Time will tell if Stewart-Newman experiment succeeds at Stewart-Haas Racing
They both fish. They both raise baby deer. They both share a passion for winning. But will Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman get along as teammates in 2009? Time will tell, writes David Newton.
Updated: August 15, 2008, 4:00 PM ETBy David Newton | ESPN.com
BROOKLYN, Mich. -- Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman were showering each other with accolades on Friday as they discussed how much fun they'll have as teammates next season at Stewart-Haas Racing. Their sarcastic personalities and love of fishing, not to mention the fact they're both from Indiana and made their way to the Sprint Cup Series through the USAC Series, make this seem like a perfect match.But their relationship hasn't always been this good.
In 2006, Stewart was leading at New Hampshire on Lap 91 when Newman, two laps down, refused to pull over and let him pass. The two ultimately got into each other, causing Stewart to crash and fall out of the top 10 that at the time qualified for the championship Chase. Afterward, Stewart was openly critical of the driver he'll now put into the No. 4 car next season."There are guys that are really good at give-and-take and there's guys that aren't," said Stewart, who ultimately failed to make the Chase the year after winning his second title. "Ryan's one of those guys that's not good at the giving part. He's really good at taking. "Kyle Busch, Brian Vickers, everybody I passed I didn't have any problems. But Ryan, when you race him the way he races you, he just decides to dump you."Newman disagreed, saying he was faster and Stewart should have given him room."I guess he's not a giver," he said. "Bottom line is we were in a position to take and rightfully so. We had fresh tires and he was on old tires and he didn't give."Neither gives a rip about those times now. They're united for a common goal, and that is to win races and ultimately championships for an organization that has never been to Victory Lane. They're ready to put whatever differences they had on the track aside just as points leader Kyle Busch put his somewhat tumultuous relationship with Stewart aside when he joined Joe Gibbs Racing this season."Like everybody said, Tony and I were going to blow up when we were put together," Busch said before practice at Michigan International Speedway. "We've been better working together than facing each other." And so it will be with Stewart and Newman.The two will be good for each other, particularly during tough times -- which there are bound to be in turning around an organization that doesn't have a car inside the top 35 in owners' points.Stewart seemed just as excited for what Newman will bring to him off the track as he will on it."Ryan likes to fish. I like to fish," he said. "We both raise baby deer. We have a lot of common interests. This is something that we'll have a lot of fun doing. "The competition side will probably be rougher with us going fishing, anyway. The first time he gets me in a boat and gets me out about 50 feet and says, 'OK, we're fishing for paychecks today,' I'm swimming back."Newman laughed. Stewart laughed.Everybody in the room laughed.Will they be laughing eight months from now if neither driver has a win or even a top-10? It's too early to say how good this combination will be. It's not ready to challenge Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson at Hendrick Motorsports or Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin at JGR even though they'll be driving with HMS engines and chassis.But this tandem has a lot more potential than most of the garage, and Stewart-Haas general manager Joe Custer is almost drooling."It's overwhelming in a lot of ways," he said.Getting Stewart and Newman definitely was a coup for the Haas organization, although it was more of a no-brainer for Stewart since he was given 50 percent of the company.But getting the right people to surround them will be even bigger.
Geoff Burke/Getty Images/NASCARThe first priority for Ryan Newman and Tony Stewart in 2009: Get Stewart-Haas Racing in Victory Lane.
The thing that impressed me the most about Ryan was he asked all the right questions from day one. We've still never spoke about a dollar and a contract.
-- Tony Stewart