Newman-Stewart first co top 10's.

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Newman-Stewart first co top 10's.

Post  The Wicked One on Sun Mar 29, 2009 9:42 pm

Stewart-Haas Racing rolled off the truck in Daytona a brand new team, but six races into the season you certainly can't tell.

Driver and team co-owner Tony Stewart ran consistently within the top five Sunday at Martinsville Speedway and had nearly flawless pit stops all day en route to a third-place finish, his first top-five of the season.

Teammate Ryan Newman had a tight battle with Dale Earnhardt Jr. near the end of the Goody's Fast Relief Pain 500, but he prevailed and left with a sixth-place finish, his second top-10 of the season.

"I felt like we had an awesome day as an organization, I was really proud of our guys," Stewart said. "You know, it's coming. It just takes time. It's like we say every Monday in our competition meeting. We just got to build a database first. Once we get that established, then I think the second time we come around, we're going to be a little better yet."

When 37-year-old Stewart decided to leave Joe Gibbs Racing last season to co-own what formerly was known as Haas CNC Racing, some believed the team initially would struggle despite the Hendrick Motorsports alliance. Others believed Stewart would tolerate nothing less than immediate success.

Despite the fact the two-car team began with only one car in the top 35 in owners' points and the organization was more or less rebuilt from the inside out, Stewart-Haas is impressing higher-ups and surprising critics inside the garage.

Rick Hendrick, who provides engines and technical support for Stewart-Haas, said the team has done a "phenomenal" job.

"Darian Grubb and Bobby Hutchens have done a great job over there and I think Tony has put a lot of sweat equity into the team," Hendrick said. "I think he surprised a lot of people. I haven't been surprised because I know his dedication."

Before the season began, Stewart's No. 14 started outside the top 35, but with the champion's provisional was guaranteed a starting spot no matter what happened in qualifying. But he set a goal to compete for race wins, not just qualify. In fact, competition director Hutchens set out to win a race by this weekend in Martinsville.

Although the signature win has yet to come, Stewart has notched three top-10 finishes and is seventh in the point standings.

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