Stewart-Haas Racing has become one of the elite organizations within the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. With three-time champion and co-owner, Tony Stewart, as well as former Daytona 500 champion, Ryan Newman, behind the wheel, the team has top-tier talent within the organization.
However, in 2012, the organization didn’t perform close to their expectations. Stewart finished ninth in the standings with three wins while Newman missed the Chase for the Sprint Cup, but had a win and finished 14th in points. Both drivers didn’t do the greatest in 2012. Newman had a crew chief swag towards the end of the season as his former crew chief, Matt Borland, replaced Tony Gibson who worked with Newman since he started driving for Stewart-Haas Racing in 2009.
With Borland atop the pit box, Newman had two top-fives along with two finishes just outside of the top-10. In 2013, Newman would continue to work with Borland which should help the No. 39 team gain some confidence as well as momentum. The U.S. ARMY announced that they wouldn’t continue to sponsor Newman’s car along with any other NASCAR team in 2013. Quicken Loans, who sponsored Newman in nine races in 2012, will double their sponsorship for a total of 18 races aboard the No. 39 car.
Office Depot announced they would be leaving Stewart’s team as well. Bass Pro Shops will fill in an 18-race gap in the schedule as they take over for Office Depot. Mobil 1 will continue to sponsor Stewart, but only for 11-races. There are nine races that Stewart doesn’t have a sponsor for. Haas Automation could sponsor him for those races, or he could pick up another sponsor for that chunk of the schedule. However, Stewart’s performance needs to be better in 2013. The No. 14 team was mildly inconsistent in 2012 with five finishes outside of the top-15 within the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
Stewart-Haas Racing will have an addition to their team in 2013. Danica Patrick’s long awaited full-schedule in the Sprint Cup Series will occur with the team next season. Patrick will drive the No. 10 car which she drove on a part-time basis in 2012. Her highly anticipated season should be a make or break deal. Expectations are for her not to do so well at first, but after she finished 17th at Phoenix last year, she sort of proved that she can run inside of the top-20, at least on a smaller track. Gibson will be Patrick’s crew chief in 2013 as he worked with her at Texas and Phoenix which happened to be the two best finishes of her career.
Expect Stewart-Haas Racing to have major improvements in 2013. However, don’t be surprised if the team suffers a tad bit. In the past, smaller teams that expand usually struggle for the first year or two. Even Richard Childress Racing struggled with four cars instead of three, it’s just how the sport works.
Joseph Wolkin can be followed on Twitter at @JosephNASCAR.