Gene Haas has a present for fellow Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) co-owner Tony Stewart this weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon.
The gray-and-red paint scheme of Haas Automation, the largest CNC (computer numerically controlled) machine tool builder in North America, will adorn the three-time champion’s No. 14 Chevrolet in Sunday’s New Hampshire 301 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.
“Everyone at Haas Automation is appreciative of Tony’s partnership since 2009, the countless wins and two championships,” Haas said. “We thought it would be fitting to publically express thanks to Tony at New Hampshire – a track where he has such an impressive record and the site of one of SHR’s best days.”
Stewart is humbled by the honor.
“Gene is a great partner and dear friend and this means a lot to me,” he said. “I hope we can celebrate with Gene and all the Haas Automation folks in victory lane on Sunday.”
Haas founded Haas Automation in Sun Valley, California in 1983 to manufacture machine tools and entered the industry with the first fully automatic, programmable collet indexer – a device used to position parts for machining with high accuracy. Haas moved the company in 1997 to its current purpose-built facility located on 86 acres in Oxnard. By then, the company had shipped its 10,000th CNC machine and, less than 10 years later, had installed its 75,000th machine. To date, more than 175,000 Haas CNC machines are in service worldwide.
Haas began his NASCAR organization in 2002, enjoying limited success until 2009 when he added Stewart as a co-owner and formed SHR. Since then, the team has won 33 races and two Sprint Cup championships. Haas announced the expansion of his motorsports holdings in April 2014, when he launched Haas F1 Team. The first American team in Formula One since 1986, a span of 30 years, has exceeded expectations by posting 28 points so far – eighth-best of the 11 teams in F1.
One of the best days for Haas and SHR came on July 17, 2011 at New Hampshire after Ryan Newman and Stewart qualified first and second, then combined to lead 167 of 301 laps on their way to a first- and second place finish. The last time a team started 1-2 and finished 1-2 with the same drivers in the same order was April 7, 1957 at North Wilkesboro (N.C.) Speedway with DePaolo Engineering. When the Sprint Cup Series returned to New Hampshire in September 2011, Newman again won the pole while it was Stewart who won the race. It was the first time in SHR’s history the team swept a track’s poles and races in a single season.
“For the organization to take the front row and get first and second, you couldn’t ask for a better weekend,” Stewart said about the July 2011 race weekend. “To come back in September and have similar success was amazing.”
Stewart would enjoy a repeat of the 2011 New Hampshire success this weekend and, based on his recent success, he has a chance. He visits New Hampshire just eight days after making his 600th career Sprint Cup start and finishing fifth at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta, and 22 days since he made a last-corner pass at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway to earn his 49th career victory. Stewart has scored the ninth-most points of any driver in the last five races and 14th-most of all drivers in the 10 races he’s entered in 2016.
Because he missed the first eight races of the season after sustaining a burst fracture of the L1 vertebra in a Jan. 31 all-terrain-vehicle accident, Stewart’s first race in 2016 didn’t occur until April 24 at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway. NASCAR granted Stewart a medical waiver that made him eligible for the 2016 NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup playoffs. After the Sonoma victory, Stewart now must race his way in by ending NASCAR’s 26-race regular season in the top-30 in driver points. Heading into this weekend, Stewart holds the all-important 30th position and leads 31st-place Brian Scott by 31 points.
New Hampshire has been a friendly place to Stewart, who’s in his 18th and final season as a Sprint Cup driver. In 33 starts at New Hampshire, Stewart owns three victories, 14 top-five finishes and 18 top-10s, plus a pole, and he’s led 1,302 laps. He owns an average starting spot of 12.6 and average finish of 12.5. He’s finished on the lead lap in 27 of his 33 races on the mile oval. Stewart’s third and final victory in IndyCar Racing came at the Loudon track on June 28, 1998, when he led 93 of the 200 race laps.