Briscoe Ready for ‘HighPoint’ of NASCAR Career

Stewart-Haas Racing Promotes 25-Year-Old Racer to NASCAR Cup Series;
Briscoe To Drive No. 14 HighPoint.com Ford Mustang Beginning in 2021

Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) will promote Chase Briscoe from its NASCAR Xfinity Series program to the NASCAR Cup Series in 2021, whereupon the 11-time Xfinity Series race winner will drive the team’s No. 14 Ford Mustang.

HighPoint, a leading customer service and technology solutions company, joined Briscoe in late 2019 as a primary partner of his No. 98 Ford Mustang in the Xfinity Series. It provided a breakthrough opportunity for Briscoe’s career, and the company has stepped up again in 2020, serving as the anchor partner of SHR’s No. 14 team and enabling Briscoe’s promotion to the elite NASCAR Cup Series.

“Chase has to be one of the most humble and grateful guys in the sport and he has worked incredibly hard for this opportunity. We’re extremely proud to be a part of his journey from Xfinity to Cup,” said Mike Mendiburu, President and CEO of HighPoint. “Everyone has seen his talent and he has combined it with incredible humility and an unrelenting work ethic. Simply put, performance without character is not important to us. Chase, however, has both in spades. It’s why he’s ready for the NASCAR Cup Series and why we are so honored to support him.”

Briscoe has a chance to add the 2020 Xfinity Series title to his resume. The 25-year-old racer from Mitchell, Indiana, enjoys a strong position in the NASCAR Playoffs by leading the championship standings with a series-best nine wins with only three races remaining.

“Chase has worked incredibly hard to make his mark in NASCAR and has earned this promotion to the NASCAR Cup Series. Thanks to HighPoint and Ford, we were able to make it happen,” said Tony Stewart, co-owner of SHR with Haas Automation founder Gene Haas. “Without Ford seeing him early on and recognizing his talent and HighPoint backing his efforts in Xfinity and now Cup, we wouldn’t have had the opportunity to bring him into our system. Since we’ve gotten together with Ford and HighPoint, we’ve been able to do great things with Chase and I feel there are more great things ahead of us.”

Briscoe is in the midst of his second straight playoff appearance. He finished fifth in the Xfinity Series standings last year, narrowly missing out on advancing to the Championship 4 and competing for the series title. He did, however, win the rookie-of-the-year award.

The 2020 season marks the first time in Briscoe’s NASCAR career that he has been able to return to the same team, in the same series with the same personnel in back-to-back years.

“In the final three races last season, we saw a confidence in Chase that we hadn’t seen before,” Stewart said. “There was a transformation, and I think those three races last year were a preview of what we were going to see this year. He’s delivered time and time again this season and he’s definitely ready for the NASCAR Cup Series.”

Briscoe has made the most of the opportunity afforded to him at SHR. In addition to his nine wins, Briscoe has led 957 laps, which is 760 more laps than he led last year, and his 16 top-fives in 30 starts this season eclipses his entire top-five tally from his 2018 and 2019 seasons combined, where he made a total of 50 starts.

“Wins are my benchmark, and Chase has done a lot of winning this year,” Haas said. “His stats alone merit his place in Cup, but Chase has also proven to be a strong ambassador for our partners who appreciate his grit and determination.”

Briscoe is a third-generation racer whose career began on dirt tracks in and around his home state of Indiana.

“I raced with Chase’s dad in USAC sprint cars and in non-wing cars, so to see Chase come up through the ranks like I did brings back memories,” Stewart said. “When it comes to the 14 car, I obviously have a passion for having dirt drivers behind the wheel. Having had Clint Bowyer in the car and now Chase, it’s special, but also practical. With the lower horsepower package they have in the Cup Series, you have to run these cars a lot freer, and I think that suits a driver with a dirt background. Chase is a guy who would much rather have a loose racecar versus a very tight racecar that won’t turn. I always felt better in a Cup car than I did in an Xfinity Series car, and I think he’ll be in the same position.”

Since he was 13, Briscoe has followed in his grandfather’s and father’s footsteps, racing sprint cars on the rough and tumble bullrings of the Midwest. It is a lineage that makes Briscoe a natural fit for SHR, as co-owner Stewart is an Indiana native who also began his career on dirt and despite massive success in multiple racing series that includes three NASCAR Cup Series championships, remains true to his dirt-track roots by continually racing sprint cars.

“Growing up in Indiana and racing sprint cars, the guy I always looked up to was Tony Stewart. To be able to drive for him is a dream come true,” Briscoe said. “Tony and Gene have built something really special in Stewart-Haas Racing. Being a part of it in the Xfinity Series and now, the NASCAR Cup Series, has always been my goal. HighPoint and Ford created this opportunity, and my parents, my wife, and Briggs and Beth Cunningham, helped position me for this opportunity. Their support means everything, and it’s all the fuel I need to compete at the Cup level.”

Briscoe’s first time behind the wheel of a racecar came in 2001. Driving a quarter midget, he won his first heat race and then won the feature event later that evening. Briscoe moved on to mini sprints and when he was 13, stepped into a 410 sprint car where, in his first race, he finished 10th in a 40-car field. In a rookie season that saw 37 starts, Briscoe racked up eight top-five and 17 top-10 finishes, including a win in the last race of the season, where he broke NASCAR Hall of Famer and four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon’s record as being the youngest person to win a 410 sprint car race.

Briscoe continued to race 410 sprint cars in the Midwest region and people began to take notice. Soon, the switch from sprint cars to stock cars was on. Cunningham Motorsports hired Briscoe in 2016 to pilot its No. 77 Ford for a full-time drive in ARCA. Briscoe responded by winning six races and the championship by a whopping 535 points.

Briscoe has thrived in his transition to NASCAR, which was boosted by that ARCA title. He advanced to the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series in 2017, earning four poles and winning the season-ending Ford EcoBoost 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. His 10 top-five and 14 top-10s allowed Briscoe to make the playoffs, finish sixth in points and score the series’ rookie-of-the-year and most-popular-driver awards.

Briscoe parlayed a limited Xfinity Series schedule in 2018 where he drove for both SHR and Roush-Fenway Racing into a full-time drive in 2019 for SHR. Following two full seasons in the Xfinity Series, Briscoe will grab the top rung of the racing ladder when he makes his NASCAR Cup Series debut in the 63rd Daytona 500 Feb. 14 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway. 

-SHR-

 

Briscoe Throws it Back to Fellow Hoosier Stewart

HighPoint.com Ford Mustang to Emulate Tony Stewart’s 2011 NASCAR Cup Series Championship-Winning Ride During Throwback Weekend at Darlington

Two Hoosiers. 24 years apart. One paint scheme. It’s a combination that perfectly encapsulates the theme of this year’s NASCAR Throwback Weekend at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway: NASCAR’s Champions… Past, Present and Future.

