Stewart-Haas Racing

NASCAR America: Steve Letarte: Denny Hamlin showing ‘remarkable consistency’

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Things have been going relatively well for Denny Hamlin on the track in 2018.

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver enters this weekend’s race at Martinsville Speedway sixth in points. Through five races, he’s finished outside the top six once (17th, Las Vegas).

NASCAR America’s Steve Letarte, Dale Jarrett and Nate Ryan discussed his season so far in addition to Stewart-Haas Racing and Team Penske.

Letarte said Hamlin has displayed “remarkable consistency.”

“Denny Hamlin is in my mind a super star driver that I know I am guilty of leaving him out of super star conversations,” Letarte said.

Ryan pointed to mistakes on pit road that have prevented Hamlin from enjoying more success this season and in his career overall. His result at Las Vegas was the result of a speeding penalty.

“Five races this season, four pit mistakes,” Ryan said. “He overshot his box at Daytona, he did that at Fontana, he sped in the pits at Phoenix. While I think they’ve had speed, I think that team is still stumbling in the same ways it has in the past. Unless they correct that, I don’t know if they’re championship level yet.”

Hamlin heads to Martinsville where he has won a career-best five races.

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Aric Almirola feels like a ‘rookie driver again’ with Stewart-Haas Racing

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Eleven years after he first climbed in a Cup car, Aric Almirola feels like a “rookie driver again.”

That’s thanks in part to the rejuvenating effect of being the newest driver of Stewart-Haas Racing’s No. 10 Ford.

Almirola, who turned 34 Wednesday, will compete in his fifth race for SHR today at Auto Club Speedway. After the first four, Almirola is 10th in the point standings.

“I am literally showing up every weekend with a blank slate,” Almirola said Friday at Auto Club Speedway. “I’m studying driver data and watching old race footage and doing all the things that I’ve always done, but now I have a new team and teammates to lean on and it’s just so different than anything I’ve had in the past, so the learning curve is still there and I feel like I’m learning every week and getting better every week.”

With the West Coast swing coming to a close, Almirola said Fridays on race weekends have been the “most difficult part of the week.”

“We show up with no history together, no notebook and every driver wants something a little different,” said Almirola, who was third fastest in Friday’s lone practice session. “So just trying to figure that out and figure out the differences between me and my teammates so that Johnny (Klausmeier), my crew chief, can hone in on something better to show up with and for me to gain confidence in that to unload off the truck at a place like (this), where you’re running 215 mph down into Turn 1 and your first lap on the race track is a qualifying lap. It’s really difficult.”

Almirola said the Friday difficulties are exasperated by the shortened practice times for teams.

But Almirola is helped through leaning on advice and data from his three teammates – Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch and Clint Bowyer.

“To look at all their driver data and to see that they all do something a little different and they all want something a little different out of their race car, it gives me confidence to just go over there to Stewart-Haas Racing and just do what I do,” Almirola said. “They’ve got fast race cars and they’ve got really smart people and they’ll be able to conform and work around my style and that I don’t have to adapt and drive like anybody else. That’s been the most eye-opening thing for me is that all of those guys are always fast, and they always run up front and they qualify up front and they race up front and they all do something different.”

After being able to arrive at the track with “loads of confidence” in the early years of his Cup career, Almirola said he had “been beat down” over the “last several years” due to mediocre results. He arrived at SHR after six seasons and just one win with Richard Petty Motorsports.

Almirola said signing with SHR gave him “a new lease on life and with my career.”

“It makes me happy in not only our team, but in myself to be able to get in that car and go get the job done to be able to at least be competitive and on a level playing field with at least two of my other teammates,” Almirola said. “We’ve got one (Harvick) that’s just incredible right now and they’ve been doing a great job, but I think for us as a new team and a new group of guys all working together I feel like we’re off to a really good start.”

Almirola has 10 starts at Auto Club Speedway, but he’s never finished better than 11th. He was one of the 13 drivers who did not get to qualify for today’s race after their cars failed inspection. He will start 27th.

The 2-mile track actually played a small role in Almirola’s recovery from a back injury last year.

“Six weeks after I broke my back (at Kansas Speedway) I went to Ford’s seven-post shaker rig and sat in my race car on that shaker rig with the car running a mock lap around this race track and I remember thinking to myself, ‘Holy cow, is it really that rough?’” Almriola said. “Then we showed up back here and the answer is yes, it really is that rough.  But my back feels great. … I feel like I am better than 100 percent.

Stewart-Haas Racing crew chief is a graduate of the new NCAA Cinderella, UMBC

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The initials UMBC probably didn’t mean anything to a lot of people until last night.

That’s when the University of Maryland, Baltimore County did the unthinkable.

A member of the America East Conference, the school became the first No. 16 seed to beat a No. 1 seed in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.

The UMBC Retrievers trounced the Virginia Cavaliers 74-54 in a game at the Spectrum Center in Charlotte, North Carolina.

It turns out someone in the NASCAR world had a stake in the game.

John Klausmeier, crew chief on Aric Almirola‘s No. 10 Ford at Stewart-Haas Racing, graduated from the school.

Klausmeier, 36,  has a degree in mechanical engineering from the university. He is in his first season as a full-time CUp crew chief.

SHR’s Twitter account informed every one of Klausmeier’s alumni status soon after the historic game ended.

 and on Facebook

Stewart-Haas Racing sweeps top three spots in Cup practice

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Kevin Harvick led a Stewart-Haas Racing sweep of the top three spots in Friday’s Cup practice session for Sunday’s Auto Club 400.

Harvick, who seeks his fourth consecutive Cup win, topped the chart with a speed of 189.066 mph.

He was followed by Clint Bowyer (188.211 mph) and Aric Almirola (187.936).

Ryan Newman (187.798) and defending race winner Kyle Larson (187.744) completed the top five.

David Ragan recorded the most laps in the session with 17. He was 30th on the speed chart.

Denny Hamlin (181.278) and Ragan (177.070) were the only drivers to make 10-lap runs.

The session was slowed by one accident when Daniel Suarez got into the wall early. He will go to a backup car.

Click here for the practice report.

Kurt Busch’s No. 41 becomes first car revealed for this year’s throwback race at Darlington Raceway

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If Kurt Busch’s car in this year’s Bojangles’ Southern 500 throwback race at Darlington Raceway looks familiar, there’s a good reason for it.

Busch will drive a car with a paint scheme similar to the car he drove at the 1.366-mile egg-shaped track in the 2003 Carolina Dodge Dealers 400.

And what a race that was. Busch’s No. 97 Rubbermaid-sponsored red and gray Ford had a last-lap fender-banging battle with Ricky Craven’s No. 32 Cal Wells Racing Pontiac, which ended up 0.002 seconds ahead of Busch for the win.

Ironically, tomorrow, March 16, marks the 15th anniversary of what at the time was the closest finish in NASCAR history.

Busch’s Darlington black, red and gray throwback scheme – the first of all teams to be revealed for this year’s race – on his No. 41 Haas Automation Ford Fusion, was first unveiled by

Busch has never won at Darlington. His 2003 runner-up finish has been his highest finish, though he’s also finished third in 2010 and in last year’s race.

This will be the fourth consecutive year for Darlington’s popular throwback weekend. This year’s theme is “seven decades of NASCAR” across the entire weekend from Aug. 31 to Sept. 2.

Stewart-Haas Racing has won the best throwback paint scheme the last two years (in voting at, last year with Danica Patrick’s No. 10 car (a blue-and-white look that honored NASCAR Hall of Famer Robert Yates), and Tony Stewart’s car for his final race at Darlington in 2016 that honored Bobby Allison.

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