Tony Stewart ends his turbulent 2014 season on top as a title-winning owner

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Tony Stewart, the driver, won five of 10 Chase races in 2011 to secure the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship. It was also the first title win for Tony Stewart, the car owner, as a co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing with Gene Haas.

But the “car owner” narrative means a bit more this year, as Stewart is at the top of the NASCAR heap this Monday morning as he and Haas are the car owners for newly crowned 2014 champ Kevin Harvick.

For Stewart, it puts a positive ending on what’s been such a challenging season both on and off-track, one that also ended a 15-year run of consecutive seasons with a win in Sprint Cup.

“I’m just glad tonight turned out. You know, the rest of it’s history,” he reflected during the post-race press conference. “We’ve talked about it over and over. Honestly, I’m tired of talking about it to be honest at this point. I’m more excited about what this organization and what this group of people has done together.

“You know, there’s a lot of things I would love to change about the last 18 months of my life, but tonight is not one of them. I’m going to enjoy this moment, and I’m going to enjoy it with this group and this young man. We’re going to go celebrate and enjoy this because this group of people here have deserved it, and this is a great family and this is a great group of people to lean on.”

Stewart took the opportunity to praise Harvick crew chief Rodney Childers, who made the ultimate winning call on pit road.

“If you want to know how hard it is to win a championship here, it boiled down to the calls, the last pit stop and the strategies that were played,” Stewart said. “And one took zero tires, one took two, we took four, and one had a problem in the pits. I think up to that point it was pretty evident the flow of the race up to that point, but I think that was the moment in the race where nobody really knew exactly how those strategies were going to play out.

“But I think all three of the crew chiefs made calls that they thought were appropriate for how their cars were running and track position, and I’m proud of Rodney. It takes guts to sit up there and see a guy stay out and then have to sit there and make that call.”

Stewart reflected on the change in titles, 2011 to 2014, and how NASCAR has evolved over that three-year period.

“The France family hasn’t made bad decisions and got the series where it is by making bad decisions,” he said. “They know what the right things are, and this is a professional sport that has had more technological changes and advances come into the game than any other pro sports. But with that, you have to have a sanctioning body that understands how to take that technology and apply it.

“Our championship in ’11, and this one tonight, there are similarities, but they’re very different in a lot of ways, too. The game has changed between 2011 and 2014. Every stage of this Chase has proven to be so difficult.”

Stewart closed with a line noting, once again, how challenging it is to win a title – and why this one will be so satisfying for him and the entire SHR organization.

“You’ve got to be a little bit crazy to want to do this,” he said. “The odds say you’re going to be unsuccessful more than you’re going to be successful, but it’s those – it’s these single moments like this that make all of that hard work worthwhile, and that’s why we do it.”

Scott McLaughlin will make IndyCar debut for Team Penske at St. Pete

Scott McLaughlin IndyCar debut
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Two-time defending Supercars champion Scott McLaughlin will make his NTT IndyCar Series debut with Team Penske in the Oct. 25 season finale at St. Petersburg, Florida.

McLaughlin, 27, drove for Penske in preseason IndyCar testing at Circuit of the Americas, Sebring International Raceway (in a rookie evaluation) and Texas Motor Speedway, and he was announced Feb. 5 as making his debut with the team at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course before the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic delayed the start of the season.

Travel restrictions also made it difficult for the New Zealand native to leave Australia, where he leads the points for DJR Team Penske in the Virgin Australia Supercars series with three races remaining. He set a Supercars record last season with 18 victories.

The Supercars season will conclude Oct. 18 with the prestigious 24 Hours of Bathurst. McLaughlin then will head directly to the States to drive the No. 3 Dallara-Chevrolet at St. Pete as a teammate of Will Power, Josef Newgarden and Simon Pagenaud.

“This is something I haven’t stopped thinking about, but I wanted to ensure my focus was on winning our third-straight Supercars championship for DJR Team Penske and all our partners in Australia,” McLaughlin, who also has won at Barber and Indianapolis while unofficially finishing first in the IndyCar iRacing Challenge, said in a release. “We are still laser-focused on that and have three more rounds to get it done, but I’m equally as excited to finally get the chance and make my IndyCar debut.”

McLaughlin, whose wife, Karly, is from New York, said he has discussed racing in America with car owner Roger Penske since he was hired by the team for the 2017 season.

