By admin | January 29, 2014
This is one of several previews of Sprint Cup teams going into the 2014 season. Look for these pieces to be released every Tuesday and Thursday during the weeks leading up to the season opening Daytona 500.
By Richard Allen
I don’t know about anyone else, but the Sprint Cup team I am most looking forward to following in 2014 is that of Stewart-Haas Racing. Perhaps never in the history of NASCAR have so many intense personalities been brought together under one umbrella at the same time as team co-owner Tony Stewart and holdover Danica Patrick will be joined by former series champion Kurt Busch and former Daytona 500 winner Kevin Harvick.
And while this is certainly a mix of some hot personalities, there is no doubt this is one of the most talented driver lineups to be matched together in the sport’s modern history. If everything clicks, this organization could be a real threat to pile up big numbers in terms of race wins and could easily see one of its drivers walk away with the Sprint Cup title at the end of the season.
Stewart addressed concerns about the team’s mix of personalities during the recent Sprint Media Tour. “Everyone looks at it as a great opportunity to be a disaster, we look at it as a great opportunity to be a great match.
I think what everybody is overlooking is the fact that we have four alpha drivers here with four alpha personalities, and the great thing, I think, is that we all have the advantage of understanding each other,” Stewart added. ”I think 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 up here has had our battles at some time, either with each other, or you(media), or whatever the group has been. But we all understand and can relate so everyone of us can understand what each of us is going through and it’s a great support system.”
But it’s in the possibility that things don’t click right away where the most intrigue comes from with this bunch. It is no secret that each of these drivers can be a bit demanding at best and highly irritable at worst. Should the worst happen, the press conferences and sound bites could be epic.
During their time with journalists during the Sprint Media Tour, the drivers themselves joked about the possibility of turmoil within their team. “If we’re fighting, I’m kicking you in the leg,” Harvick quipped, in reference to the broken leg Stewart suffered late last season.
Kurt Busch and Gene Haas appear to be going in multiple directions together–> http://racingwithrich.com/?p=2495
But the real issue with this organization is not necessarily the volatile personalities. A general drop off in performance should be more of a concern.
Despite all the talent in this stable, a look back into recent history reveals that success is not necessarily a guarantee for SHR in 2014. Last year in a total of 108 starts spread among full time drivers Stewart, Patrick and Ryan Newman along with relievers Mark Martin, Max Papis and Austin Dillon, the team managed only two victories and 11 top-5 finishes. Of course, those totals were likely affected by Stewart’s injury and subsequent missing of 15 races. But nonetheless, those statistics compare unfavorably with the four wins and 18 top-5s compiled by Stewart and Newman in only 72 total starts back in 2012.
Granted, it could be argued that the addition of Busch and Harvick will naturally improve those numbers because of the upgrade in the talent level. Although SHR is supplied with chassis’ and engines by powerful Hendrick Motorsports, there could be other issues involved. Consider that the team was not having a particularly good season in 2011 until Stewart went on his final ten race tear that resulted in an unlikely championship.
So one has to wonder if these new drivers really will be enough. The past performances of Stewart, Harvick and Busch in particular cannot be denied. However, the organization has shown signs of inconsistency throughout its history.
If this year happens to be one of those in which Stewart-Haas Racing is on the upswing, it will be fun watching these drivers pile up wins and fight for the Sprint Cup title. But if this year continues on the downward trend shown last season, it could also be fun watching all those alpha personalities implode.
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