Welcome to 2011 from all of us at Stewart-Haas Racing! We hope everyone had a happy and joyous holiday season this time around.
For the second year in a row, I went to Australia during the NASCAR Sprint Cup off-season. I joke with friends in the media that I go there to get away from them, and for a whole month get to just race. But really, it's just about relaxing. It's summer in Australia so I don't have to sit around in the U.S. winter, unable to get outside. Instead, I get to race and visit a really beautiful area – the best of all worlds! I'm only on track for five days, doing something totally different. It's fun and a good break.
With all that's going on at SHR, a little break now and then is a good thing. On the NASCAR side, everybody at Stewart-Haas Racing worked hard all year long. After a phenomenal year in 2009, we knew it would be hard to maintain that in 2010 and, sure enough, we faced more adversity than we did in '09. But no one ever gave up, no one ever quit. We all just kept digging.
We were fortunate enough to get the No. 14 Office Depot Chevrolet into Victory Lane twice and make the Chase for the Sprint Cup for a second consecutive season. My teammate, Ryan Newman, got the No. 39 U.S. Army/Tornados/Haas Automation Chevy into Victory Lane for the first time at Phoenix in the spring, which was a thrill for all of us. For some of the guys on that car, it was their first win ever and that's something you never forget.
We've got great partners, too. For 2011, we've added Mobil 1. I think it's a compliment to our organization that we've been able to attract major companies and still have the support of Office Depot, the U.S. Army, Haas Automation, Tornados, Coca-Cola and Burger King. I'm proud we've continued our relationships with them, and I think it's certainly a situation that you can't take for granted in this economy right now. To have these partners with us, I feel like we're very fortunate and blessed. Five years ago, I never even imagined being a team owner, yet now we are and we have great partners and teammates.
Speaking of teammates, congratulations to our open-wheel teams at Tony Stewart Racing. Bryan Clauson of TSR won the USAC National Drivers Championship based on his 25 best finishes in USAC Silver Crown, Sprint Car and Midget series races. He also won the midget title. In the last race of the season, he beat his teammate, Levi Jones, by just 14 points.
Levi himself won his first Silver Crown title and his third Sprint Car championship in four years, which is remarkable. Levi is a true champion and I'm glad he was able to win his fourth title as part of TSR. He's really matured as a driver, and for him and Bryan to be neck and neck for the USAC National Drivers Championship speaks volumes for their hard work and the hard work of everyone at TSR. We're looking forward to another great year with them, as well as with Donny Schatz and Steve Kinser on our World of Outlaws team.
On the charitable side, we're busy, too. I was blown away when The Home Depot and the National Motorsports Press Association honored me with the 2010 NMPA Home Depot Humanitarian Award and a $100,000 cash donation to the Tony Stewart Foundation for our work with the Prelude to the Dream and also the Smoke Show at Texas Motor Speedway, our two biggest philanthropic initiatives.
It was a great honor to be nominated, but to win was incredibly humbling. When we set out and created the Prelude to the Dream, and worked with Eddie Gossage and his staff at Texas Motor Speedway to establish the Smoke Show, our goal was really simple – to help people. We're proud to say we've done a lot of that, but there is still a lot more to do. We're grateful for this award, because the recognition will allow us to make the Prelude and the Smoke Show better than ever before.
The seventh annual Prelude to the Dream will take place June 8 at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio, while details of the fourth annual Smoke Show at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth will be announced soon.
As in 2010, the money we raised at the Prelude to the Dream will go to one of four worthy children's hospitals from across the country. We are currently accepting hospital applications, which can be downloaded at www.TonyStewartFoundation.org. Hospitals have until Jan. 21 to return a completed application. We received a tremendous number of e-mails and phone calls from hospitals after the 2010 event asking how they could become a part of the next Prelude to the Dream. As a result, we felt taking this route was the fairest way to determine which hospitals partnered with us for 2011.
Last but not least, one of my favorite events is the International Motorsports Industry Show in Indianapolis, which we help promote. Originally scheduled for Nov. 30-Dec. 2, 2011, the IMIS show has been moved to Dec. 8-10 so it will no longer conflict with the 24th annual Performance Racing Industry Trade Show in Orlando, Fla., Dec. 1-3. We wanted our exhibitors to receive the most value they could, and the hardcore racers we serve to not be forced to choose. We think it's win-win for everybody.
Well, if you've made it to the bottom of this column, you've probably figured out by now why I went off to Australia for a break. But I'm itching to get back to racing.
See you in Daytona, where I'll go all out to put the No. 14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet into Victory Lane.