Tony Stewart tells SHR employees not to look behind after ‘two miserable years in a row’
Car owner Tony Stewart, whose team is coming off its first winless season since he joined the organization in 2009, was blunt when he spoke to Stewart-Haas Racing employees recently
“It’s like I told these guys,” Stewart recounted Tuesday to “Sirius Speedway” on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, “I said, ‘Everything’s in front of us now. There’s nothing behind us. It’s not like you’re looking for somebody chasing you down. We’re at the bottom of the barrel, in my opinion, and our performance is already in the tank, so we have nothing but everything in front of us. So don’t look behind. Don’t. Don’t look over your shoulder.
“‘And make sure that you understand that every one of these people in the room, you’re working for the same reasons and you got to have each other’s backs.’
“I think that resonated with the group, and they realize that we’ve got to get our noses on the ground — not that they haven’t been working hard before — but they are going to have to find something or we’ll find people that will find it because we can’t perform at this level. It’s just not acceptable anymore.”
This season is one of change for Stewart-Haas Racing.
Kevin Harvick, who won a title with the team in 2014, retired after last season. Aric Almirola is running only a limited Xfinity schedule for Joe Gibbs Racing.
Noah Gragson and rookie Josh Berry are new to the team, joining Ryan Preece and Chase Briscoe. The four drivers combine for one Cup victory — by Briscoe at Phoenix in March 2022.
The organization’s most recent Cup victory came in August 2022 at Richmond by Harvick. Stewart-Haas Racing is winless in the last 48 races. Eleven different organizations have won at least one Cup race since SHR’s last victory.
“We’ve had two miserable years in a row and I’m tired of getting asked, or I’m tired of taking the blame from everybody why the cars aren’t running good,” Stewart said in the SiriusXM NASCAR Radio interview. “I think the fans need a reality check and a reminder that I’m not the crew chief. I’m not the engineer. I don’t dictate the setups on the cars.
“I give these guys the tools to do the job, and we just haven’t got it done the last couple of years.”
With a focus forward, Stewart noted that he was “excited about the energy at the shop” and feels that will help the organization build success.
“I will say, having four young drivers in the shop, as much as I was nervous about it, I’m really excited about the energy that it’s brought to the shop.”
But Stewart knows his team will be judged more by its performance and not enthusiasm.
“If we’re not having the results we’re looking for, we’re going to start making some major changes,” he said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “Everybody knows that. Everybody understands that. It’s those guys’ jobs at SHR to take what we have and make it better. It doesn’t mean we’ve got to go out and win eight or 10 races this season, but we need to see the needle move in the right direction. We need to make progress.”
Stewart will compete in the NHRA Top Fuel Dragster category this season. It’s a step up for Stewart after he ran in the Top Alcohol Dragster division last year.
“Had a great time last year in the alcohol division,” Stewart said. “It’s going to be a little bit different sledding this year, though, going from 270-280 miles an hour to a 330 mile an hour range. So we have a lot to learn, but it’s not different than … going to Daytona the first time and I remember in ’99, my rookie season, my very first Cup race I started on the front row with Jeff Gordon at the Daytona 500. And I was scared to death. There’s been a lot of those moments in my racing career and this is just another one to add to the list.”