Driver embarks on new role

Tony Stewart was given an opportunity – literally – he couldn't refuse.

The key to Stewart's move from Joe Gibbs Racing to Haas CNC Racing was centered on Haas handing 50 percent ownership to the two-time Cup champion, a deal unrivaled by any other driver currently in the series.

The only driver who comes close to receiving such an offer from a team which they did not already own was four-time series champion Jeff Gordon, who received equity in Hendrick Motorsports when he signed a lifetime contract with the organization in 1999.

“I don't think an offer like this has ever been made in this series to a driver. And I don't know that an offer of this magnitude will be offered in the next year or two or down the road even,” Stewart said Thursday at Chicagoland Speedway. “But I'm very honored that Joe (Custer, general manager) and his organization have welcomed me aboard.”

Stewart's stake in the organization begins immediately; however the new team name, Stewart-Haas Racing, will not be utilized until next season. In deference to his commitment to JGR for the rest of this year, Stewart said he would not be involved in any decision-making with the Haas team until season's end.

The new organization will continue to operate out of a 140,000-square-foot shop in Concord.

Haas has been involved with motorsports since 1995 through various partnerships, including Hendrick Motorsports, which will continue to provide chassis, engines and technical support to Stewart-Haas Racing.

Haas CNC Racing has had one top-five finish in 250 starts as a Cup team. Stewart declined to name sponsors, car numbers, his crew chief or his new teammate in 2009.

“Eight years ago when people asked me if I'd consider ownership in a NASCAR team, I said, ‘No way,'” Stewart said. “After owning race tracks and having teams, now I think it's a side of me that I really enjoy.”