When Stewart-Haas Racing announced last year that they’d be expanding from three cars to four cars, there was a lot of concern as to whether the move would work out. There are still many questions surrounding the decision, but so far, it has brought forth excitement for everybody on the team
“It’s gone better than expected,” co-owner Gene Haas said today. “I was at the shop today and there’s a lot of enthusiasm for it. Pleasantly surprised. A lot of people patted me on the back and said it was a good decision; even Tony is starting to see it so it’s all good.”
Team co-owner Tony Stewart expressed concerns about the expansion at first as he wasn’t sure it was a good decision on Haas’ part based on the logistics about it. However, seeing how things are coming together, Stewart feels excited and counting down the days till Daytona.
“I think the environment at the shop is great and everybody is excited,” he added. “There’s been a lot going on to get to where we are – we’re on schedule so that’s a great thing. Seeing everybody so excited takes away everything on the business side and makes this worth it.”
Stewart added that he is very happy with the progress that Greg Zippidelli and Matt Borland have made throughout the organization in being prepared.
“I can look over there and it gives us comfort seeing them sit there close to each other like that and knowing that’s the brain trust to what’s going on,” he said. “It’s great to see the work that Greg and Matt and the crew chiefs have done this winter and there’s been a lot done that had to be go on. I don’t know if I would’ve trusted anyone more than I’ve trusted Greg and Matt.”
Stewart said both Zippidelli and Borland have taken on the challenge of sorting out the teams, bringing in new crew chiefs and new staff while changing the existing building and building the new addition. Stewart said the original idea of adding four cars was easy to think of, but it’s all about making it happen now.
“Like I said, I’ve never been more proud of the organization than what those guys have done this winter,” Stewart added. “The most work has been for Greg and Matt and trying to get the people and get everybody settled in and organized. The crew chiefs have done a great job working together. It’s probably the most unity I’ve seen in our shop from the time I walked in to it for the first time so it’s an exciting time.”
Jokingly, though, Stewart said that Zippideli is planning to kill him when he is feeling 100% due to everything that has happened over the course of the past six months.
“You can tell that I’m still not feeling 100% because he’s sticking to his guns that he’s going to kill me when I am 100%,” Stewart said. “Zippy is still trying to figure out ways to kill me to where you won’t know about it.”
There were concerns on whether Stewart would be ready for the Daytona 500 in February following his leg injury last year. Stewart says that things are on schedule and therapy is going great.
“There’s still a lot of work to do, but I’m feeling good and you can tell by my attitude that I’m feeling much better,” he added.
For Danica Patrick, she enters her sophomore season in the Sprint Cup Series after finishing 24th in points this past season. She will be once again working with Tony Gibson and have the same people around here, which she says is great as she can build on last year.
“At the end of the day, I have the most amount to learn and I’d say it almost feels like another rookie season having Kevin and Kurt and all the new people, a bigger team,” she added. “It almost feels like I’m a rookie again and I have a lot of people to learn from. But the Go Daddy 10 stable is the same and that helps.”
Both Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch make the move to SHR for 2014 as they join up with Stewart and Patrick.
For Harvick, he spent the first 13 years of his career at Richard Childress Racing and this marks the first time he has switched teams. Harick says the enthusiasm that everybody has going into the season is contagious and he feels it also.
“The fact that you can walk through the shop and everybody is so excited with the change and new drivers, I think we have had three really good tests and things have gone real smooth,” he commented. “Excited to get to the race track and start racing.”
For Busch, he makes the move to SHR after taking the single-car organization of Front Row Motorsports to the Chase. Busch hopes the move brings him his second championship, but he says for right now, it’s all about building the team up to that caliber.
“All of our foundation is set,” he added. “I can’t thank Tony and Gene enough for allowing me to be a part of this championship caliber organization and build on the foundation.”
Beyond the concerns of the simple logistics of expanding the team, other concerns came about in whether partnering Stewart, Patrick, Harvick and Busch together. Stewart doesn’t feel concerned, but rather says it’s an advantage because they can all understand and help each other.
“We’re a great support system for each other,” he explained. “Every one of us have had our battles at some time with each other or with you guys or whatever the battle has been with. But we all understand and can relate. Everyone can understand what each other is going through and be a great support system. That’s what teams are about. I think while the majority of you are leaning on of the opportunity to be a disaster, we are leaning on the opportunity of it to be positive and a great match for four great personalities and drivers to work together.”
Busch added that Haas and Stewart have brought the four of them together to also help drive the competitiveness amongst each of them.
“The competitiveness in each of us is what Gene is trying to do with this team by bringing it out and harnessing it all and producing good results for those people on that shop floor,” Busch explained. “Those people are on the floor are building the cars with a new crew chief in Daniel. With all the new people, it’s an exciting time in the building to see all the hard work go into it. It makes the anticipation of going to the track bigger than other years.”