2 hours, 29 minutes ago
It took Tony Stewart just three years to figure out how to win a Cup Series championship as an owner/driver. And in the process, he’s converted a couple of former teammates at Joe Gibbs Racing into believers of a calmer, but no less effective driver on the race track.
Stewart’s former crew chief, Greg Zipadelli, took a position as Stewart-Haas Racing’s director of competition in mid-December. Just before that, Steve Addington left Penske Racing to become Stewart’s crew chief.
Addington said last week during testing at Daytona that he’s feeling pretty sharp heading into 2012 and considering he’s worked with championship contenders for years, that’s saying something.
“It’s exciting and the thing is, [Stewart’s] about his guys and I can see that already,” Addington said. “The guys have all the confidence in the world in [Stewart] and they should. It’s a great atmosphere.
“He’s more relaxed. He’s got a competition director in place that he’s worked with before and he can trust and it’s just bled it down to he’s comfortable coming to the race track right now with the group that he has over there.”
As happy as Stewart is with his group, and as much as Zipadelli expressed the same emotion at the end of testing, Addington appeared to be in a state of bliss.
“Getting back to work with Zippy …” Addington didn’t even have to finish the thought to know how much it meant to him. “And Tony Gibson [teammate Ryan Newman’s crew chief] is my type. He’s just a racer that’s down in the shop digging and working on his stuff, hands-on and that’s the way we all want to race. That’s the cool part about it—everybody in this organization likes each other.
“If you look and see what this organization did [in 2011] and having been in this business as long as I have—through the Busch Series, Nationwide, whatever—into the Cup Series… To have a shot to go win a championship with this driver right here [Stewart] and this organization is the best feeling I’ve had in a long, long time.”
That’a great news to a lot of Stewart fans. Even better news is Addington’s reaction to several changes NASCAR made during Preseason Thunder in an effort to promote pack racing.
“From the work standpoint of all the changes NASCAR was making while we were down here, we understand what they’re doing,” Addington said. “Tony liked the idea of when we went out there in a big pack, of having it like that to race all day long. So I think the fans will like it, but that part of it is going to continue to be a moving target.”