Stewart-Hass Racing - interview 2009-01-21

Stewart-Haas Racing Press Conference JANUARY 21, 2009 TONY STEWART: Co-Owner, Stewart-Haas Racing; Driver, No. 14 Office Depot/Old Spice Chevrolet RYAN NEWMAN: Driver, No. 39 U.S. Army Chevrolet DARIAN GRUBB: Crew Chief, No. 14 Office epot/Old...

Stewart-Haas Racing Press Conference
JANUARY 21, 2009

TONY STEWART: Co-Owner, Stewart-Haas Racing; Driver, No. 14 Office Depot/Old Spice Chevrolet
RYAN NEWMAN: Driver, No. 39 U.S. Army Chevrolet
DARIAN GRUBB: Crew Chief, No. 14 Office epot/Old Spice Chevrolet
TONY GIBSON: Crew Chief, No. 39 U.S. Army Chevrolet
BOBBY HUTCHENS: Director of Competition, Stewart-Haas Racing
MIKE ARNING: Moderator, Vice President of True Speed Communication

MIKE ARNING: "Thank you all very much for coming. Here on stage, I'll introduce the folks here at Stewart Haas Racing. Tony Stewart, the driver, the owner, as well as the most recent Sprint Cup Champion not named Jimmie Johnson. Darian Grubb, crew chief for Tony Stewart, and the No. 14 Office Depot/Old Spice Chevrolet team. Ryan Newman, Stewart's teammate here at Stewart-Haas Racing, and driver of the No. 39 U.S. Army Chevrolet. His crew chief, Tony Gibson and Bobby Hutchens, our director of competition here at Stewart-Haas Racing. Tony, it's only been 195 days since you announced your future here at Stewart-Haas Racing. Tell us a little about what your life has been like since that day in July?"

TONY STEWART: "Well, it has changed quite a bit, but it's been all in good ways for sure, definitely. I've spent a lot of time here at the shop, and getting to know a totally new group of guys that I've never worked with before, and Ryan and I spending more time together. Obviously, Darian and Tony and Bobby and I spending more time together. So it's been a lot of getting used to, working with new people, and trying to get to know new people. So it's been a big adjustment, but it's probably been the most fun off-season I've ever had. I've really enjoyed being here, we've got a great group of guys. A lot of them that were here when we started this operation, and we just added people. So we've got a great group of guys that I'm excited about. And a very fun group of guys, So I know we're going to have a good time this year.

MIKE ARNING: "After a lot of announcements last year regarding partners, this gives us another opportunity to welcome another strong partner to the Stewart-Haas racing family. Tell us about that"

TONY STEWART: "Yeah, along with Office Depot, Old Spice, and U.S. Army, we're getting a chance to add Burger King to that list now. And have them on board for the night race at Daytona, and also the second race at Dover this year. So, really excited about having them on board. They're also going to be partners with us at Eldora, with the Prelude to the Dream. So really excited about having those guys come on, and definitely I've been utilizing my king card a lot here recently, so I'm not starving by any means."

MIKE ARNING: "A personal service agreement to go along with that. I'll re-introduce Ryan Newman, your teammate. Ryan, you've had a chance to be with crew chief, Tony Gibson, and the U.S. Army team twice this year. Once at Rockingham, and once down at New Smyrna. Tell us what's going on with that, and your new team time here at Stewart-Haas Racing?"

RYAN NEWMAN: "For for me, it's a start of a new situation, and getting to know faces and names and tying the two together. And just really getting at New Smyrna, at least, the opportunity to work with Tony (Gibson), and get some data points as far as the car set-ups and what we feel and what we like. Sometimes, you know, how things go balance-wise. So just in general it's been neat to see and be part of new cars getting built, and seeing how the people are working together, and being welcomed to a new family."

MIKE ARNING: "Our crew chiefs Darian Grubb and Tony Gibson, there's been very little off during this off-season even with the drastic reduction in testing. Both of you guys, can you talk a little about what that's been like as you both have new drivers to work with? Darian, start with you, first.

DARIAN GRUBB: "It's probably been a blessing in disguise on some of those things, because we'll actually be able to spend more time on preparing the cars and getting ready for the season going forward. That's a little bit of a hindrance not being able to spend time on the racetrack with Tony, and Ryan, and on that communication and making gains on being able to talk to each other once we get to Daytona. But we've had enough meetings, and done enough talking and enough things together to know each other's personalities and get to the racetrack and go put our tires to the ground and win some races. But the off-season has been a little bit of a blessing for us, because we're able to spend a little more time preparing and getting things changed over, and starting a whole new scheme here."

