There is little doubt that Gene Haas must certainly feel he owes a debt of gratitude to Tony Stewart. After all, prior to Stewart agreeing to not only become a driver, but a partner, of his race team, Haas was having little success in NASCAR Sprint Cup racing.
But, exactly how much does Haas feel he owes Stewart for taking his team from back marker to championship contender? Could it be a billion dollars?
Unless you have been living in a cave for the past week, you have certainly heard that Gene Haas’s application to have a team join Formula 1 has been accepted by Bernie Ecclestone. What you may have not seen is earlier, among speculation over whether the application would be approved, is a statement Ecclestone made about how much a team should expect to spend over a four year period. He put that number at $1 billion.
So what does the approval of the F1 application have to do with Stewart, especially considering Haas has made it known this operation would be totally separate from the Stewart-Haas Racing team? Well, Haas will need a driver, and Stewart may like to clear a spot on the four car Sprint Cup team for one of several drivers who will be free agents at the end of the season.
The driver that makes the most sense for both of them is Danica Patrick.
Patrick has failed to show she is capable of winning races in NASCAR. Other than restrictor-plate races she is rarely near the front of the field, while teammates Kurt Busch, and Kevin Harvick, twice, have both won already in their first season at SHR.
For as much sense as it makes for Stewart to want to replace Patrick on the Sprint Cup team, it makes just as much sense for Haas to want her as the driver of his F1 entry. Not only has she shown she can be competitive in open-wheel cars, but she has proven she can win, having accomplished that in Indy Car.
She also brings a much needed sponsor in GoDaddy. Yes, there have been rumblings of GoDaddy ending their relationship with Patrick, but those seem to be fueled more by a change of direction by the company, not the exposure she gets them.
When GoDaddy ended its relationship with the Andretti Autosport Team, and driver James Hinchcliffe their Chief Marketing Officer, Bard Rechteman, made the following statement. “As we’ve said very publicly for months now, we have re-focused our resources to grow our business internationally”
There is no form of motorsports which gives a company more international exposure than F1. Add a driver like Patrick, whose celebrity far exceeds the race world, and whose talents seem more suited to open-wheel than the heavier full-bodied stock cars of NASCAR, and GoDaddy and Haas may have just the right combination for both.
Yes, Gene Haas certainly owes Tony Stewart, but a $1 billion repayment? Even I think that is a little much.