Stewart-Haas Racing team ready to support each other
January 27, 2014, Kenny Bruce, NASCAR.com
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Tony Stewart, Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch and Danica Patrick have much bigger concerns than how the four drivers will get along once the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season gets underway.
Stewart is eager to get back behind the wheel after recovering from a broken right leg that he suffered in August. He has a new crew chief in Chad Johnston, and new teammates in Harvick and Busch.
Harvick and Busch made the offseason jump to Stewart-Haas Racing and enter the season paired with new crew chiefs in Rodney Childers (Harvick) and Daniel Knost (Busch).
Harvick is seeking his first Cup title after a sometimes tumultuous, often successful career at Richard Childress Racing.
Busch, the 2004 champion, has rebuilt a career that went askew two years ago with the move to SHR being the latest step back along that path.
And Patrick is hoping to continue to build on the things that went right during a difficult rookie season while learning from what went wrong.
The outside clutter of how a group of often-headstrong firebrands will co-exist? It’s not even on their radar.
"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, co-owner of the SHR organization and a three-time Cup champion, said Monday as the annual Sprint Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway got underway.
"…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 (the media) or whatever the group has been.
"But we all understand and can relate so everyone of us can understand what each of is going through and it’s a great support system."
Whether winning or spinning, chugging Gatorade or chucking helmets, there’s a common thread said Childers.
"Pretty much 80 percent of the best drivers out there are all that way, they’re all passionate about what they do," he said. "And I think that’s what drives them. You can pick me on the right day and I’m just as mad as what they’ve shown. I’ll throw stuff and I’ll do whatever.
"I’m not worried about having the boxing ring at the shop and all that mess. There will be post-race meetings on Monday that will be – I wouldn’t say heated – but there will be conversations at times when people get mad but that’s part of it.
"You don’t hear about it but there were plenty of meetings at (Michael Waltrip Racing) that I got mad and was flying off the handle … that’s what makes everybody better. … We’ll all learn from it as we go."
Knost, previously the race engineer for former SHR driver Ryan Newman, is the rookie crew chief among the group. That doesn’t mean he isn’t aware of the outbursts that Busch has been known to launch into due to an ill-handling car or problem-filled pit stop.
While Knost admits "I probably don’t have the thickest skin in the world," he said he is more concerned about why his driver might be upset rather than how he chooses to express himself.
"If he’s upset about the performance of the car, I’m equally upset about it," Knost said. "I would say for me, No. 1 is just understanding where it’s coming from. It’s not necessarily personal; it’s just wanting to be the best and being frustrated that we are not getting the results that we need to get."
In the end, Stewart said, it’s all about support. So while "the majority of you guys are leaning on that angle – it’s a great opportunity to be a disaster - we look at is as a great opportunity to be a huge positive and a great match for four great personalities, four great drivers to work really hard together and can understand and relate to one another."