SHR’s 2014 lineup is sure to be passionate
August 27, 2013, Kenny Bruce, NASCAR.com
KANNAPOLIS, N.C. – What do you get when you put three tempestuous drivers who haven’t always seen eye-to-eye on the same NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team?
Is it a recipe for success or an impending disaster? Can three firebrands peacefully co-exist under the same roof while seeking to beat each other – and everyone else – on the race track each week?
Fans of Stewart-Haas Racing, along with the rest of the NASCAR world, will find out in 2014 when Kevin Harvick and now Kurt Busch join co-owner/driver Tony Stewart at SHR.
Busch was officially introduced as the newest Sprint Cup addition, a move that will expand the three-team Cup outfit by one. SHR currently fields entries for Stewart (on the mend from a broken right leg), Ryan Newman (on the way out) and rookie of the year candidate Danica Patrick.
From a competitive standpoint, there’s little doubt that Stewart, Harvick and Busch are among the most talented drivers in the series today. Stewart’s a three-time Cup champion with 48 career wins; Busch won the Cup title in 2004 and has 24 victories; Harvick, with 21 career wins, has yet to win a championship but he has contended for the title - finishing third in 2010 and ’11. He is currently fourth in this year’s points battle.
It’s also true that the three have had their issues on the race track - with one another as well as theirfellow competitors.
Nearly every driver in the garage has had an issue with a competitor at one time or another. It’s simply the nature of a business that involves high speeds and higher expectations.
Every driver isn’t competing for the same team, however.
But there are no lingering concerns with his soon-to-be teammates, Busch said Tuesday at Stewart-Haas Racing.
“I got a bunch of phones calls the last couple of weeks … and the last one before I came in here today was (from) Kevin Harvick,” Busch said. “Ten years ago, we weren’t in a place in our careers to do this. We’ve had different roads we’ve been on, but at the same time they’ve paralleled one another.… I think we’re in a great spot in our careers now to join another fierce competitor such as Tony and look up to Tony as a co-owner … to know that our spot here is to build these four cars together and make them as fast as we can.”
Co-owner Gene Haas, who brokered the deal to bring Busch in-house (the 2004 champ currently drives for the Denver, Colo.-based Furniture Row Racing), said he had no qualms about Busch’s fiery demeanor on the track. It was, he said, a plus instead of a negative.
Busch was released from Penske Racing following an obscenity-laced tirade with ESPN reporter Dr. Jerry Punch at Homestead-Miami Speedway at the end of the 2011 season.
Last year he was suspended for one race for threatening remarks he made to a reporter on pit road.
“I know Kurt’s resumé as well as anybody and I kind of like his attitude,” Haas said. “He’s passionate about what he does and he likes to win. He’s not afraid to get in people’s faces. I think that kind of reflects my company a little bit. I think there’s a good match there. He’s a passionate person and it takes a lot of passion to win these races.
“The fact that he runs into his friends at 200 mph once in a while and he has a few tough words with them, they all do that. So I don’t have any problems with that either, because at the end of the day, they all seem to get along and they’re always there at the next race.”
The organization certainly has the potential for success, but potential and reality haven’t had a chance to get acquainted just yet at SHR.
There will be growing pains - the addition of a fourth team will require more floor space, more personnel and an influx of finances. Haas, whose Haas Automation builds cutting-edge machining equipment, says the financials won’t be an issue.
Greg Zipadelli, SHR’s competition director, said expansion of the complex – which currently contains 140,00 square feet - could be completed by mid-season of 2014. Concerning personnel, he said he’s been flooded with resumes since word of the fourth team broke.
But how best to deal with his potentially volatile driver lineup going forward?
“We built a rubber room upstairs, that's the first thing we did,” Zipadelli said.
“When you have four passionate drivers, I would much rather deal with that than to try to figure out how to get them going. You're born with that. The competitiveness that these guys have, that's what you need in this sport. We'll deal with what comes our way on a weekly basis and we'll continue to race. It's as simple as that. I think what makes this unique is there's three guys and Danica that all had their days. I think they can all help each other."
“At least that's the theory I'm going with.”