While Clint Bowyer is likely still celebrating Monday’s victory at Martinsville Speedway, consider this: Stewart-Haas Racing is a bump and a mile from having won five of the first six races this season with three different drivers.
Not since Kevin Harvick joined the organization in 2014 has Stewart-Haas Racing showed such strength and balance among all four of its teams. Previously, Harvick was the standout and the other three teams were far behind.
While Harvick remains the leader — he’s won three races this year — Bowyer has a victory and newcomer Aric Almirola nearly won the Daytona 500 before a last-lap bump while leading sent him into the wall. Harvick, Bowyer, Almirola and Kurt Busch each finished in the top 10 at Phoenix, making the first time SHR had placed all four cars in the top 10 in a race.
“I’ve been proud of the wins and the success we’ve had, but I’ve been more proud of the performance of all four cars so far this year,’’ said Greg Zipadelli, vice president of competition at Stewart-Haas Racing. “We’ve got to figure out how to continue to get our guys to work together and continue to make our stuff better.’’
That was last year when the transition from Chevrolet to Ford was more daunting that SHR imagined.
“Everybody has worked really hard in the off‑season, like every other team, but last year we were trying to figure out how to put motors in cars to make it to the racetrack, and that’s not a lie,’’ Zipadelli said. “I mean, it was that bad when we switched over to Ford. It was a lot of things that were a lot harder than we thought they were.
“This year as a group they’ve been able to work together, and they’ve been able to work on a lot of little details, and I think it’s shown in the performance to start the year.’’
The result is that SHR has four wins, six top-five finishes and 11 top-10 results before April. Last year, SHR won only three races.
SHR also has two drivers — Harvick and Bowyer — set for the playoffs with their victories and Almirola and Busch in the top 12 in points.
Tony Stewart said earlier this month that he saw a difference in the organization when the season began.
“I think we saw that even at Daytona this year, the way all four teams ran at Daytona,’’ Stewart said. “It just shows the strength of having four really good teammates that are giving four valid sets of information that they can all feed off of and work off of. It just seems like this group of these guys really work well together.’’
MOST WINS (after first six races of the year)
4 – Stewart-Haas Racing
1 – Furniture Row Racing
1 – Richard Childress Racing
MOST TOP-FIVE FINISHES
7 – Joe Gibbs Racing
6 – Stewart-Haas Racing
6 – Team Penske
5 – Furniture Row Racing
2 – Chip Ganassi Racing
MOST TOP-10 FINISHES
13 – Joe Gibbs Racing
13 – Team Penske
11 – Stewart-Haas Racing
5 – Furniture Row Racing
5 – Hendrick Motorsports