cake. We thought clearly this is a team that we want driving a Chevrolet for us, an American car. And that was the key to our decision. Yeah, there were some challenges. But, clearly, we stand by our position and we stand by this team and we're looking forward to this relationship. We know that this is a winning combination that we have with the two superstars, the two superb drivers that we have now in our corner, and planning the strategy that we can use. We'll continue to let Americans know about the opportunities that are out there for them in the United States Army, both as an officer or an enlister, because that is what this is all about. Giving America an opportunity to learn more about those opportunities, and awareness, if you will, and that is what this is all about."
TONY STEWART: "I think to help eliminate some confusion, Stewart-Haas Racing is a partnership between myself and Haas Automation. So there is no confusion there hopefully in the future, everybody understands it's not owned by Gene Haas. It's Haas Automation and Tony Stewart. It's actually owned by the company."
Q: In these perilous economic times that we're all going through here, you have, obviously, your timing of starting a big, new company and race team, perfect timing, as usual, for you. But, obviously, the question is, trying to get this ramped up and gearing up, how tough is it out there and how hard has it been? Have you thought, geez, this is, again, good timing?
TONY STEWART: "Well, depending on how you want to look at it. Obviously, from the financial side and from the standpoint of attracting sponsors to come into the sport, it probably wasn't the best time. But, at the same time, I think for me, personally, it's perfect timing. I think this is a shot in the arm that I needed for me, personally. You know, I think the opportunities and timing of being able to get Ryan on board and being able to get guys like Darian (Grubb) and to be able to get sponsors like the U.S. Army and Office Depot and Old Spice on board, that timing is good. A year from now, or a year ago, these opportunities may not have been here. So, as far as getting these ingredients in place, when you look at the big picture and you look at the economic picture, it may not be the best-case scenario. But as far as timing for all these pieces, in particular, it is good timing right now. So if I had to do it all over again, would I pick now? Absolutely. I really have enjoyed the groups of people that we've already started to assemble, and I wouldn't want to do it any other way."
Q: How involved are you able to be right now with your new team, and at what point will you start to get into the cars and doing testing and what-not?
RYAN NEWMAN: "I guess it's kind of like working two jobs at once. I've never worked one job in my life. It's a fine balance between working with the Alltel Dodge, the people at the Penske Organization, and then separating 2009 and doing what you would call homework for next year, for next year's quiz and next year's big test coming out of the box. So testing-wise, I haven't done any tests for Stewart-Haas Racing. Working on, obviously, the schedule for 2009 primarily, but also what we can do in the off-season. But getting the people together is the primary focus right now so that we can, when we test, do it the right way. I look forward to all of it. "
Q: You have two sponsors on your new car. You're going to have two on Ryan's. That seems to be the trend. It's been a trend for a couple of years now. How close are we to the single sponsorship becoming obsolete, and virtually impossible, with how much it's ratcheting up in price to sponsor a car?
TONY STEWART: "I think it depends on which corporations want to be involved, obviously. If you're a corporation that can be a single sponsor on a car for an entire season, and that's what your desire is, obviously those companies will make those decisions. For a lot of companies right now, especially in this economic time, it makes more sense to have partnerships with the car for part of the season and still get the same exposure. So I think it makes very good sense. I think this is something that we saw last year with Dale Jr.'s car, and I think it's something we'll see more of in the future."
Q: What about Stewart and Newman led you to them instead of staying with DEI? Was it a matter of Mark Martin leaving there and you not wanting to go with a young driver? Can you explain that, please?
MAJ. GEN. MONTAGUE WINFIELD: "First of all, we had a wonderful relationship with DEI, and Mark Martin was an absolutely wonderful driver for us. Our contract had ended. We had a six-year contract. You may be aware that we are required, then, to receive proposals from new organizations. And based on those proposals, we choose who it is we're going to go with. There was a proposal coming in from DEI. What we saw with Tony and Ryan were two young superstars. Two young men that are at the top of their profession. Just take a look at their records. We saw an opportunity to grow with them. We looked at them as individuals. We looked at things such as the contributions to charitable organizations, such as conservation and to animal shelters, and to what they do for young people. All of these attributes and all of these qualities fit perfectly with what it is that we want to be about. So we just saw a better opportunity. We saw a young team that we know is going to go places, and we wanted to be a part of that growth because that's what we're all about. We're looking at an opportunity to get these gentlemen out as ambassadors for Army. I think we all know we're an all-volunteer army. That means we need people to volunteer to serve with us. The only way we can get enough volunteers is if enough people see this is a wonderful opportunity. This is all part of the exposure. We're excited about car 39 and we're excited about the new season. And there is no doubt in my mind that we have the formula for success with two great drivers being part of that organization and a wonderful Army, America's Army, behind them."
