Stewart at ease with new role at SHR, in NASCAR
RELATED: SHR, Ford expect fast start " Stewart's 2016 year in review CONCORD, N.C. -- Tony Stewart remembers standing on the floor of the Stewart-Haas Racing shop in mid-December. All around him, across the shop floor, were race car chassis. No body, no paint, no decals -- Just skeletons of race cars-to-be. It's part of a long process for Stewart-Haas Racing , as the team transitions from Chevrolet to Ford for the 2017 NASCAR season. "This has been a really, really tough offseason for these guys," Stewart said Wednesday at the Ford Performance Center. "…To think how far these guys have come in such a short amount of time, I mean, I'm really proud (of them). Especially the fab shop -- Those guys really deserve a big pat on the back because it has been a huge undertaking to get so many cars ready in such a short amount of time. "And when I say they're getting them ready, they didn't throw them together; the same level of quality that they always do. I'm really proud of what they've produced so far." His team isn't the only one making a huge transition this season; Stewart begins the new year as a freshly retired Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver, having raced his final season in 2016. This marks the first season in 18 years where Stewart won't be prepping for a season in NASCAR's premier series. RELATED: Rock star surprises Stewart in Las Vegas Does he miss it? "It will be nice to be at the track and not be sore and not be uncomfortable sitting on the pit box," said Stewart, who battled back from a severe back injury at the start of his final season. "I'll actually be able to really focus on what's going on and … move around and listen to each car and what they're fighting during the day and hopefully being able to have some input that can help." But "Smoke" fans, never fear: Stewart will still be at the race track. The three-time champion NASCAR driver plans on racing nearly 80 late model, sprint cars and three-quarter midget races this season, along with managing his race team, co-owned with Gene Haas. Stewart expects to attend nearly all the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup races in 2017, where he’ll be able to offer guidance to the teams of Kevin Harvick , Kurt Busch , Danica Patrick and Clint Bowyer , the new driver of the No. 14 ride. RELATED: Top moments in SHR history Wearing a large smile on Wednesday, Bowyer’s high spirits conveyed his excitement about racing the No. 14 car -- and his new team owner. "To be honest with you, it's been a breath of fresh air," Bowyer said on having Stewart as his car owner. "I didn't know what he was like as an owner, I only knew what he was like as a person hanging out and things like that. "But man, I'm telling you, at the shop at the Christmas party this year -- he showed up as Santa Claus, by the way, and the outfit fit him perfect -- but Santa Claus interacted and made everyone feel at home. Those are his people and he treated them as his people and it showed me, you could just see how much they embraced that and enjoyed that interaction with him and what it meant to them." The NASCAR world has known that Bowyer was next in line for the No. 14 crown since the end of Sepember 2015. But that reality seemed to sink in when Bowyer's name glistened above the door of the new No. 14 Ford today -- No more "Smoke." Tony's OK with that. "It's not that weird, honestly," Stewart said. " … I'm proud to see his name above the door and proud to see what he can do. The part that's been shocking is going back to my sprint car shop and seeing them put my name on cars this week because they're decaling our cars for the season. I haven't been used to that for a couple years now, so I'm excited about both sides of it." It's a ground of familiarity for Stewart, whose background is rooted in dirt track racing. But as he hasn’t driven a sprint car in two and a half years, the 45-year-old isn't sure what to expect of his results on track this season. Dare he say he's like a rookie again? "I know it sounds like I'm a rookie driver, but I kind of feel like one," Stewart said. "(My schedule) depends on how I'm progressing really … I think there's going to be some races that we are going to announce coming up pretty soon that are races that I've been looking forward to going to that I've not had a chance to run before. So there's a bunch of tracks and a bunch of events that I've not raced at before that I'm going to finally get to go to." RELATED: SHR transition among key story lines to watch for in '17 Where the long-term future holds for Stewart the driver is yet to be seen, as he jokes that he's thrown a curveball in probably every offseason since joining forces with Haas. But right now, it's about his team. "I'm going straight to the shop from here," Stewart said. "I'm excited to see how much is done versus the last time I was there. Everybody says we have a long way to go, but we've come a long way. I think I'm going to be very pleasantly surprised when I get there." &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Ford expects to come out firing with SHR in mix
