Wednesday, July 09, 2008

What if Stewart switch were reversed?

Any time a driver of Tony Stewart's stature switches race teams, there are a lot of aspects to the story that sometimes get lost in the swirl.

In this particular case, though, there's one I can't help but keep coming back to. What if the manufacturer roles in this saga, which is finally unfolding this week, had been reversed?

What would the fan reaction be if Joe Gibbs Racing had still been running Chevrolets and Toyota came in and culled Stewart from that team to set him up with his own Toyota operation?

My guess is that reaction would be apoplectic.

Remember when Toyota was coming into NASCAR and everyone was talking about how that manufacturer was going to upset the entire business model of the Cup garage? Toyota would throw money around and make everybody pay more to keep drivers and top crew members instead of losing them to the new "menace?"

Yes, Toyota did get the Gibbs team to move from Chevrolet to Toyota. But that was at the end of the Gibbs contract with General Motors, at a time in which the team was free to take a deal from Ford or Dodge, too, if those manufacturers had stepped up.

Now, in the first year of that deal, Stewart is going back to the Chevrolet camp. And I don't care what anybody says today at the news conference at Chicagoland Speedway announcing that he's going to own part of Haas CNC Racing, GM's fingerprints are all over this deal.

Stewart has sprint car teams affiliated with General Motors and the Gibbs team's move to Toyota put him with one foot in each camp. I am not saying it doesn't make perfect sense for Chevrolet to want him to pick a side, or for Stewart to have loyalties to the people who're already working with him in those other series.

Stewart had another year on his contract, but apparently that didn't stop somebody from GM from suggesting that there might be opportunities for him if he could jump ship. Maybe Stewart sought out those opportunities, but either way it's clear that Chevrolet's racing folks have been working with a driver who had a contract for a Toyota team for 2009 on another option for that season.

I have no question in my mind that fans would be howling with outrage if Toyota did the exact same thing to a top-tier Chevrolet, Ford or Dodge driver in the same circumstance.

I stay on NASCAR pretty hard about being consistent, so it's only fair to ask the fans to not to have their own double standards, too.


Unknown said...

I agree with you completely David. I'm not too proud to admit I'm all for this move because I'm a "GM guy" and happy to hear Tony will be back in a car with a bow tie sticker on it ;-)

I wouldn't be one of those outraged if the switch were reversed though. Disappointed (as I was last year with the JGR switch) yes. But not outraged. It's business. Nothing personal.

boyd said...

I don't think this is an outrage.
I'm a GM guy, and if you look back at history, they've done this before with Jeff Gordon. He ran the 'Busch' series in Fords and they thought they had him wrapped up.
Kasey Kahne was in the Ford development program, and he was lured away by Dodge dollars.
Remember, this isn't Friday night at the dirt track, this is big business.

Anonymous said...

I agree. Its business, nothing personal. Obviously the switch that JGR made has worked out VERY well for them on both the Cup & Nationwide series, although I wonder if JJ Yeley was still driving the 18, would JGR/Toyota have only 1 win (Hamilin in Martinsville)?

I do wonder what really happened behind closed doors with Stewart and the Gibbs when they were discussing the possibility of switching to Toyota. Did they ask Stewart his opinion? Did they slight him and not ask? If Stewart didn’t support the move, did he feel slighted and at that time decided he was leaving? If Stewart had 6 wins instead of Shrubby, would he still be leaving? We can assume whatever we want, but unless someone who is 'in the know' steps up and lets us in on the truth, we may never actually know.

As far as his move, if he did it because he is a GM loyalist or because he wants to own a team, that’s his business. We all make professional choices on what is best for us and our family, and if Tony feels that is the best choice for him, then good for him and best of luck. Regardless, like him or hate him, the man knows how to win and will turn that team around in a hurry.

I don’t care if Toyota tries to attract new drivers/teams, if I were Toyota I would do the same thing. In fact, it’s done all the time (Jr to Hendrick, etc). I think its only the people who hate Toyota that would be outraged if the rolls were reversed; and those people are the same ones who have foreign televisions and buy t-shirts and hats from souvenir haulers that were all made in China...

