SHR starts to scratch the surface of success
April 05, 2014, Holly Cain, NASCAR.com
FORT WORTH, Texas -- While Tony Stewart was absolutely thrilled Saturday to claim his first pole since late 2012, he was happier about what the feat meant for the greater Stewart-Haas Racing organization.
Sustained and quantifiable progress.
Three of its four drivers -- led by team owner Stewart in the No. 14 Mobil 1 Chevrolet -- will start among the top 11 in Monday's Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. Behind Stewart is SHR driver Kevin Harvick, who will start third and actually set a new track record (198.282 mph) in the opening round of qualifying. Last week’s race winner Kurt Busch will start 11th and Danica Patrick will roll off 24th.
But it’s not about where they start, but where they’re finishing that is most encouraging. SHR is the only team with multiple wins thanks to Busch and Harvick. Stewart has two top-fives in the last three races and now a pole. In her second year, Patrick has improved her rookie finishes in four of the six races.
"Yeah, the whole organization has been doing an awesome job,’’ Stewart said Friday. “Obviously, we are coming in a week after Kurt’s (Busch) win which is a great feeling for us. This is the first time I have been able to do something impressive for the team so I’m excited about that.
“We have got a good year started, to get two of our cars wins already. For us to get a pole, that is something that we are pretty proud of right now.”
This will also be the best start of the season for Harvick, who, along with Busch, gives the team's two newcomers a 2-0 head start in victories -- significant because the decision to add Busch as a fourth car was only made late in 2013.
Three of the four teams have new driver-crew chief pairings. Only Patrick has the same crew chief, Tony Gibson, as last season.
And then there is Stewart’s injury. He missed the last four months of the 2013 season recovering from a severely broken right leg.
So there were naturally a lot of questions about how the team would respond to expansion: how, when and how well.
“Honestly, I don’t even think we’ve scratched the surface as a team,’’ Harvick said. “We’re still trying to get all the cars built and everything organized and flowing exactly how it needs to flow in the shop and the fab shop with all the stuff that we’ve changed over the winter with adding a whole new team and bringing in new crew chiefs.
“And I think everybody, and as you can see with the No. 14, just getting their feet on the ground and getting to where we’re competing for poles and competing for wins, and having the speed in the car hasn’t been the issue for the No. 4 team as we’ve gone through the weeks. And I think we’ve just got a few things to clean up and things are going to be coming together even better.”