With Aric Almirola’s last-lap pass for the win Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway, Stewart-Haas Racing drivers have racked up 11 wins through 31 races. Almirola is locked into the Round of 8 in the NASCAR Playoffs, while Kevin Harvick is as close as possible to advancing to the next round. Clint Bowyer and Kurt Busch are above the cutline and in position to advance.
Should all four Stewart-Haas Racing drivers advance, they will be the first to see its entire four-car organization move into the Round of 8 under the elimination format since Joe Gibbs Racing did so in 2016. That begs the question: Is the 2018 edition of Stewart-Haas Racing with past champions in Harvick (2014), Busch (2004) and resurgent seasons from Bowyer and Almirola among the best single-season organizations of all time?
NASCAR.com’s RJ Kraft and Zack Albert debate the possibility.
KRAFT: SHR certainly is in the conversation for the most successful single season by an organization, and how the end of the season plays out remains to be seen. A season capped off with a championship for one of their drivers and an additional driver reaching the Championship 4 would certainly elevate their status in the conversation — frankly, it is a must to reach the same heights as the best single season for an organization in my view, the 2007 Hendrick Motorsports quartet.
The Hendrick group of Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Kyle Busch and Casey Mears — a fleet that included a 2019 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee and two sure-fire Hall of Famers when their careers end — saw all four drivers win races, and the organization as a whole won half of the season’s races (18 of 36). Johnson and Gordon were in a season-long battle for the championship that would result in Jimmie’s second of five straight titles while the driver of the No. 24 came home second in the standings. Busch finished fifth in his final season with the organization before moving to Joe Gibbs Racing in 2008.
That Hendrick group was a little more top heavy with Johnson and Gordon, while this SHR has a clear-cut favorite in Harvick. The big difference is this SHR squad is deeper as a whole since its remaining drivers reached the postseason and are still alive in the postseason hunt.
ALBERT: Not to diminish what Stewart-Haas Racing has been able to do this season, but let’s feather the brakes just a little before making an all-time comparison. Five races remain in an unpredictable playoff format with no guarantees. Should another driver break through in the championship finale (Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. raise their hands), SHR’s season of dominance would be missing its coronation, a glaring omission that would stick out like a typo on a job application.
The 2007 Hendrick example RJ provides is an apt one, but here’s a tip of the cap to the 2015 Joe Gibbs Racing lineup. That roster was stacked with four future NASCAR Hall of Famers in Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth. Each driver scored multiple victories that year, and Busch sped to his first series title at Homestead. And if we’re truly talking “all time,” there’s an argument to be made for the revolutionary vision of Raymond Parks and Carl Kiekhaefer, who were ahead of their time with successful multi-car teams in NASCAR’s pioneer days.
This is a discussion worth having, but the full context for Stewart-Haas Racing won’t be revealed until the final checkered flag at Homestead. If SHR manages to make a four-car march to the championship round, such a sweep would make it safe to include them on a very short list.