MIKE ARNING: "And Tony Gibson, for you, two fellow outdoorsmen working on that 39 team, what's that been like?"

TONY GIBSON: "It's been a lot of phone calls, actually. We've been exchanging what we think we need for set-ups, and what we need to hunt with next year and things like that. So it's been pretty exciting. But we've been really fortunate to be able to go test twice already. That's been a big help as far as communication, and Ryan knowing us, and knowing him. It's been so smooth. Lot of help from Darian, and his guys, and my guys work with his guys really well. So we're just excited to get started and hit the racetrack and go win."

MIKE ARNING: "Great. And our director of competition, Bobby Hutchens. Bobby was the first full-time engineer to work on a NASCAR Sprint Cup series team at Richard Childress Racing, we're very happy to have him as part of this organization. He's been a part of a lot of championships. And Bobby, what do you see about this operation at Stewart-Haas that you believe can make it a consistent, front-running, race winning, and championship caliber team?

BOBBY HUTCHENS: "For me, I think it starts at the top with Tony and Ryan. And we put a lot of people in place, that I think will meet a lot of expectations that we've set in the last couple of weeks as we walked through the door. With Darian and Tony meeting at the racetrack. And Matt Borland being our technical director here and leading the charge on the engineering front, I feel we'll have a strong and potent group of people that at the end of the day will be able to win races and championships.

Q: You've obviously owned open-wheel teams before. Coming in as a Sprint Cup team owner, what's been the biggest part of the experience that's been an eye opener for you? What's shocked you the most?

TONY STEWART: "I don't know that anything's been shocking to me. I think because we've had the open-wheel teams, we obviously don't know everything we need to know right now. But at least we came into it with our eyes open and at least had a small idea of what we were getting into. But big things that have been happening Darian and Tony and definitely Bobby coming into the organization have helped me not have those shocking moments yet. But probably the hardest thing has been learning names of guys. And there are guys that their key code that they have has got their name on it. The hard part is everybody has it at their waist, and you don't want to look down there and give away that you don't know their name. So it's hey, buddy. How you doing? But the fun thing is it doesn't matter if I've learned their name or not, but every time you see these guys in here, whether it's Ryan or myself coming in. Every time you go on the floor they're smiling and waving, and that makes you feel good as a driver and car owner that your guys are comfortable with you and excited about what they're doing. In all reality, I know it sounds simple, but that's probably been the hardest thing for me. I can't remember what I did two days ago, let alone remember 150 people's names down here yet."

Q: Have you thought at all about the fact that everything worked out so well even beyond what you've done at the time? Because when you put your name out there, had that come on later like when the country's economy crashed in October, so many of the doors that opened for you might have been closed?

TONY STEWART: "Yeah, it shows you that timing is everything. But, you know, still I'm not sure it was the perfect situation and perfect timing to do it. I think that's the one thing that's made me so proud to be part of Office Depot and Old Spice, and the U.S. Army families, is that with the economy starting to go bad, they had enough faith in what we were doing to want to be part of it. And that's made us really proud that they trust us and have that much faith in us to begin with. So it makes you want to do that much better job for them right off the bat."

Q: You had such a long relationship with your crew chief. This year you're going to have a different voice in your ear. Talk a little about how in some ways it's kind of refreshing to have a change of pace, and how long it might take for you guys to really kind of understand each other and get to know each other and exactly what you're talking about?

TONY STEWART: "Sure, very true. But keep in mind I've ran for different Nationwide teams, I've had different Nationwide crew chiefs. There's been days that Zippy (Greg Zipadelli) was under the weather during practice, and he wasn't necessarily the guy that I was listening to. It's not like all of a sudden it's a foreign language having a different crew chief. The only thing I've had to really work on him is leaning in the car when he talks to me when I've got my helmet on because I can't hear him. That's been the hardest thing to get used to. Other than that, it's been business as usual. It's different. It's going to be different not hearing Zippy's voice in my ear, but at the same time it's a new chapter. And that part makes it exciting also."

Q: You said just now a new chapter in your racing life. And you have been racing in NASCAR with a very successful team, Joe Gibbs Racing. Did you introduce already the same working stuff here like you at had Gibbs?

