Tony Stewart has decided his 18th year in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will be his last. The three-time series champion will retire following the 2016 season, with Clint Bowyer taking the wheel of the No. 14 machine in 2017.
Since 2009 Stewart has held the dual title of driver/owner at Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR). He co-owns the team with Gene Haas, founder of Haas Automation, the largest CNC machine tool builder in North America. Stewart will join Haas as a fulltime owner in 2017, with Bowyer being Stewart’s hand-picked successor to drive the No. 14 car.

“2016 will be my last year in a Sprint Cup car, but it’s not my last year in NASCAR. I love this sport and I love being a part of it, and instead of seeing me in a firesuit on Sundays, you’ll see me in a pair of jeans, and maybe even a pair of khakis. I plan to make the most of my final year as a driver in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, and part of that is to ensure that when Clint Bowyer takes over the No. 14 in 2017, he has everything he needs to win races and contend for the championship. I’m very comfortable with this decision and what the future holds for me and Stewart-Haas Racing.”

Bowyer is an eight-time race winner in the Sprint Cup Series and finished second in the 2012 championship standings.

“Today is an incredible opportunity and I’m proud and excited to take over the No. 14 in 2017,” said Bowyer, the 2008 NASCAR Xfinity Series champion. “Whether it’s racing him on Sunday or watching my dirt late model teams race at his famed Eldora Speedway, Tony and I share the same passion for racing. That makes this opportunity a perfect fit for me. I appreciate everything he’s done for me and the sport of auto racing. These are big shoes to fill, but boy am I ever looking forward to getting behind the wheel of a champion’s ride, and have Tony there with me along the way.”

Haas, who formed Haas CNC Racing in 2002 before partnering with Stewart to create SHR in 2009, embraces the transition.

“Tony Stewart has been a game-changer for Stewart-Haas Racing and for motorsports,” Haas said. “I always had an incredible amount of respect for what he could do with a racecar – any racecar, as he’s been successful in everything he’s ever driven. In getting to know Tony Stewart the businessman, I found a very smart person with excellent people skills. He’s extremely valuable to our race team and a strong voice in our sport. His passion for motorsports is unmatched, and I’m proud that his future outside of the No. 14 Chevrolet remains with Stewart-Haas Racing.”

The primary partners currently represented on the No. 14 Chevrolet include Bass Pro Shops, Mobil 1, Rush Truck Centers, Code 3 Associates, Coca-Cola, Jimmy Johns and Haas Automation. The announcements regarding the partnership lineup for the No. 14 team in 2016 and beyond will be made in the lead up to the 58th Daytona 500 on Feb. 21 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway.

“I have been blessed with fantastic partners throughout my racing career, and I take a lot of pride in the lifelong friendships formed and the great business successes we’ve been a part of,” Stewart said. “I never would’ve accomplished all that I’ve achieved in racing if it weren’t for the support of corporate America. They helped a kid from Columbus, Indiana, reach his dreams and I’ll be forever grateful.”

Dual World Champion Sebastien Ogier snatched a dramatic victory for Volkswagen after a titanic three-car tussle in the final snowy kilometres of Rally Sweden. Teammate Andreas Mikkelsen held a 3.0sec advantage going into the closing 15.87km Power Stage and was looking to score his maiden win in the FIA World Rally Championship. The young Norwegian maintained the lead until the final third of the stage, when his Volkswagen Polo R touched a snowbank and spun. Time Mikkelsen lost recovering was enough to confirm a second straight 2015 victory for Ogier, who also won the Power Stage and its bonus points with a blazing drive 5.0sec faster than second-placed Thierry Neuville. Neuville, Ogier and Mikkelsen started the last stage with merely 4.6sec between them after more than 290kms’ racing since Thursday night across a spectacular winter landscape in Sweden and Norway. The Belgian Neuville had led overnight in his Hyundai i20 after winning the final speed test on Saturday and ending a run of 10 straight wins by Mikkelsen, who had caught another snowbank while under pressure from his rivals.

Mikkelsen regained the lead on the first of three stages, stalked from third spot and then second by the maestro Ogier, who exclaimed jubilantly at the finish he had driven “flat out” to take the final step to the top of the podium. Neuville finished the Power Stage and the rally in second place, 6.4sec behind Ogier, while Mikkelsen was relegated to third, a further 33.4sec back. Ogier now has a big early lead in his points chase for a third straight title. Neuville and Mikkelsen are equal-second while the third Volkswagen driver, Jari-Matti Latvala, remains fourth in the standings despite scoring no points in Sweden. Belgian Ott Tanak drove a steady event to finish fourth for his Ford-powered M-Sport team, while New Zealander Hayden Paddon scored the best finish of his short WRC career, fifth in a Hyundai i20. After two winter rallies to start the season, drivers in the world’s toughest championship tackle conditions at the opposite extreme for round three, the rough gravel roads and power-sapping Andean altitude of Rally Guanajuato Mexico on 5-8 March.

The WRC visits the New South Wales Coffs Coast for Round 10, Rally Australia on 10-13 September.

RESULTS, Rally Sweden (Rd 2 of 13):
1. S Ogier/ J Ingrassia (Volkswagen) Total time 2 hr 55 min 30.5 sec
2. T Neuville/ N Gilsoul (Hyundai) Behind winner +6.4 sec
3. A Mikkelsen/O Floene (Volkswagen) +39.8
4. O Tanak/R Molder (Ford) +2:26.0
5. H Paddon/J Kennard +3:31.5
6. E Evans/ D Barritt (Ford) +3:53.0
7. K Meeke/P Nagle (Citroen) +4:05.8
8. M Prokop/J Tomanek (Ford) +4:26.0
9. Y Protasov/P Cherepin (Ford) +5:32.2
10. M Ostberg/J Andersson (Citroen) +6:50.9

FIA Drivers standings (after Rd 2):
1. S Ogier 53 points
2.= T Neuville/A Mikkelsen 30
4. J-M Latvala 19
5. M Ostberg 14

FIA Manufacturers standings (after Rd 2):
1. Volkswagen Motorsport 68
2. Hyundai Motorsport 55
3. M-Sport WRT 32
4. Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT 20
5. Volkswagen Motorsport II 15

Next round:
Rd 3, Rally Guanajuato Mexico 5-8 March 2015