Anonymous said...

As I recall, one thing that was most consistent was the media buying and repeating the line that Toyota was going to use its money and swamp NASCAR in 2007 - despite Toyota's high spending and failure in Formula 1. Reporting about Toyota's failure in F1 did not fit the media's Toyota menace stories in 2007. The reporting about the Toyota menace in 2007 was consistently unfounded and sloppy - and I have yet to see any major outlet have a story this year about how wrong the media was in overestimating Toyota in 2007.

Anonymous said...

Very well put David, Had the role's reversed...There would have been a good Ol' Fashion Lynching...But what this really boils down so is MONEY, It's not about Chevrolet power, media reports that Stewart will now be the highrest paid Nascar driver...Remember when Randy Moss was the highest paid in the NFL?, Don't get me wrong I'm all about free enterprise and making money, But I don't think Tony wearing a "Bowtie" will stop the hemmoraging.
True Tony was not a happy camper with the switch...and I predict ONLY 1 win out of him this year...can you guess which one it'll be?...storied track...But If I where Lee White and Jim Aust I would have be giving Tony Toyota Motors to play around in the dirt with...Sorta like giving candy to the fat kid! Can Tony make Haas a competitive org? Yes, eventually...But eventually I can teach my dog to sing

Mike Hutton said...

Well said David, but don't assume it's a bad thing.

As you know, a caller to your radio show on Wednesday asked how different teams and/or manufacturers could talk to another driver or team while said driver or team was still under contract to someone else. You correctly answered that because drivers and teams are independent contractors, that such discussions are possible.

That's all that was in play here - nothing more, nothing less. GM was sorry to lose Tony...they wanted him back...they ponied up and got him.

Anonymous said...

Were in a free enterprise system so its business as usual. Any mfg can go after any driver if they choose to do so.

Only in Nascar is "Tony going back to GM" Chevy has sponsored his 4 Crown Nationals at Eldora along with Eldora's pacecar plus s race teams. Tony never left the bed he was in with GM only JGR did.

Monkeesfan said...

I think David keeps missing the point, and it shows when he notes that JGR "was free to take a deal with Ford or Dodge, too, if those manufacturers had stepped up." The fact is they couldn't step up. Therein lays the truth in what David seems to dismiss in his mocking sentence "Toyota would throw money around and make everybody pay more to keep drivers" etc. They are - subtly - doing this, but more importantly they're escalating the technology/resource arms race in the sport, which is what they did in the Trucks to where the percentage of Toyota wins there is usually 50% and sometimes higher.

Ford, Dodge, etc. should not need to "step up" to stay competitive and win races.

Julie said...


Your point is only valid if Tony didn't have an "out" clause when Gibbs went to Toyota. I've heard that he did. Do you know that he didn't?

When Gibbs told him they were going to Toyota I think he immediately began looking at his options, but ownership deals take time, and this was as fast as he could get this deal done. It seems fairly common knowledge that this deal has been in the works for many months now. I don't believe he ever intended to stay with Gibbs once they made the move, and if there was a "material change" clause in his contract (which is not uncommon) then what Tony has done is no different than what Gibbs did.

As for GM's prints being all over this deal - what's your point? Toyota's prints are all over the Gibbs dieal.

Anonymous said...

I don't know why you are trying to make it sound like Toyota is an innocent victim here. Tony has been a long term GM guy (both of his cup titles) and he got forced into a Toyota because JGR switched. He had a contract with JGR but not with Toyota and you can bet that the most attractive thing to Toyota when they went after JGR was Tony and the 20. Well, they still have the 20, but without its signature driver, and now they have Rowdy, which probably looks good to them right now but they may live to regret.

Anonymous said...

So what's wrong with Chevy stealing a driver back from Toyota? I think there would be a difference in an unproven car, but Tony has seen what a Toyota can do, he just prefers Chevy. As someone who watches American's who are unaware of import and export woes I am proud of what Tony did today.

