Not to throw the apple of discord into the middle of a love feast, but Tony Stewart's unqualified success as a new owner/driver may be the biggest threat to Tony Stewart's unqualified success as a new owner/driver.
More on that shortly, but first, let's make a distinction between owner/driver Tony Stewart and others who have preceded him. After Stewart's victory in Sunday's Pocono 500, the first statistic on the race notes sheet distributed by NASCAR read like this:
“This marks the first win in the (Sprint Cup) series by an owner/driver since Sept. 27, 1998 (Ricky Rudd, Martinsville Speedway).”
Stewart, however, is not an owner/driver in the same sense that Rudd or 1992 Cup champion Alan Kulwicki were. Rudd and Kulwicki built their respective successes with shoestring budgets and skeleton staffs. To his credit, Stewart has assembled a juggernaut.
To his credit, Stewart took the existing infrastructure at ne'er-do-well Haas CNC Racing and transformed it from an organisation that had never won a race to one that has earned two trophies this year (the non-points Sprint All-Star Race and the Pocono 500) and has streaked to the top of the Cup standings.
To his credit, Stewart's well-oiled, well-funded organisation features handpicked, quality personnel in all key jobs, with lucrative sponsorship deals from Office Depot, Old Spice and the U.S. Army in place to make sure he meets the payroll.
To his credit, Stewart has capitalised - and then some - on the most valuable asset Haas CNC Racing brought to the table during negotiations that ultimately gave Stewart an ownership stake in newly formed Stewart-Haas Racing.
That asset? Haas CNC's existing relationship with Hendrick Motorsports.
Stewart's engines and chassis come from Hendrick, so in essence, he and team-mate Ryan Newman are Hendrick customers driving Hendrick cars. For his crew chief, Stewart hired Darian Grubb, a brilliant engineer thoroughly versed in the Hendrick methodology - because he helped develop and refine it.
It was Grubb, you'll recall, who won two of four races with Jimmie Johnson in 2006, subbing for suspended crew chief Chad Knaus. It was Grubb who made the fuel-mileage call that helped give then-Hendrick driver Casey Mears his only Cup win in the 2007 Coca-Cola 600.