RELATED: Stewart at ease in new role at SHR CONCORD, N.C. -- With the start of the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series little more than one month away, Stewart-Haas Racing teams continue to work through the switch to a new manufacturer, Ford officials now have "more bullets" in their chamber and Clint Bowyer can't wait to make his first official start for SHR. Those were the key takeaways from Wednesday's gathering of Ford and SHR folks held at the Ford Performance Technical Center here in Concord, North Carolina. After years of fielding Chevrolet entries, SHR announced last February that the four-team organization would make the swap to Ford for '17. That's increased the workload somewhat at the team's Kannapolis, North Carolina, headquarters, but preparing for a new season always keeps teams busy. "Every offseason, we start the year and don't feel like we're ready, don't feel like we're quite where we want to be," said co-owner Tony Stewart . "This winter has been a big challenge obviously, but we were prepared for it. … "The team has done a great job. The great thing is their spirits are high and they're really excited about the switch to Ford. You can tell there's a lot of work to be done and a lot going on but ... I'm really proud of our guys and how dedicated they've been to this process." Dave Pericak, Global Director of Ford Performance, said the quickness with which SHR has progressed off the track has been impressive. "The level of collaboration has been fantastic and the speed at which these guys implement and get things done, these guys are racers and there's no messing around," he said. "When there is something that we all know is the right thing to do, just the speed at which Stewart-Haas gets things done is pretty amazing." Stewart ended his NASCAR driving career in '16 with three championships and 49 victories. Bowyer, following a one-year stint at the former HScott Motorsports , will take over Stewart's familiar No. 14 entry. Kevin Harvick , the 2014 champion, returns as do Danica Patrick and 2004 champ Kurt Busch . Not surprisingly, after a season that saw him finish a career-low 27th in points with just three top-10 results, Bowyer admitted he is "champing at the bit." "Pretty damn hard not to be," Bowyer said when asked if he felt rejuvenated by the opportunity. "The thing about it, they're just racers," Bowyer said of the SHR group. "Everybody's working ... just head down, working hard, trying to get better, trying to get faster. They don't take second as an option. It's not an option. They go and work hard and figure out how to win these races. "It doesn't matter what it takes to do it. You have those resources put in place." For Ford officials, the addition of SHR "will raise the level for all of us," according to Raj Nair. Nair, Executive VP for Global Product Development and Chief Technical Officer for Ford Motor Company, said "you can't argue with the results out of Stewart-Haas." "So we're all going to learn a lot just by that association." Team Penske , Roush Fenway Racing , Wood Brothers Racing , Richard Petty Motorsports and Front Row Motorsports formed the bulk of the Ford armada in '16. While the Penske teams of Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano have been title contenders since making the move from Dodge to Ford in 2013, no Ford team has won the championship since Busch won the title in 2004. The company's last manufacturer's title came more than a decade ago as well, in 2002. "It's no secret that (the addition of SHR) brings more bullets to our gun as well," Nair said. "We've got more cars that will be running up front and a bigger chance to win. Sometimes in this sport you're playing the odds a little bit. You can have the fastest car but sometimes stuff happens. So having more faster cars up there is going to increase our chances to make sure the blue oval is in Victory Lane." &amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;gt;
The race to 30: Three drivers eye career mark
In December we analyzed three drivers who are closing in on 40 wins in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series . This week, we'll look at those close to a lesser milestone, but a milestone all the same -- 30 career wins. In premier series history 24 drivers have reached the 30-win plateau, from Richard Petty (200 wins) to fellow Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett (32). Of those 24 drivers, 18 have been eligible for the NASCAR Hall of Fame … and all 18 have been inducted, or in the case of Mark Martin, will be inducted. Jeff Gordon (93 wins) and Tony Stewart (49 wins) aren't eligible yet, but are widely considered locks to be enshrined as well. The other four drivers above 30 wins in NASCAR history are active and ineligible at this time. Here's a look at the three current drivers (it was four prior to Carl Edwards ' announcement last week) with 30 in their sights, as well as a full list of drivers with 30 or more wins in NASCAR's history.