Chase Briscoe is a 25-year-old racer from Mitchell, Indiana, and the No. 98 HighPoint.com Ford Mustang he will race in the Sept. 5 Sport Clips Haircuts VFW 200 will eschew its traditional blue-and-white livery for one made famous by fellow Hoosier and NASCAR Hall of Famer Tony Stewart during his epic run to the 2011 NASCAR Cup Series championship.

Briscoe will drive a black-and-white HighPoint.com Ford Mustang with bold red accents that emulate the Mobil 1 design Stewart piloted to an amazing five-win playoff campaign in 2011. In fact, HighPoint, a leading customer service and technology solutions company, has even incorporated the red “o” in Mobil 1’s logo into its own identification, with the “o” in HighPoint an equally bright red. It is the first time in the company’s 24-year-history that it has temporarily altered its logo.

“This is our first year in NASCAR, and even with the challenges we’ve all faced amid COVID-19, it’s been a fantastic experience,” said Mike Mendiburu, president and CEO, HighPoint. “Chase and Stewart-Haas Racing embody so many of the fundamentals that shape our company. They are relentless, so when opportunities present themselves, they seize them and reap the benefits. Our throwback paint scheme is one of those moments. It’s a great way to showcase all that Tony Stewart has accomplished and our partnership with him, while highlighting Chase’s abilities and his run to an Xfinity Series championship.”

Briscoe was 16 years old when a 40-year-old Stewart tore through the NASCAR Playoffs, winning the first two races of the 10-race playoffs and then three of the last four, including the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway where Stewart led four times for 65 laps and passed an incredible 118 cars to seal the title in a tiebreaker over Carl Edwards.

“I’ve always been a diehard Tony Stewart fan,” said Briscoe, who now races for his idol at Stewart-Haas Racing, the team Stewart co-owns with Haas Automation founder Gene Haas. “When Tony sets his sights on something, there’s nothing you can do to stop him, and that title run in 2011 was a perfect example.

“Now here I am running for an Xfinity Series championship, and I’m trying to do exactly what Tony did in 2011. To have his title-winning paint scheme on my car is as much of a way to honor him as it is for me to stay focused on my ultimate goal of winning a championship.”

While 24 years apart, Briscoe and Stewart grew up similarly. Both came from humble, middle-class families in southern Indiana and each began their racing careers in go-karts before making a name for themselves in the rough-and-tumble world of sprint car racing. Briscoe’s hometown of Mitchell is 90 minutes southwest of Stewart’s hometown of Columbus. And after each started their respective racing careers in open-wheel machines, they gravitated to NASCAR, where Stewart became a three-time NASCAR Cup Series champion with 69 victories across NASCAR’s top-three touring series – Cup, Xfinity and Truck.

“Being able to race for Tony is a huge benefit,” Briscoe said. “We have the same background in sprint cars so we kind of speak the same language. If I need some help on the pavement side with our HighPoint.com Ford Mustang, I can call Tony and he completely understands what I’m feeling in the car and can tell me what I need to do to adapt my dirt-track experience to the Xfinity Series.”

If there’s anyone who can explain the transition from dirt-track racing to NASCAR, it is Stewart. He is a four-time USAC champion and has won numerous sprint car races, including in the elite World of Outlaws.

“Chase is a really smooth driver who doesn’t make many mistakes, but when he does, he learns from them and doesn’t repeat them,” Stewart said. “He’s really mature and he’s taken everything he learned last year during his rookie season and put it together this year.”

This was on display July 4 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway when Briscoe applied his dirt-racing experience to the track’s road course, making a stirring drive from third to first in the race’s final three laps to take the home state win for him and Stewart.

Briscoe has eight career Xfinity Series wins, six of which have come this season, including at Darlington when the Xfinity Series visited the 1.366-mile oval back in May.

“Darlington is so different from every track we go to,” Briscoe said. “It’s narrow, and the groove, the surface and the shape are unlike anything on the schedule. You’ve got to take care of your tires or you aren’t going to be able to make any moves for position and move around on the track to find speed. Tony always did a good job of that. I’m ready for the challenge of Darlington and proud to honor him.”

Go Bowling and Stewart-Haas Racing Gear Up for NASCAR Races at Daytona and Richmond

Championship-Winning NASCAR Team and Drivers Aric Almirola and Chase Briscoe Promote Go Bowling America League Program

Go Bowling, the consumer-facing brand of the bowling industry, is utilizing its longstanding partnership with Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) to promote its Go Bowling America league program to consumers across the United States during the Go Bowling 235 NASCAR Cup Series race Aug. 16 on the road course at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway and the Go Bowling 250 NASCAR Xfinity Series race Sept. 11 at Richmond (Va.) Raceway.

Go Bowling will leverage SHR’s presence in the NASCAR Cup and Xfinity Series by being the primary sponsor of driver Aric Almirola and the No. 10 Ford Mustang at Daytona before adorning the No. 98 Ford Mustang of Chase Briscoe four weeks later at Richmond.

The Go Bowling America league program focuses on bringing families, young adults and kids alike back to the lanes in a healthy and safe fashion, as centers around the country have implemented strict measures to ensure the wellness of its employees and customers who come to bowl. Go Bowling, in conjunction with its industry partners, has introduced detailed safety protocols to the thousands of U.S. bowling centers that include social distancing recommendations, use of PPE where required, and guidelines for sanitizing balls and shoes, as well as other equipment in the facility. Additionally, the Go Bowling America league program provides every bowler who joins at a participating bowling center with their very own, brand-new bowling ball to minimize shared contact.

“Our partnership with Stewart-Haas Racing has proven to be very effective at reinforcing the bowling brand among consumers, many of whom are also fans of NASCAR,” said John Harbuck, president of Strike Ten Entertainment, the marketing arm of the bowling industry. “Specifically amid this COVID-19 era, we’re highlighting the cleanliness of our bowling facilities and the safety protocols we have in place to ensure customers are able to stay healthy and safe while enjoying themselves in a fun and welcoming environment.”

Almirola is a two-time winner in the NASCAR Cup Series and is enjoying a career year, currently punctuated by a streak of eight straight top-10 finishes. Briscoe has already locked himself into the NASCAR Playoffs thanks to a series-best five wins.

“Bowling and racing line up well together,” said Almirola, who has represented Go Bowling since 2013. “It’s a great team-building sport that we’ve used at Stewart-Haas Racing, but it’s also something you can do with your family and friends, regardless of age or experience. Bowling has always been the crowd pleaser in the Almirola household.”