Anonymous said...

DAVID- Your commentary assumes that GM enticed Tony to leave JGR, but you provide no basis for such assumption. Maybe Haas approached Tony, or maybe GM contacted Tony but about 2010 not 2009, or maybe Tony's contract had an out for Tony that he agreed in 2007 not to exercise for 2008. In other words, there are many other reasonable scenarios to consider besides it all being GM's doing.

Unknown said...

I'm with David and based on some of the comments here, he's right. There are people that would have been completely outraged had this been Toyota bringing in a star driver with at least one year left on his contract for a team of another manufacturer. David isn't trying to make Toyota out to be the victim, all he's doing is pointing about the hypocrisy among certain fans. You can't complain about Toyota signing JGR away from GM when JGR was a free agent and not complain about GM when they take a driver away from Toyota who still had a year left on his contract. Obviously it's not all of the fans who are this way and David is just speaking to those fans that are.

And to Monkeesfan it's been Hendrick more than anyone that's increased the cost of doing business in Cup. They won 18 races last year(how many did Toyota win?), and GM won 26 as a manufacturer. And Rousch has had 5 teams for how long? And people want to blame Toyota for increasing costs? That's so laughable.

Anonymous said...

Did GM buy Tony? sure did. They could buy a bunch of other guys in the garage if they had wanted them. The only thing this reinforces is the the fact that the more money that's involved, the less a contract means.

Unknown said...

boy. I sure agree with what Kenorv said. Most of the comments here do a better job of arguing David's point than even David did!

Anonymous said...

So Tony will be the highest paid driver in the garage with his new deal...Who will sign his checks..himself?
He'll be his own employee...and he will award himself a huge salary.

dwight said...

It looks like NASCAR may be targeting Toyota again. They just said that nine engines are being taken to dyno after the Nationwide race. Earlier ESPN had a bunch of tape of Biffle and others whining because they couldn't been Kyle and Tony. They want Toyota reined in. I didn't hear anyone threatening to rein in Chevrolet last year because they were winning Cup races.

It's been a double standard all along, ever since they changed the Champions Provisional to keep Jarrett from being able to get his Toyota in races if needed, and changed the rules on who is qualified to run in the All-Star Race to keep Michael Waltrip and his Toyota out.

Mike Hutton said...

It's bad enough when drivers whine about one manufacturer being stonger than others, but when co-hosts of a nationally-televised pre-race show whose names ryhme with Rusty Wallace and Brad Daugherty do it, it's insane.

If the drivers of other manufacturers' equipment are torqued-off that Toyota enjoys a 22hp advantage (according to Rusty), then they need to tell their manufacturers' engineers to sharpen the pencil, get to work and close the gap.

It is not NASCAR's job to legislate and/or mechanically manipulate pairity. For Rusty to cry for this repeatedly is disgusting. His energy would be better-suited for trying to ensure his son stops making mistakes week in and week out that, sooner or later, are going to get someone killed.

Anonymous said...

Aside from this being a GM Toyota thing I really don't understand why any respectable NASCAR Cup driver would go to a "team" where the owner is serving prison time. What does that say about Tony Stewarts associations. I guess the media just will not look under the corner of the carpet.
Why is it reported as a 50-50 deal? No such thing, can't happen and survive.

Anonymous said...


Do you approve of Rick Hendrick?

Anonymous said...


Rick Hendrick is just as guilty of a crime as Haas. He just got house arrest instead of prison because of his illness.

Anonymous said...

Mike Hutton said:
"If the drivers of other manufacturers' equipment are torqued-off that Toyota enjoys a 22hp advantage (according to Rusty), then they need to tell their manufacturers' engineers to sharpen the pencil, get to work and close the gap. "

I don't think you are quite current on the beef that NASCAR driver's have in the Nationwide series. The R07 hasn't been approved for use, though it is quite competitive with Toyota's HP. Keselowski said last night after his race, "It's frustrating to have an engine that can compete but it's stuck on a shelf because NASCAR won't allow it".