TONY STEWART: "I think we've taken some of the ideas from there, for sure. But we've got guys that have come from three different organizations here that are running this organization with us. I don't think you necessarily tell them this is exactly how it has to be done. I think we've tried to collectively take what we thought were the best ideas from all four organizations and try to utilize them to make ourselves even better. So there's a lot of trial and error in all the organizations we've been part of to get them where they are. You know, hopefully having that knowledge from the four of us or five of us with Ryan even coming from five different organizations like that, you know, there's things that we've seen that we like, there's things that we didn't like. Being able to sit down all five of us and talk about that, that's really helped us get a direction of how we at least want to start. You know, we don't expect it to be perfect right off the bat. You start with what you think is the best way to do things, and as you go, you make adjustments as you need to. To date right now, I feel like we've got a really good direction of how we do things."

Q: I'm wondering if you can give us an idea how many personnel moves you had to make to put your stamp on this and make your own? And if you have an idea what a typical week might be for you, and how much time you'll be in Indiana and how much you think you'll need to be here?

TONY STEWART: "I won't be in Indiana very much. I can promise you that. I would say it will be June or July before I go back for a couple of days. But I went home after the off-season, and really enjoyed every day that I was home. Normally that is the time of the year that I'm excited about being home. I'm relaxing and not thinking about stock cars and Daytona. It seemed like every day that I was there, the more I missed and wanted to be down here and be with the new guys. Because we had so many guys that came from different organizations and they didn't all exactly get to come on Monday after Homestead was over. Some of them had to wait a couple of weeks before they were able to come over to Stewart-Haas. So I really wanted to be back to see these guys come together, see if they were working well, and see how the atmosphere had changed. We really didn't have a huge turnover here. I think we released 20 people, I don't know to date how many it's been. But it's been close to 50 employees we've added since then. So we've probably been one of the few teams that have actually added people to their organization through the off-season, so that's something we're pretty proud of."

Q: Bobby, what attracted you to Stewart-Haas Racing after your many, many years with RCR? And what changes do you anticipate making early on to get Tony and Ryan into Victory Lane real soon?

BOBBY HUTCHENS: "From my perspective, I guess the biggest thing was these four guys sitting up here. When I came over to meet with them and look around the Haas shop at the time, I was thoroughly impressed with the engineering group, which that is my background. Thought Matt Borland and the folks here had done a really good job. And I want to win. And I want to get back to grass roots racing, and I think these guys right here are all winners, and it's about bringing the trophy home to all of us. That appealed a lot to me."

Q: Can you win a championship with an engine lease program or is starting your own engine shop program something you have planned for down the road?

TONY STEWART: "Right now I don't see us making plans to do that. You look at Hendrick's engine program, I don't think they're lacking anything there. The last three years have proven that. So, I think you look at past experiences and you look at Darrell Waltrip's experiences as a car owner, and he'll be the first one to tell you that was the mistake he made was going from a program like that, which kept him where he needed to be, to thinking he could make it better by starting his own program. That actually led to the end of it. We've got a great partnership with Hendrick Motorsports and, I don't see us straying off from their program and their engines. I think that's part of why Ryan and I are so excited to be here. The opportunity to work with those guys and our input on top of Jeff (Gordon), and Jimmie's (Johnson), and Dale (Earnhardt Jr.) and Mark's (Martin) input that they have from their program. Us being able to have our two cents and make it better for all of six of us."

Q: It seemed like you were going to be sitting on the sidelines for the Budweiser Shootout at Daytona. Can you talk about being back in NASCAR and changing the rules to get you back in?

TONY STEWART: "It's one of few times that NASCAR changes a rule that I actually like it. But I can say that I honestly love it this time. You know, it wasb^0x0011- it kind of put us in a bind I guess to a certain degree because we had thought that we were always going to be in it. And when Daytona had changed that rule, it really put us in a bind. So for them to get us back in the shootout is something we're very appreciative to. We're appreciative to Chevy for helping us do that. And you know, like Darian said, that's just going to be two more days that we get to work together. You know, we'll probably laugh Friday and Saturday during that deal. And we'll probably laugh during the race because I'll be like, 'what did you say?' And he'll be like, 'what did you say?' But that's going to be part of what's going to make Daytona so fun and being part of the shootout is definitely going to be a great chance for Darian and I to work together and learn each other a little better."

RYAN NEWMAN: "You still haven't told me if I'm going to drive the first half or if you're going to drive the first half?

TONY STEWART: "Your seat's too big for me. So I'll start the first half and let you finish it off. Daytona in the spring, I haven'tfigured out how to win that yet."

RYAN NEWMAN: "Well, you've won a shootout."

