Team Preview: Stewart-Haas Racing
By: Pete Pistone - @PPistone on February 7, 2014 | 3:39 P.M. EST
Newcomers Kurt Busch and Kevin Harvick have joined Danica Patrick and Tony Stewart (right to left) at Stewart-Haas Racing. (Photo: Jeff Wackerlin)
The spotlight will shine brightly on Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014 after the team's off-season makeover.
Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch join SHR holdovers Tony Stewart and Danica Patrick as former teammate Ryan Newman moves to Richard Childress Racing. Three new crew chiefs in Chad Johnston, Rodney Childers and Daniel Knost also join the effort.
Stewart is still recovering from the broken leg he suffered in a sprint car crash last August and said he won't be 100 percent when Budweiser Speedweeks rolls around. Harvick and Busch add a veteran presence to the organization and with Patrick back for her second full Sprint Cup Series season, there's definitely a high wattage of celebrity electricity around SHR in 2014.
SHR struggled with the Gen-6 car last year. Along with Stewart's absence, there were personnel changes when veteran crew chief Steve Addington was let go.
Team: Stewart Haas Racing
Drivers: Tony Stewart (No. 14 Chevrolet), Danica Patrick (No. 10 Chevrolet), Kevin Harvick (No. 4 Chevrolet), Kurt Busch (No. 41 Chevrolet)
Crew Chiefs: Chad Johnston (Stewart), Tony Gibson (Patrick), Rodney Childers (Harvick), Daniel Knost (Busch)
Key Numbers4 - SHR has doubled its size from a two-car operation to four in less than three years.
11 - Number of top-five finishes for newcomer Kurt Busch last year as a member of Furniture Row Racing.
26.1 - Danica Patrick's average 2013 finishing position.
What’s New: The addition of Harvick and Busch to the stable give SHR an expanded and veteran look. But the two drivers aren't the only new wrinkles in the organization. Three crew chiefs make their debuts with SHR this season as Johnson and Childers make the move from Michael Waltrip Racing, and former engineer Knost gets his first shot atop the war wagon to call the shots for the newly created No. 41 team and Busch. Veteran Mark Martin has also been brought in as a test driver and consultant.
What They’re Saying
Stewart: "What everybody is overlooking is the fact that we have four alpha drivers here with four alpha personalities, and the great thing is that we all have the advantage of understanding each other. The first thought of everybody is probably the opposite of what the reality is – we’re a great support system for each other. Every one of us has had our battles at some time, either with each other or (the media) or whatever the group has been. But we all understand and can relate, so every one of us can understand what each is going through and it’s a great support system."
Harvick: "From a competition standpoint, you want to race and you want to do the right things. I've been around this thing long enough to where you know when you’ve said something, done something, made a mistake on the track or need to do something better. For the most part, you know it’s pretty obvious what you need to do."
Keys to Season
Some people feel a key to SHR's is just being able to survive until season's end. The "alpha personalities," as Stewart calls the quartet, will all have to get along with one another to ensure a harmonious atmosphere. But there's also the chemistry that will need to happen among three new pairs of driver-crew chiefs. SHR needs to get better results from Year 2 of the Gen-6 car than it did during its debut season in 2013. Stewart has to return to full physical strength after his layoff due to injury. And Patrick has to step up in her sophomore campaign after a mediocre rookie season. There's a lot on SHR's plate in 2014.
SHR will be one of the top teams under the spotlight in 2014. There seem to be as many people rooting for the organization to succeed as there are who want to see it implode. There's no argument that the driving talent among the proven trio of Stewart, Harvick and Busch is stellar. But the questions regarding growing pains in moving from a three- to four-car operation and whether the high-profile personalities can co-exist and work together will certainly permeate the season.