Trouble in Paradise? or shall we say, Partnership?
Gene Haas is the new "Outlaw" of NASCAR, at least of Stewart-Haas Racing. While the label has already been self-acquired by new driver Kurt Busch last year, the term seems more applicable today to Gene Haas, the man who made sure through his own efforts that Busch will be able to join Tony Stewart, Kevin Harvick and Danica Patrick in the Sprint Cup. Their group must be the most inherently vibrant and possible combustible group out there.
Nobody saw this coming, the working together of these three dynamic drivers under one roof. But Haas apparently envisioned it and was able to make it happen, to the chagrin of his Stewart, the better half in the Stewart-Haas Racing partnership. The more mild-mannered and silent Haas had unexpectedly overruled Stewart in deciding the team.
"I don't think Tony was exactly enthralled with what I did, but I think he saw it my way," Haas said, eliciting laughter across the glass atrium lobby of Stewart-Haas Racing. "Either that or get out of the building." Of course, Stewart was not there on Tuesday's announcement. He is still recovering from the broken right leg because of a crash three weeks ago.
At the same time Stewart became virtually incapacitated, Haas was already busy with Busch. Haas learned a week earlier that the 2004 Champion was not under any contract for the next season and saw the opportunity to court Busch. Haas decided then that he would hire Busch as the company's primary sponsor, preparing around $15 million-$20 million without getting the consent of Stewart. That's an outlaw for you.
Haas owns Haas Automation, which has been earning annual revenues of around $1 billion. The billionaire shared, "So I kind of did this on my own, probably overstepped my authority a tick." He added, "I'm not used to having too many authorities to work with. I've been pretty much on my own. I did realize that Tony might be a little bit upset about it. He was.
"At first he said, 'Oh, wow, we can't really do this because this is going to be too much of a load on the team. We're not prepared for it. We don't have the space.' He actually is an astute businessman. He thought about all these little things. I didn't think about any of that. From Tony's standpoint, he's more of a businessman. I just thought it would be kind of neat to have."
Stewart, the quintessential racer taking a back seat to Haas, his silent partner. Who would have thought? Well, that's NASCAR for you. Stranger things have happened.
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