“When you’re pouring all your time, effort and money into racing, bowling has always been a nice, affordable way to sort of get away and hit the reset button,” Briscoe added. “If our race got rained out, we’d head to the local bowling alley and have some fun. That’s where we hung out with all our racing buddies when I was coming up through sprint cars, and it’s still where we go now that I’m in NASCAR. I’m always up for hitting the lanes and knocking down some pins.”  

About GoBowling.com:
GoBowling.com is the destination for bowling fans and enthusiasts seeking news and information about one of America’s favorite pastimes and the nation’s No. 1 participatory sport. With more than 67 million people taking to the lanes every year, GoBowling.com is a one-stop location where people of all ages can go to satisfy their love of bowling. Consumers turn to GoBowling.com every day to find bowling fun – discovering new bowling centers, tips and tricks to use on the lanes, event news, and great deals at more than 1,700 family-friendly bowling centers across the country. 

About Strike Ten Entertainment:
Headquartered in Arlington, Texas, Strike Ten Entertainment (STE) is the centralized sponsor-activation arm of the bowling industry. STE serves all of the organizations of bowling by coordinating the industry’s sales and marketing efforts. Its mission is to increase national awareness of bowling and to assist the bowling industry in developing new bowlers and increasing the frequency of existing bowlers each year through promotions, publicity and industry-wide marketing initiatives. For more information, visit www.stemarketing.com. 

About Stewart-Haas Racing:

Stewart-Haas Racing is the title-winning NASCAR team co-owned by three-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Tony Stewart and Gene Haas, founder of Haas Automation – the largest CNC machine tool builder in North America. The Kannapolis, North Carolina-based organization has won two NASCAR Cup Series titles, one NASCAR Xfinity Series championship and more than 80 NASCAR races, including such crown-jewel events as the Daytona 500, Brickyard 400 and Southern 500. For more information, please visit us online at www.StewartHaasRacing.com, on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/StewartHaasRacing, on Twitter at @StewartHaasRcng, on Instagram at @StewartHaasRacing and on YouTube at www.YouTube.com/StewartHaasRacing.

 

Stewart-Haas Racing’s Partnership with Novant Health Takes Flight with Zipline

NASCAR Team Collaborates with Healthcare Provider and Drone Delivery Startup

Working in extreme conditions where the clock is always ticking, Stewart-Haas Racing is well-versed in delivering under the most intense circumstances. The championship-winning NASCAR team has put its experience to good use during the COVID-19 pandemic, partnering with Novant Health to deliver 20 million face masks and produce 120 ICU webcam carts.

Today, its partnership takes flight. Literally.

Novant Health has launched an emergency drone logistics operation for hospital pandemic response through a partnership with Zipline, the world’s only national-scale, on-demand drone logistics service, which will provide drone flight services. Stewart-Haas Racing is providing 25,000-square-feet of property adjacent to its Kannapolis campus for Zipline to deliver medical supplies via its fleet of drones to Novant Health’s integrated system of physician practices, hospitals and outpatient centers.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) granted Novant Health a Part 107 waiver to begin operation, which is being initiated as part of the North Carolina Department of Transportation’s (NCDOT) Unmanned Aircraft System Integration Pilot Program (IPP).

The operation provides contactless distribution of personal protective equipment and critical medical supplies to frontline healthcare workers in the Charlotte, North Carolina, metro area. The operation helps position Novant Health, which operates 15 hospitals and nearly 700 locations in the southeastern United States, to adapt quickly to the evolving pandemic and could lead to such innovative uses as testing, drug trials and vaccine distribution in the future.

The groundbreaking operation will provide ongoing drone logistics flights in Class-D controlled airspace, where all air traffic is actively managed by the FAA under a Part 107 waiver issued to a major U.S. healthcare system. True to its roots, North Carolina is once again “First in Flight.”

“This new part of our relationship with Stewart-Haas Racing has – quite literally – taken our logistics operations to new heights,” said Mark Welch, senior vice president of supply chain, Novant Health. “Once again, SHR stepped up when we had a need in response to this pandemic by providing us the critical space to create our distribution center. This operation is taking Novant Health logistics to the next level and we could not do it without the assistance of Stewart-Haas Racing.”

The operation uses battery-powered drones with autonomous navigation systems which launch from a distribution center near Stewart-Haas Racing. Novant Health is able to move its products efficiently from this hub to its frontline medical teams powered by Zipline’s long-range, fixed-wing drones. Since 2016, Zipline has used its fleet of drones to deliver 110,000 vaccines, units of blood and critical medications internationally.

“As soon as we heard about the initiative Novant Health had with Zipline, our only question was, ‘How can we help?’,” said Mike Verlander, vice president of sales and marketing, Stewart-Haas Racing. “Finding a tract of land that could be used for the distribution center was paramount, and Gene Haas, the co-owner of our race team, had the perfect spot right behind our race shop. He cut through all the red tape and dirt was quickly moved. We helped with logistical coordination during the build and have seen firsthand the work of the Zipline crew and the efficiency of the distribution center and the technology it houses. It’s all very impressive.”

In the span of a few minutes, a lightweight drone takes off from Novant Health’s distribution center, with the package placed inside a parachute in the belly of the Zipline drone. When the drone reaches its destination, it simply drops the parachute and the healthcare worker collects it. The drone then returns to the distribution center to get outfitted for its next flight.

“Zipline has been hard at work helping other countries respond to the pandemic,” said Keller Rinaudo, CEO, Zipline. “And we’re proud to partner with Novant Health, a true leader in healthcare innovation, to begin helping in the United States as well. We’re likely in for a long-term fight against COVID-19. Using contactless drone logistics will be an important tool in that effort. The work underway here in North Carolina will provide the rest of the country with a blueprint for how to build the most resilient and responsive healthcare system possible.”

Over the next two years, the partnership plans to expand beyond emergency operations in the Charlotte area to regular commercial operations, subject to approval under FAA Part 135 rules, to serve health facilities and, ultimately, patients’ homes across the state. Novant Health and Zipline’s partnership seeks to create a next-generation model for health system logistics leveraging contactless drone deliveries. To accomplish this, Zipline works hand-in-hand with national civil aviation authorities.

Safety is Zipline’s top priority at every stage of operation. Zipline drones are designed to automatically detect issues inflight and safely return to base for repair. Each drone is equipped with redundant flight computers, motors, communications systems, and flight control surfaces, as well as redundant navigation and power systems. In the event of emergencies like severe weather or unplanned flight operation issues, each drone is equipped with a parachute that allows it to make an immediate landing by slowly descending to the ground.

Zipline drones weigh approximately 40 pounds with payload, have a top speed of 80 mph, can service a 50-mile radius, and can carry packages close to four pounds, even in high winds and rain.