Bowyer gears up for 'best opportunity' with Stewart-Haas
RELATED: First look at paint schemes of 2017 CONCORD, N.C. -- There's been plenty for Clint Bowyer to adjust to in the brief time that he's officially been a member of Stewart-Haas Racing 's driver roster. He's had to acclimate himself to the way that his new team operates. He's also had to become more familiar with the personnel on the No. 14 Ford that Bowyer will drive in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in 2017. A helpful hand from his new crew chief, Mike Bugarewicz, has helped Bowyer adjust to both of those new concepts. When Bowyer half-jokingly asked Bugarewicz if he had a team roster to keep him from addressing his crewmembers with, "Hey, buddy," or similar salutations, the second-year crew chief unexpectedly delivered. "He's such a dedicated person and so prepared, he literally went and took pictures of all the guys and e-mailed me the names of them," Bowyer said Wednesday during a preseason media event at the sprawling Ford Performance Technical Center. "I'm like, 'Man, you didn't have to do that. I could've come down.' " At which point Tony Stewart , his team owner and predecessor in the No. 14, interjected: "He says he didn't need that. He needed that, trust me." Laughing aside, Bowyer continued to underscore his point. "That's the level of dedication that you have at Stewart-Haas," Bowyer said. "And it doesn't just end with Mike, it's all across the board. If you ask for something … you've got to be careful asking for something because it's just done." RELATED: Harvick bullish on changes " Transition to Ford among top story lines The next adjustment that Bowyer may have to make is getting accustomed to relevance, something in short supply even before he was announced Sept. 30, 2015 as the successor to three-time series champion Stewart for the organization's flagship team. Bowyer drove in relative obscurity for Michael Waltrip Racing in its waning days, then languished through a throwaway season in 2016 with the former HScott Motorsports operation as he waited his turn to join SHR. "If he could've clicked his heels three times and made it 2017, he'd have done it in a heartbeat," Stewart said. "But we were all just reminding him: 'Be patient. You've got a lot to look forward to.' And we were hoping that his season would turn around at some point, too, but it didn't work out that way and it wasn't for a lack of effort on their side. "I think the nice thing, though, is -- as odd as this sounds -- I've seen him a lot calmer than I saw him all last year. I don't know that he's ever calm, but you can tell he's excited about what's coming up. He's genuinely excited about getting in the 14 car and that makes us happy, too." RELATED: Stewart at ease in new role at SHR Bowyer's authentic anticipation is attached to what he calls "the best opportunity I've ever had." Not only does the 37-year-old driver now have an avenue to potentially return to Victory Lane for the first time in more than four seasons, he also has the chance to place his name back among the sport's top tier. Bowyer has always been known as one of the most animated and energetic figures in the NASCAR garage. But performance -- or a lack of it, in the case of Bowyer's most recent body of work -- has a way of shuffling even the most engaging figures to the shadows. Bowyer's return to a high-profile ride likely changes both the prevailing perceptions and his exposure level, but the results will need to follow suit. "Here's what I hope -- I sure hope you're watching me," Bowyer said. "At the end of the day, relevancy in this sport is everything and I've lost that a little bit. Not a little bit, a lot. And I felt it and didn't like it. It's up to me to go out and become relevant again, have you watch me and talking about me. "It makes everything better. This is a business. This is racing, but once you race at this level, it becomes a business and it trickles down to everything in your life. We're race car drivers but we do this for a business. From my dirt program, everything, my (car) dealership, it just really trickles down. Every business thing that's happened really feeds off of your success on that race track. I had a bad year and I want to become relevant again. You don't work as hard and you have a hell of a lot more fun." RELATED: Key moments in SHR history Before he embarks on that goal, Bowyer has had fun getting better acquainted with his new surroundings, no doubt aided by Bugarewicz's handy chart. But the jollity has also extended to enjoying the luxuries of championship-level equipment for a change. Bowyer marveled at the comfort and quality of his new carbon-fiber seat, remarking "I feel rich" with regards to the perfectly tailored fit. And in a further illustration of Stewart-Haas' attention to precise details, Bowyer was asked last weekend about his preference for a gearshift handle. When the newest SHR driver reacted with indifference in saying that any handle would do, he was presented with eight possible choices. "I think we have dialed in the right gearshift handle for myself and my success this year," Bowyer said with a wry smile. "If not, we have plenty of extras to go around." &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Stewart-Haas Racing 'ready' for move to Ford
Team co-owner Tony Stewart talks about why it was important to Stewart-Haas Racing to make the move to Ford, as well as the decision to start making its chassis in 2017.
Expectations for Bowyer’s first year at SHR
Clint Bowyer and his new team owner Tony Stewart talk about their expectations for the No. 14 Ford in 2017.
Stewart 'excited' for both sides of retirement
Tony Stewart may have stepped away from racing in NASCAR, but the three-time champion says he is excited to watch Clint Bowyer behind the wheel of his No. 14 Ford.
2016 Season Review: Tony Stewart
To see the full slideshow of Tony Stewart 's 2016 season, please click here .
