News & Media


Splitting with Hutchens a difficult call for Stewart

June 10, 2011, David Caraviello, NASCAR.com

LONG POND, Pa. -- Tony Stewart made no secret of how difficult it was to part ways with Bobby Hutchens.

"I can promise you, it's one of the hardest decisions I've ever had to make in my life," he said Friday at Pocono Raceway, site of Sunday's Sprint Cup event. "I think the world of Bobby, I have a lot of respect for Bobby. But it's a situation where you've got to sit there and evaluate where and if things are going the direction you want them to go, and I just don't feel like it's doing that right now."

""I think the world of Bobby. ... But it's a situation where you've got to sit there and evaluate where and if things are going the direction you want them to go, and I just don't feel like it's doing that right now.""

--TONY STEWART

Hutches, the competition director at Stewart-Haas Racing since the organization's inception two years ago, was released Monday in a management shuffle that also saw former crew chief Matt Borland promoted to vice president of competition. Borland will also work in Hutchens' former role until a replacement can be found, Stewart said.

Hutchens, a fixture at Richard Childress Racing going back to the Dale Earnhardt days and a former vice president of competition at Dale Earnhardt Inc., was among Stewart's first key hires. He oversaw a team that won seven Cup Series races in its first two years of operation. Although both of the team's drivers are currently inside the top 10 in points, Stewart has just one top-five finish this season and teammate Ryan Newman has finished 14th or worse in all but one start since Martinsville.

"For a lot of us, it was a bit of a surprise, I'll say that," Newman said. "But at the same time, changes are sometimes needed to initiate the spark, to initiate that new chemistry. ... I don't think Matt's position right now is his long-term goal, and I think it's an interim thing, but he does bring a lot of technology. A lot of, obviously, crew chief background. To my knowledge, I can't say this and know, but I don't know that Bobby Hutchens ever was a crew chief. He's worked with them a lot. I think from Matt's standpoint, he is very in-depth with the engineering side of things and I think a lot of the work, a lot of the emphasis is now more so on the crew chiefs than it is Matt Borland."

Borland was Newman's crew chief during the driver's best days at Penske Racing, and the pair won 12 times together in one four-year span. "Matt's been there from day one," Stewart said. "The thing we wanted to do is take Matt, because he's so smart, and put him on a project side where he can really look at different aspects of our team and company and try to figure out how to get 100 percent out of it. He's been in the role of competition director there at the shop before, so it makes him an easy choice to have somebody in there right now."

That didn't make it any easier to part ways with Hutchens, whose wife lost a battle with cancer while he was at Stewart-Haas, and who is very highly thought-of throughout the Cup garage.

"It is a tough situation, especially with Bobby," Newman said. "Everybody in here knows Bobby with his personal life as well as his professional life, and that's something that was definitely thought of. We're just out there racing hard and trying to make a difference. Like I said, the emphasis right now is more so on the crew chiefs than it is Matt Borland. Matt's a great guy, brings a lot to the table. And, he's been at the table. He's in our competition meetings, he knows what is going on. He's always a very integral and important part of our team and our organization. It's more just a naming thing I think right now with him."

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