About Stewart-Haas Racing:

Stewart-Haas Racing is the title-winning NASCAR team co-owned by three-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Tony Stewart and Gene Haas, founder of Haas Automation – the largest CNC machine tool builder in North America. The Kannapolis, North Carolina-based organization has won two NASCAR Cup Series titles, one NASCAR Xfinity Series championship and more than 70 NASCAR races, including such crown-jewel events as the Daytona 500, Brickyard 400 and Southern 500. For more information, please visit us online at www.StewartHaasRacing.com, on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/StewartHaasRacing, on Twitter at @StewartHaasRcng, on Instagram at @StewartHaasRacing and on YouTube at www.YouTube.com/StewartHaasRacing.

Stewart-Haas Racing Expands Partnership with Novant Health

NASCAR Team Making ICU Webcam Carts for Healthcare Provider

In addition to making parts and pieces for its fleet of racecars, Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) is making ICU webcam carts for Novant Health.

The championship-winning NASCAR team began building a prototype cart in mid-April for use in hospitals’ intensive care units. SHR recently delivered 10 of its ICU webcam carts to Novant Health, with the plan to build 110 units over the coming weeks for use across Novant Health’s integrated system of physician practices, hospitals and outpatient centers.

The carts, measuring six-and-a-half feet tall and weighing approximately 30 pounds, include a camera at the top, enabling remote monitoring of patients by Novant Health technicians. This technology improves overall outcomes by shortening length-of-stay times and limiting exposure to COVID-19.

SHR’s ability to manufacture these ICU webcam carts represents an expansion of its partnership with Novant Health, as the race team picked up and delivered 2 million face masks two weeks ago, replenishing Novant Health’s supplies and ensuring its frontline team members are protected amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As we are based in North Carolina and immersed in NASCAR, we’ve seen how well race teams adapt and innovate to stay competitive,” said Mark Welch, senior vice president of supply chain, Novant Health. “Stewart-Haas Racing has proven this point, designing and manufacturing in-demand ICU webcam carts for us in the span of three weeks. Novant Health had a demand, needed a solution, and Stewart-Haas Racing responded. Its quickness and attention to detail is a testament to their success, and our patients are the beneficiaries.”

With Autodesk Fusion 360 design and manufacturing software, SHR used its in-house CNC (Computerized Numerical Control) machine shop outfitted with tools from Haas Automation to create an efficient, lightweight and easy-to-clean ICU webcam cart that provides a new level of digital wellness technology. Even the paint is high-tech, as the purple and white ChromaPremier coating from industry-leader Axalta is anti-microbial to allow for improved cleaning.

“Building ICU webcam carts for Novant Health was a challenge we eagerly accepted,” said Mike Verlander, vice president of sales and marketing, SHR. “We’re used to working under tight deadlines and the parts we manufacture have to stand up to the highest scrutiny and maximum tolerances. Thanks to Haas Automation, Autodesk and Axalta, everything we need to design and manufacture is available under one roof. As satisfying as it is to use these resources to win races and championships, we take a great deal of pride in creating something that is a must-have for doctors and nurses.”

Even as the NASCAR season gets ready to resume May 17 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway, SHR was able to scale up its state-of-the-art machine shop to produce ICU webcam carts for Novant Health. Specifically, SHR personnel use Haas CNC Mill Model VF4SS with a TR210 Trunnion, Haas CNC Mill Model VM2 with a TR160 Trunnion, Haas CNC Lathe Model ST20SS and Haas CNC Lathe Model ST30SSY to manufacture all the structural elements of the ICU webcam carts.

Stewart-Haas Racing Partners with Novant Health to Combat COVID-19

NASCAR Team Helps Deliver 2 Million Face Masks to Replenish Critical Supplies

Stewart-Haas Racing put two of its racing transporters to good use this week, picking up 2 million face masks and delivering them to Novant Health, replenishing its supplies and ensuring its frontline team members are protected.

With the entire sports industry on hiatus in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19, Stewart-Haas Racing was able to repurpose two of the 53-foot haulers it typically uses for taking racecars to tracks across the country to secure much needed Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

Face masks and other PPE items have been in critical demand, even before the April 3 recommendation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that people wear non-medical cloth face coverings in public. As the pandemic has spread, PPE has been more difficult to secure, with shipping delays common. Upon hearing PPE supply was available amid concerns about shipment and delivery, Stewart-Haas Racing deployed its resources to ensure the critical supplies were delivered to Novant Health.

“If you want something done quickly and efficiently, partner with a NASCAR team,” said Mark Welch, senior vice president of supply chain, Novant Health. “Stewart-Haas Racing stepped up in a big way. They took hold of a complex logistical situation and delivered life-saving equipment to Novant Health. The masks they delivered will ensure our supply of this critical necessity is replenished.”

Stewart-Haas Racing and Novant Health are neighbors, with its logistics center located adjacent to the Stewart-Haas Racing campus. That logistics center serves Novant Health’s integrated system of physician practices, hospitals and outpatient centers.

“We’ve always had a good, neighborly rapport with Novant Health, and when they asked if we could help pick up some PPE supplies, we immediately said yes,” said Mike Verlander, vice president of sales and marketing, Stewart-Haas Racing. “Credit to our truck drivers, Rick Hodges and Steve Mitchell, for making the overnight trip and picking up this needed equipment. We’ve all been practicing social distancing and adhering to stay-at-home orders, but to be able to go a step further and contribute to what Novant Health is doing to combat this virus – that’s something we take a lot of pride in and we’ll do again without hesitation.”

About Stewart-Haas Racing:

Stewart-Haas Racing is the title-winning NASCAR team co-owned by three-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Tony Stewart and Gene Haas, founder of Haas Automation – the largest CNC machine tool builder in North America. The Kannapolis, North Carolina-based organization has won two NASCAR Cup Series titles, one NASCAR Xfinity Series championship and more than 70 NASCAR races, including such crown-jewel events as the Daytona 500, Brickyard 400 and Southern 500. For more information, please visit us online at www.StewartHaasRacing.com, on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/StewartHaasRacing, on Twitter at @StewartHaasRcng, on Instagram at @StewartHaasRacing and on YouTube at www.YouTube.com/StewartHaasRacing.

Beach Trip

Twenty Years Ago, Harvick, Childers and Fedewa All Raced in the Myrtle Beach 250; A Trifecta of Talent Just Trying to Make it Eventually Became Champions Together

From 1988 through 2000, Myrtle Beach Speedway in South Carolina hosted the NASCAR Xfinity Series, or as it was called back then, the NASCAR Busch Series.

On one particular evening 20 years ago, the .538-mile oval just off U.S. Route 501 served as a unique junction in the careers of Kevin Harvick, Rodney Childers and Tim Fedewa.

Harvick is the 2014 NASCAR Cup Series champion and driver of the No. 4 Busch Light Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing. Childers is Harvick’s crew chief, and the duo currently own the longest-tenured driver/crew chief relationship in the NASCAR garage. Fedewa is Harvick’s spotter. All three have been together since the inception of the No. 4 team in 2014 – a year where each ended the season with a championship ring on their finger.