Q: This team has gone from having two cars with virtually no sponsorship this year, to two cars that look like they'll be fully sponsored next year. The only difference is your name. What does that mean to you that it seems like you have that kind of clout to join a team and attract all this money? And what is the deal with the new logo?
TONY STEWART: "You like it?"
Q: Yeah, a lot.
TONY STEWART: "As far as the sponsorships, it's very flattering. It was very flattering from day one. Even before we made the announcement, companies that had come to us and were excited about the opportunity that they became a part of this and they wanted to talk to us right away. Same with crew guys and crew members throughout the garage who said if you're going to do something different, we want to be a part of it. That side is very, very flattering. It's not just because of myself. As soon as Ryan came into the equation, the same sequence that happened when I made my announcement happened again when we made Ryan's announcement. I mean, Ryan has brought a lot of people and a lot of excitement to the organization, too. I don't think it's just me. I think a lot of it is due to Ryan, also. The new logo is something that we wanted to, obviously, have something that was a reflection of my personality and passion. I've kind of always had that old-school attitude, and that is what the logo is all about. It has that "V" (shape) at the bottom, what you would see on the bottom of the Chevy logo, and it just has that old-school feel. So that's what the new logo's about."
Q: General, just to clarify, you said you had a six-year contract with DEI. I think most of us have thought that the military just does one-year deals. Is that six one-years?
MAJ. GEN. MONTAGUE WINFIELD: "You're right on it. It's always one year. It wasn't all DEI. There were several companies before that. I gave you the short answer. Now you have the more detailed answer, yes, it was that way."
Q: Do you have six one-years with Stewart-Haas?
MAJ. GEN. MONTAGUE WINFIELD: "It's one year at a time."
Q: This year, there are four teams in the Chase. Twelve spots, but only four teams. What is your vision for Stewart-Haas to be a part of that elite-type group? Do you have a timeline or something laid out in front of you that you'd like to crack into that club?
TONY STEWART: "Yeah, next year. Love to. Obviously, we wouldn't have started this program if we didn't feel like we could have immediate success. Obviously, there are no guarantees of when that's going to happen. But if that were the case, we'd all be Las Vegas bookies and sitting in air conditioning like you guys do most of the day. Not that you don't deserve the air conditioning. But we feel like -- and Ryan and I have sat down and we feel like it's kind of like -- a gigantic puzzle. There is every piece of it: engines, chassis, people, sponsors, the leadership and the organization. We feel like we don't have all those pieces in the equation, yet, but we have a lot of very key pieces that are going to make us feel like we can be successful right off the bat. We're going to Daytona with the attitude of trying to win the Daytona 500. So we've obviously got a guy that knows how to win it. We've got a guy who knows how to get us to the last lap of it. So we feel like we've got two of those major pieces covered right off the bat. So, I honestly feel like we have the pieces that are in place, and pieces coming into place that will allow us to possibly want to be one of these organizations that cracks into that elite group and gets one or both cars into the Chase next year."
Q: You talked about one level of energy and excitement when you made your initial announcement, and another one when you made the announcement that you signed Ryan. Does winning last week at Talladega, does that help this team at all with your level of energy and excitement even though it's a different team that you won with?
TONY STEWART: "Yeah, I'd have to believe so. I think proof of that was when we were coming down the pit road to victory lane. It wasn't just guys from Joe Gibbs Racing. We had guys from the 70 car team and the 66 car team that were out there congratulating us, too. And you could see the excitement on their faces. So I do feel like it's transferred over to the new team already, also."
Q: You brought up the 66 and the 70 car. How close are you following the owner points position with the 66 based on how it turns out it may affect your ability to be locked in for the '09 (Daytona) 500?
RYAN NEWMAN: "I definitely have an eye on it. There is an interest in there, not just for the team, but for the future of next year as well. This situation is unique in the fact that Tony has his champion's provisional. Realistically, we only need one team to be in the top-35. So Scott (Riggs) is doing an excellent job right now. It's very important for us to have at least some kind of insurance going into Daytona. But we don't want to rely on it. You know, we'll just keep going the way we're going and doing things the way we're doing them. When we get there, hopefully, we don't even have to worry about any of that stuff."
MIKE ARNING: "Ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much for your time. We certainly appreciate it.