[media-credit id=24 align=”alignright” width=”226″][/media-credit]Early in the season, all eyes are on Tony Stewart and his Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) team following the late domination last year and so far this year. At Martinsville this past weekend, Newman added to the win column to give SHR their third win in the first six races.
“The strength overall for Stewart-Haas, it’s a two-mile racetrack and a half-mile racetrack, and Stewart already won on a mile-and-a-half racetrack,” Newman says. “So we have a good strong start to the season when it comes to looking at the racetracks and the places that we race at, and that makes a difference. Some guys are only capable of winning at certain racetracks and we have proved that Stewart-Haas is capable of a lot.”
For Newman’s crew chief Tony Gibson, it is all about having solid equipment each week.
“We know we are working hard as a company to make sure both these cars are as close as we can get, other than what the two different drivers need, little things,” he says. “We have everything there we need to win every week. It’s hard to win every week, but we have got the equipment and the drivers to do it. We just have to execute and make sure it happens.”
One of the benefits that helps SHR is both Stewart and Newman are good at a variety of tracks. In Newman’s 16 career victories, he has won at 11 different tracks.
“I have got some tracks I like better than others, but there’s not a track out there that I dislike,” Newman says. “That just goes to show you when it comes to my stats, I’m a contender at a lot of racetracks and that’s — I think the best I’ve ever run in the championship is sixth, but just goes to show if we get the right situation and package together for the last ten, with the difference and versatility in the racetracks, we’ll be in good shape. I look forward to it. We just have to keep our nose to the grindstone. This is a great step in the right direction but ultimately this is just one small steppingstone and we have to build a pretty nice sidewalk.”
Meanwhile, Stewart has won at a variety of tracks, too, from road courses to short tracks and mile-and-a-halves. This year, Stewart won at both mile-and-a-halves, Las Vegas Speedway and Auto Club Speedway. These two wins come after winning five of the final 10 races last season on the way to winning the championship.
“To go through an offseason and pick it back up and to have some pretty big personnel changes in the middle of all that so, it’s pretty big right now,” Stewart says. “You know the hard part is that you just don’t want it to end, you want it to stay like this.”
Even with winning the championship, Stewart fired crew chief Darian Grubb and hired Steve Addington to take his place. Despite having the run to the title, Stewart felt that communication wasn’t there with Grubb as they struggled the majority of the year.
As people focusing towards this year’s chase, many people are looking at the win column early this year to see who will be in the Chase come September. Newman says for him, he just worries about being consistent.
“I think our team is definitely a Top-10 contending team,” he says. “We have proved that the first six races of the season or whatever we are at now. If we have to, then we do. But if we have to, and it’s tough to say because of what Stewart went through last year if you have to; usually if you have to do that, my point is, you’re not a championship-contending team. So I would rather much rely on how strong we are each and every week than rely back on a win or multiple wins to get into the Chase.”
Newman’s crew chief Tony Gibson thinks that Newman and team can put together a good solid run into and throughout the Chase this year.
“We know we can do it; we have said it time and time again, the equipment is there and everything we need to do to win,” he says. “We just have to put it in place and execute. We have struggled a little bit at that. We had 27 and a half great races last year and we failed in the Chase. We didn’t run as good as we needed to run, and Stewart took off like a ball of fire.
“It was disappointing for us — he’s still on fire. It’s disappointing for us because we know we have the same equipment and we know we should be winning those races, too. It puts pressure on us and makes us work harder and think, why aren’t we winning, and they are winning.”