It seems all roads are leading to Stewart-Haas Racing these days.
Childress is in a tough spot. He could hold Harvick to the contract and try to re-sign Shell/Pennzoil, but in a performance-based business, the Stewart-Haas option, undoubtedly, is more appealing to the gas and oil company. If Shell/Penzoil decides to leave, Childress has to find $15 million to $20 million in sponsorship to replace it -- a very difficult prospect in this economy.
With Tony Stewart's leadership and ability to add sponsorship, as well as the chassis-and-engine partnership with Hendrick Motorsports and the infrastructure investment made in the team by
While Stewart-Haas is trending upward like a rocket, RCR is trending downward. It's become a team that can't find the speed to run up front, despite the potent driver lineup of Harvick,
Harvick has had a dreadful season. He's 25th in the points with two top 5s and no other top-10s. He was fourth in the points last season, but his last victory was the Daytona 500 in the opening race of the 2007 season -- coincidentally his first race with Shell/Pennzoil on the No. 29.
RCR is the only team Harvick has driven for in Cup. Elevated in 2001 following
Harvick would also bring additional Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series capability to the organization, joining the JR Motorsports operation owned by
There also seems to be the possibility of
The IndyCar driver is the top-ranked American in the points, and is having her best season. It has also been reported that Target Ganassi Racing has offered her an IndyCar contract, and Andretti Green Racing would undoubtedly like to keep Patrick. She has options, all of them good.
Tony Stewart is too wise to take her straight to Cup. It's probably safe to say he'll make her an offer, and it will probably be patterned after Newman's famous ABC program with Penske. My guess is the deal would be for seven Cup races and a full Nationwide schedule.
Stewart, the IndyCar Series champion in 1997 before switching full time to stock cars, was asked a few weeks ago at Daytona what advice he would give Patrick in making the transition to NASCAR.
"Nobody knows whether she can do it until she gets out and tries," Stewart said. "I don't think she's ever been in anything but an open-wheel car or Formula 1 type car. I don't know that she's ever driven a heavy race car. The only way to find out is to get in it and do it. If it's something she wants to do, she has to make the commitment to do it. This is not a sport and a series -- and especially with the three touring series, you aren't just going to show up once in a while and be good.
"That's what happened with me in '96 and '97. In '98, when I ran 22 Busch races, I started getting it. But I was in the car just about every week to start learning that feel. And it was hard to bounce back and fourth and be good in both. Obviously, she's gotten where she is because she has a ton of talent. You don't back into winning races and getting to the upper levels of racing by not having talent. If she's really serious, it's kind of a crossroad for her."
As options go, Stewart-Haas has to be very attractive to Patrick, too, just as it is to Harvick. The team is the new star in NASCAR and it has magnetic drawing power.