Three of them had Tony on the cover, and I have all three of them tacked onto my wall in a row, and it creates the perfect timeline for our SHR family, particularly Tony's fans, and really the first chapter of Stewart-Haas Racing. I wish I had a camera so I could take a photo for y'all.
The first cover, from the week after the Chicago race, is Tony against the sky, looking off in the distance. The headline said "Chasing a Dream." Now obviously, at this point, we were all like "What's gonna happen to Tony?" We didn't know who the second driver was going to be yet, and honestly we didn't care because we were more worried about what the future was going to hold for Tony. Could he really expect to run on the lead lap, much less win with Haas-CNC Racing? HAAS-CNC RACING! CRIPES! I guess we all figured we'd find out if Mike Joy was right, that you really could put wheels on a cockroach and Smoke would win with it. The cover, though, painted a picture of confident anticipation on Tony's part, which let the thought creep in: maybe it will work.
The second, which was the first paper they sent out for the 2009 season, has Tony standing between the Office Depot and US Army cars with the headline "New Boss" running a cross. By this time, Ryan's fans also knew they were going to be on board with the SHR program, and I think by now the anticipation factor had set in for all of us. We knew that, while Tony had retained a lot of the mechanics and crew guys, this was a new, much stronger team than what Haas-CNC had been, with multi-million dollar sponsorships and championship-winning crew chiefs that had been attracted simply by adding his name to the team and his talents to the driver stable. Some folks even had some SHR gear already, and I was anxiously awaiting the arrival of the 2009 toy cars at Walmart so I could grab Tony's. It was exciting, it was fresh, it was all new, for the first time in a long time, and Tony was in control, which created a calming sense and, like I said, anticipation.
And the third cover shows Tony celebrating as he stood on the door after the victory in the All-Star Challenge, with the words "Big Payoff" along the side. Obviously, it was a big payoff, a million bucks worth, but it all went back to that first cover. Tony had chased a dream, and here was the big payoff. He was on top of the NASCAR world, having just won the All-Star race. I think all of us were on top of the world too, the Tony fans because we'd won and the Ryan fans because, if not for the contact with him, Jeff, and Kyle, he probably would have won. It was like the perfect last page to the first chapter of the Stewart-Haas story, both for Tony and for his fans.
"My fans have more balls." - Tony Stewart on Jeff Gordon's fans.