But on June 17, 2000 – the last Xfinity Series race to be held at Myrtle Beach Speedway – Harvick, Childers and Fedewa were all just trying to make it as drivers in the stepping-stone division to the elite NASCAR Cup Series.

Jeff Green won the race by 1.029 seconds over a 25-year-old Harvick who was making just his 16th career Xfinity Series start for Richard Childress Racing. It was Harvick’s best career Xfinity Series result, as the first of his 47 Xfinity Series wins was still more than a month away.

Making his 214th career Xfinity Series start was Fedewa. Driving for Cicci-Welliver Racing, Fedewa qualified 11th and finished 38th after being involved in an accident on lap 198.

The Myrtle Beach 250 was Childers’ first and only Xfinity Series start, and it came with Jay Robinson Racing. Childers qualified 33rd and completed just 69 laps before an accident left him 43rd.

The levels of recollection vary. Harvick remembers that Green won. Fedewa had to visit YouTube to watch the TNN broadcast. Childers, however, said, “I remember everything about it.”

With the NBC eSports Short Track iRacing Challenge slated for 7 p.m. EDT on Wednesday on NBCSN, where Myrtle Beach Speedway takes center stage once again, it’s appropriate that we look back on the one and only race where Harvick, Fedewa and Childers all competed as drivers.

Rodney Childers

 

“I was racing late models for a guy who owned a grocery business – Jay Robinson,” Childers said. “I started driving for him that year and we were racing in what is now called the CARS tour. We went to the first six races and won all of them.”

Childers and Robinson were told very politely that no one wanted to see the same car win every week, and would they possibly consider leaving the series. Robinson immediately set his sights on the Busch Series and headed to an auction to purchase a car. They put together the car, but the team consisted of only three people. Every time Childers would practice, he had to get out of the car and be hands-on with the adjustments, losing valuable track time.

“We went out for qualifying and there were like 57 cars there for the race,” Childers said. “Everybody had been picking up on their second lap, so I was going to take it easy on my first lap and get after it on my second lap. Well, my first lap, I was actually quick enough for 30th out of 57. My second lap, I buried it in the corner and got loose. Threw the lap away.”

Besides the lack of a full crew, Childers found the car to be lacking too.

“About lap 10, I found out I didn’t have any brakes,” Childers said. “But we were just riding around there and Randy LaJoie and Jeff Purvis got together in turn one. Everyone was checking up and Blaise Alexander was in front of me and he turned down into my right front because someone turned into him. I jerked the wheel to the left, but got hit and the next thing I knew I was nosed into the inside wall in turn one.”

Turns out, the steering box wasn’t quite up to snuff, but Childers looks at the bright side.

“To be able to make the race with that many cars was actually a huge accomplishment,” Childers said. “There were a lot of people back then that were missing Busch races.”

Tim Fedewa

 

“You forget the level of competition,” Fedewa said. “I ran between 13th and 10th and I can’t believe how hard it was to even get to 10th.”

Fedewa won four Xfinity Series races in his career and scored his final victory on May 13, 2000 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon.

“You probably had 45 good teams that were just racing in the Busch Series,” Fedewa said. “Maybe they didn’t run all of them, but they ran most of them. The short tracks, it was doable for a late model team to buy a car and compete. Because we didn’t have wind tunnel time, a short track team could buy a car or build a car, go to Myrtle Beach and make the show.”

Kevin Harvick

 

“I remember a few things about that race,” Harvick said. “Myrtle Beach is a high tire-wear racetrack and I hadn’t ever raced there before like a lot of guys had from the East Coast. Going there for the first time, I didn’t have the right concept of what I was supposed to be doing with saving tires and stuff like that. I was hammer down all the time.”

Green, who won six races that year on his way to the championship, denied Harvick the victory.

“I lost to Jeff Green and the only other thing I remember is that I jacked him up at one point just trying the mess with him because that’s just what we did back in those days,” Harvick said. “Jeff and I went back and forth during the 2000 and 2001 time period. He was sort of the guy at that point, and I wanted to be the guy. I thought running into him was the best way to get the most attention. Obviously, in the today’s world, you realize that beating him would’ve been much better.”

Green was asked about his run-in with Harvick in victory lane and said simply, “He’s a rookie and he’s learning too. But I did the same thing back when I was a rookie, too.”

The Future

 

In his first full season in the Xfinity Series, Harvick scored three wins and finished third in the championship while claiming rookie-of-the-year honors. Along the way, he gained a reputation for being aggressive on the track, but off the track, his affable attitude and ever-present smile earned him the nickname “Happy.”

Harvick was set to compete full-time in the Xfinity Series in 2001 while making select NASCAR Cup Series starts for Childress’ No. 30 team. But his career path was forever altered on Feb. 18, 2001, when Hall of Fame driver Dale Earnhardt lost his life in an accident on the final lap of the Daytona 500. Days following the tragedy, Childress appointed Harvick to drive in place of Earnhardt, renumbering the famous No. 3 machine to No. 29 in time for the second race of the season at North Carolina Speedway in Rockingham. This new role was in addition to Harvick’s duties in the Xfinity Series, where he was competing for the championship.

Harvick proved he was up to the daunting task of following a legend when, in only his third NASCAR Cup Series start, he scored the victory March 11 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. As the season continued, so did Harvick’s winning ways as he claimed the checkered flag in the inaugural race at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Illinois. He secured the rookie-of-the-year title en route to a ninth-place finish in the season-ending championship.

Ironically, the driver who took over the No. 30 car for Harvick was none other than Green, who competed in eight races in 2001 and ran the full Cup season in 2002 and a partial schedule in 2003.

Harvick moved to Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014 and now has 49 career NASCAR Cup Series victories, which puts him in a tie with his boss, Tony Stewart, for 14th on the all-time NASCAR Cup Series win list. Harvick’s next win will tie him with NASCAR Hall of Famers Junior Johnson and Ned Jarrett.

Childers tried out for various rides and sought opportunities that would keep him behind the wheel, but nothing materialized. In 2003, he made the difficult decision to hang up his helmet, but he wasn’t going to hang up on his dream of working in racing. Instead, Childers altered his dream. He was just as talented working underneath the hood as he was behind the wheel, so he turned his focus to working on racecars.