Anonymous said...

anony no I do NOT

Mike Hutton said...

Amy said:
"I don't think you are quite current on the beef that NASCAR driver's have in the Nationwide series. The R07 hasn't been approved for use, though it is quite competitive with Toyota's HP. Keselowski said last night after his race, "It's frustrating to have an engine that can compete but it's stuck on a shelf because NASCAR won't allow it"."

Believe me, I'm aware that Toyota is allowed to use the same motor from the Cup series in the Nationwide series and Chevrolet is not. Thanks for your concern.

Rusty still sounded like a whiny little brat, and his son needs more development in let's say - a big wheel - before being allowed to drive anything with an internal-combustion engine again.

Anonymous said...

So was it fair that Toyota was not allowed to use their Craftsman Truck motor when they stepped up to Cup like Dodge did?...HOW many races did Chevrolet win?, What about Nascar taking away an "approved" intake manifold earlier rhis year from Toyota, sonds like Rick Hendrick is whining!

Anonymous said...

"Believe me, I'm aware that Toyota is allowed to use the same motor from the Cup series in the Nationwide series and Chevrolet is not. Thanks for your concern. "

Maybe your posts could reflect that point then? Or does that deter from your point...

Mike Hutton said...

Fair enough, Amy. We've each made our points.

Anonymous said...

Why wasn't there outrage from fans and drivers last year when Chevrolet won 26 out of 36 Cup races?

Anonymous said...

I forgot to mention in my last post that 18 of the 26wins by Chevy were won by the same organization.

Anonymous said...

Diane said...
"Why wasn't there outrage from fans and drivers last year when Chevrolet won 26 out of 36 Cup races?"

Honestly all I can think of as a reason here is that the Chevy teams didn't come out of nowhere. Toyota was nothing last year. Red Bull and MWR weren't competitive teams and Hendrick, JGR and RCR had been competitive the years before. Plausible?

Anonymous said...

Toyota was nothing last year. Red Bull and MWR weren't competitive teams and Hendrick, JGR and RCR had been competitive the years before. Plausible?

7/14/2008 11:45 AM
I have a close association with Toyota, could it be We did our homework? Gibbs/Mark Cronquist have paid huge dividends and the success trickles down to all Toyota teams, Unlike Chevrolets philosophy...cause if THAT where the case Haas/CNC would have more than 1 top 5 in 6 years.

Anonymous said...

Fan #5 - What you say is very true. The other brands have the same opportunity to make their cars better. They didn't do that but Toyota did. Good for them. I'm cheering mighty hard for Vickers and Allmendinger!!

Anonymous said...

fan #5, there are almost too many problems in your post to address. Engines do not make the entire car. So ends the Haas stats. Toyota information is shared? I bet that would be news to MWR when compared to Kyle Busch, or is that related to set-ups which illustrates my first point?

As far as Toyota doing its homework, I'm sure there was a lot of R&D in the last couple years, but there isn't parity with all drivers, it appears to me Gibbs got what they were looking for, the top spot with the manufacturer and Kyle is proving to be the driver to beat, without him, Toyota is having an average year, far below Chevy or Ford. Or do you think anyone could win in the 18?

American Citizen said...

Outrage would be the Wood Brothers racing anything but Fords.

I am glad that Tony has the chance to follow his dream of ownership and retuning to the Chevrolet fold.

It will be interesting to see how things "shake down" after the "silly season" is over.

Hey didn't Matt Kenseth drive a Chevy while in the old Busch Series?

Anonymous said...

I think Gibbs is the one with a lack of loyalty. Since Hendrick and Chevrolet brought him along, giving him assistance in a way they do to no one else. Shoeless Joe Gibbs has sold out his country, his friends, and his car company for the almighty dollar.

Anonymous said...

This is a great post. Thanks it is very informative.
I totally agree with you. It's a business and all parties involved are doing business, nothing personal.

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