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Stewart team, Patrick face challenges in 2013

- jutter@charlotteobserver.com
Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013

The 2013 Sprint Cup Series season for Stewart-Haas Racing will feature some old, some new and some uncertainty.

Two years removed from its first series championship won by team co-owner Tony Stewart, SHR faces one of its most challenging seasons ahead.

Stewart and crew chief Steve Addington begin their second season working together, but that’s as far as the familiar goes at SHR.

Ryan Newman returns to drive the No. 39 Chevrolet but with a new pit crew and a new crew chief, Matt Borland, who served as Newman’s crew chief once before when both worked at Penske Racing.

Former IndyCar Series fan favorite Danica Patrick begins her first fulltime season in the Cup series after struggling through much of her 10-race schedule in 2011.

Add to that the prospect of still having to secure roughly 20 races of primary sponsorship among the three teams, and SHR will have a lot on its plate in the coming year.

“There has been a lot of added cost this year to owners and a lot of parts are a lot more expensive than in the past,” said Stewart when asked about the financial climate of owners in NASCAR’s biggest series.

“Racers are very resourceful and we will find a way to make it work.”

By no means is Stewart down on his organization’s prospects in 2013.

“These guys have done a great job of getting ready this year and I’m proud of the effort they’ve put forth to get prepared for Daytona,” Stewart said Monday during the first day of the Sprint NASCAR Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway.

“We got to run the Charlotte test last week and if these cars race as good as they drive, it’s going to be an awesome year.”

With only limited sponsorship commitments, SHR could only offer Newman a one-year contract extension last year.

Would he have preferred not to have to go through the contract process again this season?

“Absolutely, wouldn’t you?” Newman said. “It doesn’t affect the way I drive the car. It will affect some of the things during the week between driving the car.

“The way things worked out, it’s not ideal, but I still have a job and I still make a good bit of money.”

Newman said the idea to team back up with Borland came from SHR’s competition director, Greg Zipadelli, after Newman’s former crew chief, Tony Gibson, was assigned to Patrick in hopes of sparking some better results with his No. 10 team.

“I don’t know how many drivers and crew chiefs separated and came back together. I don’t think many,” Newman said.

“It takes a pretty good man to come back and accept your faults and then go back at it. I’m excited because of all the things we did together and what we learned from what we didn’t do right.”

Patrick seemed to gel quickly with Gibson when the two were paired together at the end of the 2012 season. She hopes that translates into better performance in 2013.

“More than anything I was pleased with how fast the car was at Daytona (testing). Tony Gibson and the guys did a good job on working on the car over the winter,” Patrick said.

“At (the) Charlotte (test), there was just a lot of grip and I was able to drive into the corner really hard and get back to the gas.

“I think the better platform we have to push hard to race close together, the better show we’ll be able to put on for the fans.”

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