What’s next for Tony Stewart, business-wise?

3 Comments

The personal impact of what will happen to Tony Stewart, and how he recovers after the accident at Canandaigua (N.Y.) Motorsports Park, will be interesting to watch.

Additionally, Stewart has a number of vested business interests that could be impacted as well, depending on the outcome of the legal investigation in Ontario County (N.Y.) (see court case here).

In the short-term, Stewart has four more races to make the 2014 Chase for the Sprint Cup. He’s winless since Dover in June 2013; this year, he stands a winless 21st in points and will have to win at least once to be among the 16 drivers in NASCAR’s new for 2014 Chase grid.

[MORE: Stewart’s driving status for weekend is TBD]

Sponsors live and breathe with teams whether their driver makes the Chase; there can be financial incentives in play for making it. Stewart-Haas Racing will have at least two cars, Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch, in the field of 16 thanks to their wins earlier this year. But Stewart’s presence would ensure the team hit its preseason target of getting three of the four SHR cars in the Chase (Danica Patrick aside).

Realistically though, that’s the least of Stewart’s concerns. In the longer term, Stewart’s livelihood and those of the hundreds of families he employs could be at stake (more here from NBCSN contributor Nate Ryan for USA Today).

The legal story will continue, as the investigation into what precisely happened Saturday night beyond witness reports and a YouTube video (we’re not going to link to it out of respect) continues in New York.

The sponsors Stewart has managed to put together for his and Gene Haas’ Stewart-Haas Racing empire, and for the dirt track he owns – Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio – all have to take another step back and say, is this someone we want to be affiliated with?

NAPA pulled out of the Cup level after a mere race-fixing scandal last year. Does Bass Pro Shops, Mobil 1 or anyone else want to look at Stewart and say they don’t want to get dragged through the mud throughout this process?

The sponsor impact is where the families come into play. SHR has gone from also-ran to a top-flight NASCAR championship winning team in five seasons since Stewart and Haas joined forces ahead of the 2009 season.

[MORE: Sheriff says no evidence of criminal intent from Tony Stewart at this time]

It has a four-car operation and if there are any sponsor withdrawals, or scaling back, that will force the team to find new ones to keep all four cars in operation. This would undoubtedly be a tougher task now than 48 hours ago.

The outcome of this process could also have a financial impact on short tracks around the country, where Stewart’s presence could enhance their business. When a megastar like Stewart opts to moonlight at these one-off dirt race events, it generally provides a boost in ticket sales as one of NASCAR’s biggest stars races against local heroes.

But now there will be hard choices – there have to be. The contact between Stewart and Kevin Ward Jr. will have enduring ripple effects that not only affect the individuals, but the bottom line.

IndyCar’s Vasser-Sullivan expand into IMSA for 2019

James Sullivan and Jimmy Vasser. Photo IndyCar
Leave a comment

Not even one year after returning to the IndyCar ranks, Vasser-Sullivan Racing is taking AIM at the IMSA world, you might say.

While team co-owners Jimmy Vasser and James “Sulli” Sullivan will continue to partner with Dale Coyne Racing on the IndyCar side, they expanded their holdings Tuesday, announcing a partnership with AIM Autosport to campaign a new two-car Lexus-backed RC F GT3 effort in IMSA’s GT Daytona class.

The new team – named AIM Vasser-Sullivan – will replace 3GT Racing, which was part of Lexus’ sports car program launch in 2016. It will announce its two drivers in the coming weeks, the team said.

“Sulli and I are excited and looking forward to entering a new chapter in our racing careers,” Vasser said in a media release. “I have driven sports cars before, but my career was pretty much limited to the 24 Hours of Daytona, including a ‘class’ win in 1992 and second overall in 2008.

“The AIM Vasser Sullivan team, with the support of Lexus and our sponsors, has the tools to get the job done and we are looking forward to this new challenge.”

Lexus has made significant progress in its first two seasons in IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship competition, having earned a combined two race wins, five poles and finished third in the 2018 GTD Manufacturer point standings.

Vasser and Sullivan were part of the ownership group of KVSH Racing in IndyCar from 2011 through 2016 before the organization folded.

They also owned Tony Kanaan’s 2013 Indianapolis 500-winning car.

After sitting out the 2017 season, Vasser, a former CART champion, and Sullivan rejoined forces this past February, just before the start of the 2018 IndyCar season, partnering with Coyne to form a satellite team led by driver Sebastien Bourdais, who previously drove for KVSH.

Bourdais kicked off the new team’s effort with a win in the season-opening Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. He finished seventh in the overall season standings.

AIM Vasser Sullivan will have two home bases for its IMSA program: AIM’s current facility in Woodbridge, Ontario, Canada, as well as a new U.S. shop in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Follow @JerryBonkowski