Stewart-Haas racer Ryan Newman says he considers the Hendrick Motorsports drivers as his teammates, given the close relationship his squad shares with the leading Sprint Cup outfit.
Newman currently partners Tony Stewart in their team's debut season and the pair currently rank among the top-12 in the championship, impressing with their instant speed and increasing consistency, despite having not yet scored their first win.
The former Penske driver reckons that beyond the technical partnership that ties Stewart-Haas to Hendrick Motorsports, there is a close relationship with their drivers also. He says that on the track, he considers them as part of the same team.
"We at Stewart-Haas use Hendrick engines and Hendrick chassis," Newman said. "We hang our own bodies on our cars. Sixty-six per cent of what we do of the entire package I guess you could say, the bulk of the package with our racecar that we take to the racetrack, is built at Hendrick Motorsports.
"Without a doubt, there's 66 percent of those people over at Hendrick Motorsports that are our teammates in a roundabout way. I feel Jeff [Gordon], Jimmie [Johnson] and Mark [Martin] and [Dale Earnhardt] Junior are great drivers, I consider them teammates in the sense that I don't want to put myself in jeopardy to put them in jeopardy."
The 31-year-old believes the technical partnership his team enjoys with Hendrick can only be a positive as they not only share the same technology, but also information during race weekends, helping make all six cars stronger.
"When you have a similarity with Hendrick Motorsports, you want to tie those things together that you can make positive, be it the chassis and engine part of it, what we do with our setups and the technology we share," he added. "At the same time we separate ourselves a little bit from a competitive standpoint and do what we can to be different, to be better. That's what they do. That's what we do. That's what makes us stronger within the six cars."
Newman is currently one of five drivers in Hendrick Motorsports equipment who are among the top-12 in the championship. Even at this early stage of the season, he believes his team is showing that they can be in the fight for the title.
"Well, right now it's realistic," said Newman when asked about how realisitic it was to make a run at the championship this year. "I mean, we've come off a string of three top fives in a row. We're eighth in points. All the signs say we're capable of doing it. But we have to maintain that. It's not just three races.
"We have 14 or 15 races before the Chase starts. Then you've got to dominate in those 10 races. We've seen the last couple years between Jeff and Jimmie how tight that battle can be.
"There's no guarantees to winning a championship anymore. Not that there ever was, but it's definitely become more competitive."
Newman's teammate, two-time Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart, currently ranks second in the driver standings only 29 points behind Hendrick Motorsports driver Jeff Gordon.