His road to Stewart-Haas Racing is as follows: mechanic on the No. 77 car for Jasper-Penske Racing in 2003 with driver Dave Blaney and then car chief in 2004 for driver Brendan Gaughan; in June 2005, became crew chief for Scott Riggs at MB2/MBV Motorsports; transitioned to Gillett-Evernham Motorsports from 2006-2008, serving in the same role, but taking over crew chief duties for driver Elliott Sadler in 2008; joined Michael Waltrip Racing (MWR) in 2009 to serve as crew chief of the No. 00 team and driver David Reutimann, scoring his first win as a crew chief in the 2009 Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway; after three years with Reutimann, which included a second win in 2010 at Chicagoland, Childers moved within MWR to the No. 55 team, where in 2012 and 2013 he was the crew chief for Waltrip, Mark Martin and Brian Vickers, guiding Vickers to the win in July 2013 at New Hampshire before departing a month later for SHR.

“Every win is special, especially your first,” Childers said. “I think when we won Charlotte – our first win at MWR – it was a rained-out race so it wasn’t really a win. It was a win to our company, but it wasn’t a win to everyone else in the garage. When we came back the next year and won Chicago and led a lot of laps and had the best car, that was probably the one that felt the best. That was almost more like the first win.

“But, to me, the greatest career achievement wasn’t a win. It was just becoming a crew chief. If there were two things I wanted to do in life, it was to either be a driver or a crew chief, and I was able to become a crew chief. To me, that’s the biggest achievement – just getting to this level and being competitive.”

Fedewa, meanwhile, drove some more Xfinity Series races and a handful of races in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors & RV Truck Series before retiring as a driver in 2006. He took his experience as a driver to the spotter’s stand and has been a mainstay at the top of grandstands for more than a decade.

Another Twist

 

Racing is a small world, so it’s not surprising that Harvick, Childers and Fedewa all ended up working together. But, looking back, the 2000 Myrtle Beach 250 did prove subtly prophetic.

When Childers crashed out of the race, he tangled with Purvis, who was driving the No. 4 car, a number Harvick has since made synonymous with him, Childers and Stewart-Haas Racing.

“It was a sign of things to come,” said Harvick, laughing. “He should’ve paid more attention. Somebody was trying to tell him something.”

Taking the twist a step further, Purvis was hit by LaJoie, and LaJoie’s public relations representative was DeLana Linville, who became DeLana Harvick on Feb. 28, 2001 when the two were married.

Did Harvick, Childers and Fedewa Know Each Other When They All Raced at Myrtle Beach?

 

Did these three people, whose lives are now so intertwined, know each other when they all donned helmets and strapped into their respective racecars that June evening in Myrtle Beach? The answers vary.

“I did not know anything about Rodney Childers at that particular time,” Harvick said.

“I knew of Rodney, but I didn’t know him,” Fedewa said. “But I remember talking with him at Myrtle Beach that weekend. I think that was the first time I ever talked with him.”

“I knew who they were,” Childers said. “About that time, Kevin was going to be moving up to run some Cup races and they needed somebody to run the races he couldn’t run, and I was actually trying to talk to them about running those races.”

“Timmy was one Randy LaJoie’s best friends,” DeLana Harvick said. “So, I knew Timmy really well. I have no recollection of Rodney. I remember the name, but I don’t remember him driving at all.”

2014

 

In late 2013, Childers left MWR to form the No. 4 team at Stewart-Haas Racing. One championship and 26 point-paying victories later, who could have dreamed back in June 2000 that these three would be this successful?

“At that point in life, you think you’re going to race forever, especially for me,” Harvick said. “At that point, I think I was 25 and didn’t really give a crap about anybody else because you’re so narrow minded about how things worked. I’d had a little bit of success and wanted to shove it in everybody’s face at that particular point, which wasn’t exactly the best way to go about it.

“I think you look at it now, it’s pretty unique that you have three guys who were on a similar path. That’s one thing that makes our team so unique is that you have so many similarities in things that we’ve done, things that we’ve been though, places we’ve been, things that we’ve raced, and we’re similar in age. I think that’s why everyone gets along so well.”

Fedewa and Childers agree.

“Racing is smaller than you think,” Fedewa said. “At this point in my life, would I still like to be driving? Of course. But as you move on, you morph into something different. Rodney was a driver back then, well before he became a crew chief. I guess the biggest thing for me is, I’m still glad to be in the sport and lucky to be with the guys I’m with.”

Childers thought he would win several races and a championship – just as a driver, not a crew chief.

“Things started to spin a different way a year or two after that race at Myrtle Beach,” Childers said. “I started doing it as a crew chief. It was tough, though, because you’re basically hanging up something that you always dreamed of.”

Could Childers have been a good driver? Harvick references a line from veteran racer Ken Schrader.

“I’ll go back to one of Ken Schrader’s lines, ‘There are a whole lot more good racecar drivers than there are good racecars.’ As you look at Rodney, he did all the things that I did in my career until we got up into the Truck Series. He just never had the opportunities that played out for him to run full seasons and multiple races. I feel like, for sure, he could’ve done it.”

What Childers has done is assemble one of the most dominant teams of the past six years.

“Rodney is a very detail-oriented person,” Harvick said. “He’s not going to accept anything less from anybody working on the car. If he tells you to polish five lugnuts and you only polish four, he’s going to tell you to polish all five so they look the same. And he thinks about racing all the time.”

Harvick says Fedewa shares the same mindset.

“Timmy’s a simple person who has driven in the past. When you have a spotter and a crew chief who actually drove before, you think about everything from a driver’s point of view all the time, and that helps.”

The Fedewa/Harvick Pairing

 

“I was spotting for Marco Ambrose and he was getting ready to leave,” Fedewa said. “So, I thought I should see what’s out there. I put my name in the hat at Stewart-Haas Racing and told them I was interested. I think Kevin got some audio from Racing Electronics of me at previous races where I had spotted, and Kevin listened to it. I guess he heard and said, ‘Who’s this?’ They told him it was me and they got in contact with me. That’s the story I heard, anyway.”

Turns out, Fedewa got a little help from DeLana Harvick.

“I remember Kevin and I were sitting there listening to maybe six spotters’ audio recordings,” DeLana said. “When he brought up Timmy, I just remember how calm he was – which is completely different from LaJoie, which is strange that they are such good friends. I remember when it came time for Kevin to have to pick, I threw in a vote for Timmy. I felt like a former driver would be good, and it was the same feeling I had when I found out Rodney used to drive.”

A trip to the beach 20 years proved to be the beginning of a dynastic trio of talent, and it’s perhaps best surmised by DeLana who said simply: “It’s pretty ironic to think how it’s all come to pass and how it all happened.”

View From the Virtual Pit Box

SHR Crew Chiefs Offer Their Take on iRacing

“When the winds of change blow, some people build walls and others build windmills.” This is an ancient Chinese proverb, and it’s particularly apt when it comes to NASCAR and its embrace of iRacing.

With the entire sports world shuttered to combat the spread of the coronavirus, NASCAR – the 72-year-old purveyor of ground-pounding speed – has found its windmill in iRacing, specifically, the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series.

The eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series is an exhibition esports series featuring a collection of actual racecar drivers from the NASCAR Cup Series, NASCAR Xfinity Series and NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series. It kicked off last Sunday at the virtual Homestead-Miami Speedway and it is a multi-week series emulating the original 2020 NASCAR Cup Series schedule.

It has been an unabashed success, with the series’ second race taking place this Sunday at 1 p.m. EDT at the virtual Texas Motor Speedway with live coverage on FOX.

Last Sunday’s eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series race at Homestead was the single most-watched esports event in U.S. history. The race drew 903,000 viewers on FS1, besting the previous high of 770,000 viewers when Mortal Kombat aired on The CW in 2016. The race was the highest-rated broadcast on FS1 since mass postponements of sporting events began on March 15. During the race, the #ProInvitationalSeries was the No. 1 trending topic on Twitter in the U.S.

But while the drivers have been hands-on in this endeavor, what do their crew chiefs think? In the real world, they’re always hands-on, with an assortment of tools occupying their hands regularly. But in the sim world, they’re bystanders.

“The iRacing event that took place at Homestead last weekend was quite revolutionary, not only for our sport, but for all sports in general,” said Mike Bugarewicz, crew chief for NASCAR Cup Series driver Aric Almirola and the No. 10 Smithfield team of Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR). “It gave us something to do and something to watch on Sunday, and it gave the drivers some seat time. While it’s not perfect to what the real world is, it still forces them to make a call from a crew chief’s perspective. Not every call is so easy.”

SHR’s Johnny Klausmeier, crew chief for Clint Bowyer and the No. 14 Rush Truck Centers/Mobil 1 team, provided an example.

“The most interesting thing to me was the tire strategy with the guys taking none, two or four tires. It seemed very realistic, especially at Homestead-Miami Speedway where you have a lot of tire fall off. Guys could get their track position, but after 10 laps, the tires were wearing out and they were shuffling around, moving and jockeying.

“As a crew chief, I wanted to put my hands on things and work on the car. So, it was different for the drivers to be able to just instantly change things and make the car different on the computer. It was neat and a great show for the fans.”

While the racecar is obviously important, the track is the other key element. Rodney Childers, crew chief for Kevin Harvick and SHR’s No. 4 Busch Light team, was impressed with how real a track’s idiosyncrasies were detailed in iRacing.

“The racetracks are really accurate, with the bumps and the features and all of that stuff,” Childers said. “From a visual side of things, it’s probably very beneficial for the drivers.”

One of those drivers is Chase Briscoe, pilot of the No. 98 HighPoint.com/Ford Performance Racing School Ford Mustang for SHR in the Xfinity Series. Briscoe’s crew chief, Richard Boswell, believes the time his driver spends on iRacing makes him better in general.

“Laps are laps, regardless of what car it is or what type of simulator it’s on,” Boswell said. “The repetition of seeing the markers at certain tracks and feeling the bumps is a great way to stay sharp. Of course, there’s the added advantage of Chase having a motion rig where he can get a more realistic feel for each track, not just in the steering wheel but in his seat.

“I sure am glad my driver is spending this time wisely. I know when we finally get back to racing, he will be as ready as anyone. So will his team!”

Boswell, like everyone in NASCAR, is eagerly awaiting the resumption of real racing, but he has embraced the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series and the newfound time at home.

“This is a great way to keep fans connected to our sport considering the difficult times our country is facing. I applaud FOX, NASCAR, iRacing, the sponsors and all of the folks who have participated in bringing this event to our homes. Even my little girls were excited to see some sort of racing on TV. The only difference was they could root for their favorite driver, Chase Briscoe, with daddy instead of without him.”

 

About Stewart-Haas Racing:

Stewart-Haas Racing is the title-winning NASCAR team co-owned by three-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Tony Stewart and Gene Haas, founder of Haas Automation – the largest CNC machine tool builder in North America. The Kannapolis, North Carolina-based organization has won two NASCAR Cup Series titles, one NASCAR Xfinity Series championship and more than 70 NASCAR races, including such crown-jewel events as the Daytona 500, Brickyard 400 and Southern 500. For more information, please visit us online at www.StewartHaasRacing.com, on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/StewartHaasRacing, on Twitter at @StewartHaasRcng, on Instagram at @StewartHaasRacing and on YouTube at www.YouTube.com/StewartHaasRacing.

Brave New Schedule

Necessity Brings Opportunity When NASCAR Racing Returns

Words matter. For example, there’s a big difference between “postponed” and “canceled”. Postponed means to defer, or to put off until a later time. Canceled, meanwhile, means to make void, revoke or annul.

NASCAR has been on hiatus since the coronavirus outbreak suspended the entire sports industry, but its races have only been postponed, which means all will eventually happen. But for an entity that lays claim to the longest season in all of professional sports – one that spans 36 point-paying races across 10 months from early February to November – rescheduling those postponed races will require some creative thinking.

Midweek shows? Why not? Doubleheaders? Sure. In fact, NASCAR has performed the former numerous times with the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series race at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio. Since its inception in 2013, the Truck Series race at Eldora has owned a midweek date in July. This year’s race is slated for Thursday, July 30. A doubleheader, meanwhile, is already slated for June 27-28 at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway with the flagship NASCAR Cup Series.

Certainly more midweek races and doubleheader weekends can satisfy the appetite of NASCAR fans hungry for real racing action, while also serving as the solution for rescheduling postponed events.

“If you’ve followed me, you know I’ve been pretty vocal about changing things up when it comes to the schedule,” said Kevin Harvick, the 2014 NASCAR Cup Series champion who drives the No. 4 Busch Light Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR). “When it comes to the 2021 schedule, NASCAR was already looking outside the box of things we can do differently. Out of necessity, how we configure race weekends and when we race will have to be figured out for when we get back to racing this year. It’s actually not a bad thing. Change is different, but it can be good, and we’ll have to think differently and be open-minded to what the rest of this year’s schedule ends up looking like.”

Aric Almirola, driver of the No. 10 Smithfield Ford Mustang for SHR, is of the same mindset as Harvick.

“NASCAR has been pretty straightforward in saying that all options are on the table, including midweek races and more doubleheaders. I’m even more intrigued to see what the TV viewership would look like. I think a midweek race would resonate really well. Fans who worked all day can come home, eat dinner and then relax on the couch while we put on a show. I think it would be pretty cool for them.”

While the Atlanta race weekend originally scheduled for March 13-15 ended up getting postponed, a revised schedule saw a Saturday-only timeline where the NASCAR Cup Series qualified at 11 a.m. and raced at 2 p.m. Practice was scuttled entirely in an effort to get everything completed in a single day.

