Is Stewart-Haas The Team To Beat?
Out of all the teams in NASCAR right now, one team has been tearing apart the speed charts. As you might expect, it’s not Hendrick Motorsports or Joe Gibbs Racing, both of whom have came on top the past two years. With six wins out of the first dozen races, Stewart-Haas Racing has been a force to reckon with.
At the end of the season of last year, it announced that Aric Almirola, long-time driver of the #43 car for Richard Petty Motorsports, would replace Danica Patrick in the #10 Smithfield Ford. Expectations quickly came for the team, who had been knocking on the door of success all year.
But with a lackluster performance at Daytona, Stewart-Haas didn’t appear anything better than average. Even with a 11th place finish by Almirola — although it should be noted Almirola was leading the final lap before being dumped by Austin Dillon — Clint Bowyer, Kurt Busch and Kevin Harvick all ended the day in wrecked Fords.
However, the next three races — Atlanta, Las Vegas, and Phoenix — were dominated by the organization. Harvick was able to pave his way through to earn three straight victories, including a dominating performance at Las Vegas. With the three victories as a bonus, the SHR team grabbed six top-10 finishes, and only recorded a single DNF.
Auto Club bought a rather unexpected end to Harvick’s reign. After a tangle with Kyle Larson, Harvick fell back to 35th. Meanwhile, his fellow teammates weren’t able to cook anything special, all finishing in-between 10th and 15th.
Martinsville brought yet another victory to Stewart-Haas, this one belonging to Clint Bowyer, who snapped his 190-race winless streak. Overall, the Virginian short track was kind to the team, with Harvick earning a top-5 as well. Busch and Almirola were able to secure 11th and 14th.
With an overall mediocre result for the team at Texas, Bristol offered a better result, with Almirola, Harvick, and Bowyer finishing in 6th, 7th, and 8th place. The next week at Richmond also treated SHR well, with two top-10 finishes for Harvick and Bowyer.
Ironically, Talladega proved a solid competitor, with Kurt Busch bringing home 2nd. Harvick also was able to finish within the top-5 with 4th, Almirola taking 7th. Clint Bowyer unfortunately was collected in a Talladega-standard crash, finishing the day in a disappointing 31st.
Out of all tracks, though, Dover seemed to be the icing on the cake. With Kevin Harvick celebrating in Victory Lane for the fourth time this season, Clint Bowyer finished seven seconds behind him in 2nd place, concluding in SHR’s first 1-2 finish in the team’s history. Kurt Busch earned 5th, with Almirola packing up just outside of the top-10.
Kansas proved a good competitor for the team, with Harvick battling for the first and second stage wins, and ultimately passing Martin Truex Jr. for the win with two laps to go. Busch and Almirola settled for 8th and 9th, and, despite being collected in a 7-car wreck late in the race, Bowyer came home in 15th.
With six victories a third into the season, SHR has had a great statistical season; with fourteen top-5 and twenty-eight top-10 finishes, SHR has proved to be a contender every weekend. And while other teams have struggled to stay consistent, Stewart-Haas has made a compelling argument why they should be the top dogs of the sport.