“I’ve always said I’d love to have a crack at something else,” McLaughlin told reporters in February during the preseason test at Austin, Texas. “My goal was always to win the championship in Bathurst and Australia. I ticked those boxes, and then opportunities arise over time. The conversation between me and Roger was pretty short. ‘Would you be interested in IndyCar?’ I’d literally drive a wheelbarrow with a Team Penske sticker on it. I’d race anything that comes with the opportunity.

“I’ve always intended I’d love to get America one day potentially if I’ve done my goals in Australia. I’ve always said whether it’s now or 30 years down the track, I’d love to finish up (in America). I’ve promised Karly that we would come back here eventually. She’s not pushing me by any means, but I’ve always had a passion for American motorsport and certainly would love the opportunity.”

McLaughlin also has indicated a desire to try racing in NASCAR for Team Penske. He discussed his comfort with stock cars during a 2017 episode of the NASCAR on NBC Podcast (click on the link below to hear it).

Here’s the release from Team Penske:

MOORESVILLE, N.C. (September 17, 2020) – Team Penske announced today that Scott McLaughlin, the current Virgin Australia Supercars Championship points leader, is scheduled to make his long-awaited NTT INDYCAR SERIES debut in the series’ 2020 season finale on the Streets of St. Petersburg on Sunday, October 25.

The two-time and defending Supercars Champion for DJR Team Penske (DJRTP) was set to compete in his first NTT INDYCAR SERIES race earlier this year on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course before the COVID-19 global pandemic forced several delays and postponements on racing schedules, along with international travel restrictions. Before the pandemic shutdown, McLaughlin participated in the INDYCAR SERIES preseason open test at Circuit of the Americas (COTA) in Austin, Texas, where he ran consistently well and posted the third-fastest time of the test session. The 27-year-old native of New Zealand also competed in separate tests at the Sebring International Raceway road course and the 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway oval.

“This is something I haven’t stopped thinking about, but I wanted to ensure my focus was on winning our third-straight Supercars championship for DJR Team Penske and all our partners in Australia,” said McLaughlin. “We are still laser-focused on that and have three more rounds to get it done, but I’m equally as excited to finally get the chance and make my INDYCAR debut. I’ve been doing everything I can to keep up with the series this year, from watching as many races as I can on TV to even talking to the drivers and some of the engineers back at the Team Penske shop. I never knew if I would be able to get behind the wheel of one of these cars this year due to all the COVID-19 restrictions, but I wanted to be ready if it became an opportunity.”

McLaughlin currently leads the Supercars point standings with just three rounds of competition remaining on the 2020 schedule. McLaughlin has produced a series-best 10 wins and 10 poles and holds a 143-point lead over Jamie Whincup entering this weekend’s race at The Bend. Over the course of his Supercars career, McLaughlin has won an impressive 53 races and 71 poles, while helping DJRTP claim team championships in 2017 and 2019 and winning the driver’s title in each of the last two seasons. He also earned his first win in the legendary Bathurst 1000 race in 2019 with co-driver Alex Premat. Though he is in just his fourth season competing for Team Penske, McLaughlin already ranks third on the organization’s all-time wins list, trailing only Brad Keselowski and Mark Donohue.

Earlier this year, McLaughlin made his “virtual” INDYCAR debut, competing in the series’ iRacing Challenge and winning two races among the full field of current NTT INDYCAR SERIES drivers that were competing against each other while traditional racing was put on hold.

“Our plan has always been for Scott to run a race in the INDYCAR SERIES this season, but we never wanted to take the focus away from the main goal, which is winning another Supercars Championship,” said Team Penske President Tim Cindric. “COVID-19 certainly altered those plans early on, but with the way the schedules have lined up at the end of this season, St. Pete became an available option and we remain committed to getting him some INDYCAR seat time. We know Scott is ready for this challenge and this should add even more excitement to the 2020 season finale in St. Petersburg.”

McLaughlin will pilot the No. 3 Shell V-Power Nitro+ Dallara/Chevrolet at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, which was postponed from its original date in March and will now take place on Sunday, October 25. The race on the 1.8-mile street circuit will be seen live at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBC, with radio coverage on the Pennzoil INDYCAR Radio Network and SIRIUS XM.