Tony Stewart looked relieved on Tuesday as he was able to confirm that a large part of the hole in sponsorship for Ryan Newman's #39 car in 2013 had been plugged thanks to an increased commitment from existing backer Quicken Loans.
"It takes a lot of the pressure off of ensuring whether or not we're going to have this car on the track full-time next year," said team co-owner Stewart at the announcement. "It will be on the track full-time."
Newman's 2012 Cup season had been primarily funded by sponsorship from the US Army
, but it decided to pull the plug on its involvement with NASCAR
over the summer when there was intense scrutiny in Congress of public funds being used in this fashion rather than going directly on military expenditure.
That left Stewart-Haas Racing scrambling to find new sponsors, made harder when they were further rocked by the decision of the main sponsor of Stewart
's #14 car, Office Depot, to "significantly curtail our relationship" with the team because of the current economic downturn in the US.
While Stewart's own sponsorship backing for 2013 is still uncertain, he was at least able to announce this week that Quicken Loans had doubled their backing of Newman's car. From being a nine-race sponsor in 2012, the company would back Newman for 18 of the 36 Cup races in 2013 and in addition also act as an associate sponsor for the other races where they were not emblazoned on the car livery.
"We just felt it was a great partnership," said Jay Farner, president and chief marketing officer of Quicken Loans. "How do we take what we've learned and do more? We've decided to double down."
"It's a huge first step in filling a couple of large voids," said Stewart. "We have a little bit of inventory to sell on Ryan's car, but we're really close," he added: "On Ryan's car, this is the best shape we've been in."
Newman - whose contract for 2013 was renewed
last month despite the uncertainty on the sponsorship front - was certainly relieved by this week's news. "It's a big first step in the right direction for me from a long-term contract standpoint," he said. "It's nice to have a direction of who your partners are going to be."
As for the situation with his own car, team owner-driver Stewart was hoping that this week's news would help them clinch deals for the #14 as well. "Hopefully we'll have a domino effect with this, and get the rest of the inventory taken care of so we can worry about building fast race cars and getting results for them," he said.
"We feel like we have a couple of leads that hopefully will help us get this done before the end of the year," he said. "So I'm excited that we'll hopefully have that taken care of before the season actually ends."
Stewart-Haas expects to expand to a three-car operation in 2013, with the sponsorship for Danica Patrick already in place thanks to her long-term relationship with the GoDaddy.com internet services company.