Multiple Sprint Cup title winning team owner Rick Hendrick has backed Tony Stewart to become of the 'great owners' in NASCAR.

Stewart enters into the 2009 season as an owner-driver after teaming up with Gene Haas during the off-season to form the Stewart-Haas Racing team, with the team running in partnership with Hendrick's own ownfit - with Hendrick chassis, engines and technical support.

Already this weekend, the new Stewart-Haas team has been forced to battle adversity with both Stewart and Ryan Newman forced to back-up cars for the Daytona 500 after a practice accident, while Stewart himself will go into the race on a high following victory in the opening Nationwide Series race of the year on Saturday night.

That win came in a Hendrick car, and speaking to the media afterwards, the team boss said he was confident that Stewart would go on to secure his position as one of the leading team owners in the paddock.

"I think I want to give him a plug for what he's accomplished," he said. "He came down here, rebuilt a team. I can tell you he's been in the shop over there, 'cause I know they were a little nervous when they first put their deal together. But he has busted his butt, a lot like Ray, Ray Evernham, what Ray was able to build.

"I think Tony is going to go down as one of the great owners in the sport. He's got a good partner with Gene Haas, Haas Automation. They've had the foundation. But he's bringing what they're missing. He and Ryan are jacked up. We've given technology the other way, but we'll get some technology, a lot like the Toyota guys do, so forth and so on, to compete with them.

"But I can tell you folks that this guy has been living in a shop, 'cause we get calls, and our guys have been over there just checking out what they've done. But what he has single-handedly done with Bobby Hutchens and Darian and Tony Gibson and Ryan Newman, they're going to be a force for us to deal with.

"[Tony is] going to be one of the greatest owners in the sport because that's all he wants to do and thinks about. That kind of dedication will get him to where he needs to be."



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