Q: You've been out of Chevrolets for a year, and Ryan has been in a Dodge for a while. Is this a NASCAR testing ban have a negative effect with getting you started up with this new operation?

TONY STEWART: "I think a little bit. I mean, obviously it's like Darian said earlier, it's more just working with your people than it is the package. You know, I don't want to speak for Ryan, but I'm really comfortable with the engine package we're going to have. From that side it doesn't make me nervous at all. We're going to have really good power with the Hendrick engines when we get down there. So it's a variable I check off the list that we have to worry about internally right now"

RYAN NEWMAN: "From a testing standpoint, I say that 99 percent of the testing and all the work gets done here at the shop. That last one percent you prove yourself on the racetrack. And we've had the opportunity to do that in our testing which for us at Rockingham, and both of us at New Smyrna. So really looking forward to it. And I did notice a nice change in the Chevrolet horsepower with the Hendrick engines and look forward to pushing the pedal."

Q: Can you talk about what the biggest strength has been so far in all of this here?

TONY STEWART: " Honestly, for me it was getting this group of people that are sitting with me up on the stage. That was the hardest part. You know, once we got this group hired, it was easy for me to step back and start learning. And, you know, Joe Custer was a big part of getting us started and getting the right people up here. Once we got this group assembled, it was kind of like you turn them loose and let them do what they do best. It goes back to what we've said all along and I've learned from Joe (Gibbs), is you hire the right people to do the right jobs. You don't sit there and put your hand over their shoulder and look over their shoulder and micromanage. Right now I'm in the learning phase, which is fun for me. I get a chance to sit here and ask questions of Darian, and ask questions to Tony, and sit in Bobby's office when I know he needs to be doing something else productive, he's babysitting me and explaining why we're doing this and doing that. That's the part I'm enjoying. It's fun going through this learning process again and learning what I need to do to be a better car owner and why we do things the way we do it. When you're a driver -- in my 12 years at Gibbs racing, I never really went through that process. I worried about driving the race car. I think I'm really enjoying this side of being able to learn more and understand how the big picture comes together."

Q: Goals and expectations. I mean, it may not necessarily be the same thing. What is your reasonable level of expectation for the fan that wants to see Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman do well this year? What do you think are the reasonable level of expectations and how would your goals differ from that if they do?

TONY STEWART: "From the goal side, I'm not sure what our goals should be this year. But I know what our expectations are, and that's I expect all of us up here every weekend to get 100 percent out of what we show up to the racetrack with. I expect our guys to give 100 percent every day they come to work. That's exactly what they've done so far. So they've exceeded my expectations from that standpoint. But if we leave the racetrack, no matter the result, and say we got 100 percent out of everything we had, and what we set out to do, if we can leave saying that we did that, I guess to a certain degree, I'll have matched my goal for that weekend."

Q: When you were doing your hiring, did you do it strictly for a two-car team? Or have you put in any infrastructure for a third car or any expansion if it can come your way?

TONY STEWART: "Well, I don't have much to say about this, but we actually did. We're wanting to try you (Bob Pockrass, NASCAR Scene) out in the third car for next year, so we'll see how that goes."

BOBBY HUTCHENS: "From my perspective, we've tried to hire the best people, looking for a third or fourth car at this point in time is not a priority. It's mainly giving these guys two competitive cars that we can go to the racetrack and be competitive every year at the same time build a family in this race shop here. That's where I came from was a family, and that's one of the things that enticed me to come here. That's something that Tony said from the day I walked through that door is that this is going to be a family. And we've tried to make sure we brought the right people in here to do that."

Q: If my math is correct, you guys represent five different teams that you came from last year. I would assume coming from five different teams there aren't too many people you didn't know in the garage. So were you able to cherry-pick looking to hire guys? Because you all probably knew everybody who interviewed here or at least one of you knew about everybody?

BOBBY HUTCHENS: "I think for the most part your assumption's correct. We've tried to hire the best people we can for the positions and it still fit our mold and our foundation, our budgets. We take a lot of things into consideration. We've had a little issue from time to time gaining some pit crew people, we'll be quite honest with you. But I think we've got that put to bed now and we're going forward. But we've had a good opportunity to hire some really good people. With the economy the way it is, and a lot of good people not working in our sport, we thought we'd be able a little more to pick and choose as we see fit."

-credit: shr

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Darrell Waltrip , Tony Stewart , Ryan Newman , Jimmie Johnson
Teams Stewart-Haas Racing , Richard Childress Racing , Hendrick Motorsports , Joe Gibbs Racing