“I think as soon as everyone got to Atlanta and saw the schedule change, it raised an eyebrow,” said Clint Bowyer, driver of the No. 14 Rush Truck Centers/Mobil 1 Ford Mustang for SHR. “We said, ‘Hey, we can do these races in a day.’ I was fine with it. You know we need to do whatever we can do to put on a show for all these fans across the country. If all we have time for is a one-day show, then so be it. I think we can provide enough bang for their buck.”

But what if a condensed schedule meant little to no practice?

“Teams have a lot of data simulation to predict how their car is going drive and handle at a particular track, but it’s not always perfect,” Almirola said. “Oftentimes, we show up to the racetrack, make changes, and make the car better from the time we unload until we get ready for the race. And it helps the driver to just pick up some reference points and kind of adapt to what you have for the balance in your car that weekend.

“Practice is always helpful, even if it’s just a little bit. It would present a challenge to not practice, but it would at least be the same for everybody.” 

Almirola, like his SHR teammates Harvick and Bowyer, are NASCAR Cup Series veterans. But for a rookie seeing some of these venues for the first time, track time is even more cherished.

“Being a rookie, I would rather have the practice session to get a feel for the car and the track going into the race,” said Cole Custer, the first-year driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Ford Mustang for SHR. “It would be a little harder just getting one or two qualifying laps in and then going racing. Any time on the racetrack as a rookie is huge – the more, the better. If all we did was qualify, like we were set to do at Atlanta, it would put a lot of emphasis on our preparation going into the weekend. For me, practice is just really important so we can work on the car and get used to the track.”

No matter what the revised calendar ends up being, drivers will adapt.

“In every crisis situation, there are things to be learned and positives to bring out of it,” Bowyer said. “There’s certainly the opportunity to do a midweek race or a one-day show or a doubleheader. All those options are on the table.”

And after a hiatus that will last almost as long as the traditional offseason, how will drivers pick up where they left off when the series departed Phoenix Raceway back on March 8?

“During the offseason, I’m very relaxed, but this is so different,” Almirola said. “My mind is still so focused on racing. I’m continuing to work out and I go through the week with a schedule and stay in shape because, quite honestly, I think it’s going to be even more important to be in tip-top shape when we’re ready to go and the season does start back up because we’re going to be racing a lot.

“We’re talking about running races on the weekend, then midweek, then another the following weekend. If we do that, running three races in a week is going to be a lot. Recovering after the race and getting your body and mind prepped for the next race in a short period of time will be important. I’m focused on eating right, getting plenty of protein, and staying in shape to be as ready as possible for whatever this season has in store for us.”

 

About Stewart-Haas Racing:

Stewart-Haas Racing is the title-winning NASCAR team co-owned by three-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Tony Stewart and Gene Haas, founder of Haas Automation – the largest CNC machine tool builder in North America. The Kannapolis, North Carolina-based organization has won two NASCAR Cup Series titles, one NASCAR Xfinity Series championship and more than 70 NASCAR races, including such crown-jewel events as the Daytona 500, Brickyard 400 and Southern 500. For more information, please visit us online at www.StewartHaasRacing.com, on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/StewartHaasRacing, on Twitter at @StewartHaasRcng, on Instagram at @StewartHaasRacing and on YouTube at www.YouTube.com/StewartHaasRacing.

 

Tony Stewart ‘Free Wheeling’ with Newfound Free Time

Born in 1971, Tony Stewart grew up in a robust era of car culture, where manufacturers catered directly to the consumer with unabashedly loud graphics splashed across premium versions of its cars and trucks.

One of the most prominent and iconic graphics packages came from Ford, and it’s one that caught the eye of NASCAR Hall of Famer Tony Stewart when he was an 8-year-old racing go-karts in and around his hometown of Columbus, Indiana.

Ford’s Free Wheeling package featured a bright, kaleidoscope color palate that oozed 70s-era swagger. The limited-edition run was available on the F-100, F-150, Bronco, Econoline van and Courier, and even the Pinto Cruising Wagon. But the Free Wheeling version that resonated the most with Stewart was the one on a black Ford Bronco.

“Every year when we went down to Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway, I would join Edsel Ford and on race morning and we’d judge the Mustang show,” said Stewart, the three-time NASCAR Cup Series champion who co-owns Stewart-Haas Racing with Haas Automation founder Gene Haas. “This past year they had a bunch of Ford Broncos there too, and that got me thinking about those Broncos with those cool graphics packages I remember seeing back when I was still racing go-karts. I started looking around on the internet and when I finally found it, I knew I had to have it.”

It is a 1979 Ford Bronco Ranger XLT. The year prior, the Bronco migrated to the F-series chassis, giving it full-size proportions. The big, tall sides and wide hood provided the ideal canvas for those vivid stripes that signified the Free Wheeling edition. The Bronco, in particular, amplified those bright graphics with blacked-out bumpers and mirrors. And the sharp looks were more than skin deep, as the Bronco came with a rumbling, 400 cubic-inch V8 that made its presence known even while sitting idle as it rode on quad, heavy-duty shocks and big, 15-by-8-inch wheels. It was this look that Ford featured prominently in its ads, and has since become a cult classic.

“It looks badass,” Stewart said, “but it’s also pretty simple, especially under the hood. I can work on it, and that’s the fun part. There’s an Advance Auto Parts not far down the road from where I went to high school. I can pick up a case of Mobil 1 synthetic, a filter, and do the oil change myself. I can work on it and tinker with it and, you know, I’ve got plenty of time now.”

Stewart, like the rest of the sporting world, is sidelined due to the coronavirus outbreak. Even after retiring as a fulltime NASCAR driver at the end of the 2016 season, the Hoosier has filled his schedule with nearly 100 sprint car races a year. He’s won 23 of those races across a variety of series since his last NASCAR race at Homestead on Nov. 20, 2016. But not being tied to a schedule for the first time in seemingly forever has provided a glimpse of what resides outside a racetrack.

“The rear roof of the Bronco comes off and, honestly, once the weather gets nice, it’ll probably stay off,” Stewart said. “It’s got captain’s chairs up front, but a big bench seat in the back, and with the roof off, that’ll be awesome. I’ve always thought being able to remove the roof was the coolest thing about these Broncos, and now I’ll get to actually enjoy it.”

As much as Stewart relishes his retro Bronco, he’s acutely aware that a new-generation Bronco is getting ready to debut.

“I’m really looking forward to what the new Bronco will look like,” Stewart said. “We kind of got an idea of what it’ll look like when it ran in the Baja 1000 late last year, but that was more of a prototype than anything. I want to see the real deal.”

Would Stewart like to see that real deal with some retro Free Wheeling stripes?

“I’m sure my ’79 Bronco would make a really good big brother,” Stewart said. “Seeing the new one decked out in black with those retro stripes, it would fit right in.”