First look: See Bowyer in No. 14 Mobil 1 fire suit
MORE: New looks for 2017 Seeing someone other than Tony Stewart in the No. 14 next year is going to look weird for a while. The Stewart-Haas Racing Twitter account is helping preparations by giving us a glimpse of the future. 'Smoke' has driven that number since 2009, when he left Joe Gibbs Racing and the No. 20 to co-found Stewart-Haas Racing . Now that he has retired from full-time competition, Clint Bowyer will pilot the No. 14 Ford in 2017. Wonder what he looks like in a Mobil 1 fire suit? Wonder no more -- just see below. First look at @ClintBowyer in his @Mobil1 uniform. We give it a big . Glad to have you onboard, Clint! #shrFORDward pic.twitter.com/cTZs5Mgeln — Stewart-Haas Racing (@StewartHaasRcng) January 8, 2017 &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Edwards' class post-Miami wreck lets him leave sport a winner
RELATED: Edwards steps away from racing " NASCAR Nation reacts WATCH: Entire stream from Edwards, Suarez news "If you're looking for a driver you're looking for me." That's what was written on young Carl Edwards ' business cards nearly 20 years ago, cards he used to hand out at the race track while trying to transition from his day job as a substitute teacher in Columbia, Missouri, to a racer. But even as he stood on the stage in front of the press corps at Joe Gibbs Racing Wednesday to announcing his departure from full-time racing after 12 seasons in NASCAR's premier series, his humble, Midwestern roots were apparent. They'd never left. They were there even at Homestead-Miami Speedway , when a crash with Joey Logano in the final 10 laps took Edwards from Victory Lane to the garage, his dreams of winning the 2016 title were crushed as his No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. Instead of reacting with anger, Edwards went to the No. 22 pit box, shook crew chief Todd Gordon's hand and wished the team the best of luck the rest of the race. RELATED: Relive the wreck " Edwards shows class post-accident at Miam i That act spoke volumes about Edwards' character, both as a person and a race car driver. "In pro sports, you're going to get the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat," JGR owner Joe Gibbs said. "And I think for all of us, everybody's going to handle a victory pretty good … but that adversity, when you hit that … I think you guys have all seen (Edwards) go through some tough stuff and really handle himself extremely well." No one knew it, but that race, that night, would serve as the closing act in Edwards' full-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career finale. With the exception of winning the title, Edwards' night in South Florida couldn't have served as a better curtain call for the 37-year-old driver. MORE: Timeline of JGR change s "Let me tell you about Homestead, though. With 30 laps to go, 40 laps to go, 30 laps to go, 20 laps to go, that's what I live for," Edwards said. "…That is racing to me. I mean, (crew chief) Dave (Rogers) and I had worked all year to be in that moment, to pass ‑‑ that battle with Jimmie (Johnson), and then to be able to pass Joey and Kyle (Busch) for the ultimate prize, driving just as hard as I could, and to be in that position and to know that day we were getting it done. "...That part of Homestead, for me personally, I won." And really, he's won again in a way as he steps away from premier series racing. Edwards is walking away from a career that he can be proud of, a stint across parts of 13 years in NASCAR's premier series that boasts 28 victories, 22 poles and two runner-up finishes in the championship standings to Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart in 2008 and 2011, respectively. MORE: Look back at his win s " Edwards gives three reasons for leaving And he did it right: He did it with class, humility and the Midwestern demeanor that has followed him from Colombia, Missouri, to North Carolina and to race tracks across the country. "It's very flattering," Edwards said of the public's positive, always-do-the-right-thing perception of him. "Yeah, I just …" He stopped, turned away from the audience, visibly wiping away tears. When he spoke again, his voice quivered a bit. "I just want to be a good person, you know. Sorry, guys. Damn camera shutters are killing me there. It's the lighting, it's awful," he joked, trying to make light of his emotion. It’s great to go out with a championship. But sometimes, it's not always about the trips to Victory Lane. It usually wasn't for Cousin Carl, even when he was handing out business cards in the beginning. "You guys know that I don't race just for the trophies," Edwards said. "This has always been a really ‑‑ this has been a neat journey for me and it's always been something that I've been rewarded by the challenges … So you go from that to working up the courage to ask people to drive a car to being put in situations where you know if you drive well and you win, you get sponsorship and everything works. "Going through that whole process and becoming a better person, a stronger person, a better competitor, a better teammate, a better friend to people, that's a big deal to me, and I feel accomplished. "And I know when I sit in that race car that I am the best race car driver I can be. So whether or not I have a championship, I'm really satisfied with that." &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;