Editor’s note: Today’s Stewart-Haas Racing preview continues NASCAR.com’s countdown of team previews for the NASCAR Cup Series season, ranked in order of best finish in last year’s owner standings.
Engine: Roush Yates Engines
Drivers: Kevin Harvick (No. 4), Aric Almirola (No. 10), Clint Bowyer (No. 14), Cole Custer (No. 41)
Crew chiefs: Rodney Childers (No. 4), Mike Bugarewicz (No. 10), Johnny Klausmeier (No. 14), Mike Shiplett (No. 41)
What’s new: Of course, the biggest move for SHR is the addition of Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender Cole Custer, moving up from the NASCAR Xfinity Series into the No. 41 Ford previously driven by Daniel Suarez. But another shakeup included the crew chiefs for Aric Almirola and Clint Bowyer. Mike Bugarewicz and Johnny Klausmeier have traded places, as Bugarewicz will now serve as the crew chief for Almirola and the No. 10 team, while Klausmeier moves atop the pit box for Bowyer and the No. 14 squad.
Team strength: It’s a special group over at the SHR shop who pride themselves on an old-school, racer’s racer approach. That’s exactly the reason why they’re such a threat for the win each week. But pinpointing a favored style of racing depends on the driver. While a threat for victory each week, Harvick’s forte includes the 1.5-2-mile tracks, plus the 1-milers of Phoenix Raceway and New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Bowyer has shown muscle on the short tracks and 1.5-mile tracks, while Almirola has proven he is very superspeedway savvy — he was less than a half-lap away from winning the 2018 Daytona 500 before fading to the checkered. Time will tell where Custer will have an advantage, but signs point to 1.5-mile tracks looking back on his Xfinity Series days.
The Action Network Best Bet: I like Cole Custer’s long-term outlook in the No. 41, but I’ll be doing everything I can to fade him in Daytona 500 driver matchups. I’m never high on rookies making their first Daytona 500 starts, especially for a driver like Custer who has never run a superspeedway in the NASCAR Cup Series. Add in the fact that Custer had an average finish of 22.8 and just one top-10 finish in nine career NASCAR Xfinity Series superspeedway starts and we have a driver ripe for fading at Daytona. – PJ Walsh
Racing Insights Number to Know: Kevin Harvick and Rodney Childers have been together for six seasons and are now the longest current driver-crew chief pairing in the NASCAR Cup Series. Harvick and Childers are one of two championship driver-crew chief pairings that are still together, the other being defending champion Kyle Busch and crew chief Adam Stevens.
KEVIN HARVICK, No. 4 Ford
2019 stats: Four wins, 15 top fives, 26 top 10s, 10.0 average finish and 953 laps led.
2020 Championship Odds: 5-1
Fantasy Live Five: Phoenix, Atlanta, Miami, Texas, Michigan
Outlook: It’s a little far-fetched to say that Harvick had a down year in 2019, but the team had more hiccups than usual. That last statement has a particular focus on the first part of last year, where Harvick failed to reach Victory Lane until the 20th race of the regular season at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. On the other hand, he still clicked off four wins and made the Championship 4. Harvick was also the best-finishing SHR driver in 22 of the 36 races (including 10 of the season’s final 12 races). If the No. 4 team can get the ball rolling much quicker to start the season, that won’t be a good thing for the rest of the field.
ARIC ALMIROLA, No. 10 Ford
2019 stats: Three top fives, 12 top 10s, 15.4 average finish and 180 laps led.
2020 Championship Odds: 40-1
Fantasy Live Five: Talladega, Phoenix, Las Vegas, New Hampshire, Texas
Outlook: Almirola and the No. 10 team started off the 2019 season by clicking off seven top-10 finishes in the first 10 races, but then things unraveled from there, only earning five top 10s the remainder of the season. There were glimmers of hope toward the end though, earning a fourth-place result at Talladega Superspeedway and a second-place behind teammate Harvick at Texas Motor Speedway. New crew chief Mike Bugarewicz will hopefully provide the spark the team needs in 2020, providing a different approach that could launch them into contention for more victories.
CLINT BOWYER, No. 14 Ford
2019 stats: Seven top fives, 18 top 10s, 15.2 average finish and 138 laps led.
2020 Championship Odds: 40-1
Fantasy Live Five: Sonoma, Richmond, Bristol, Martinsville, Dover
Outlook: It was an up-and-down 2019 season for Bowyer, failing to reach Victory Lane but making the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs on points. The No. 14 team showed strength at 1.5-mile and short tracks throughout the year, but they weren’t quite able to capitalize on speed to be in contention when the checkered flag flew. Bowyer ended the year with back-to-back top-10 finishes at Phoenix Raceway and Homestead-Miami Speedway, which offers hope that the 2020 season could see a difference in results if they can get off to a fast start. Like Almirola, the crew chief change gives Bowyer a chance to work with Johnny Klausmeier with the hopes of offering a shakeup that could work out in the team’s favor.
COLE CUSTER, No. 41 Ford
2019 stats: Seven wins, 17 top fives, 24 top 10s, 9.0 average finish and 922 laps led in the Xfinity Series.
2020 Championship Odds: 80-1
Fantasy Live Five: Pocono, Dover, New Hampshire, Las Vegas, Texas
Outlook: It’ll be interesting to see how the Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate starts off his first full-time season in the No. 41 Ford. Custer will have a tough rookie class to battle against with the likes of Christopher Bell and Tyler Reddick, all having the talent and potential to earn a victory. The 22-year-old will have a familiar face atop the pit box with Mike Shiplett moving up with him from the Xfinity Series, so there are high hopes that the transition will be more seamless and the team can begin producing results faster than your average rookie driver.
NASCAR.com 2020 team previews schedule
Jan. 20: Teams outside the top 30
Jan. 21: Go Fas Racing
Jan. 22: Front Row Motorsports
Jan. 23: Richard Petty Motorsports
Jan. 24: Germain Racing
Jan. 27: Leavine Family Racing
Jan. 28: Richard Childress Racing
Jan. 29: JTG Daugherty Racing
Jan. 30: Wood Brothers Racing
Jan. 31: Roush Fenway Racing
Feb. 3: Hendrick Motorsports
Feb. 4: Chip Ganassi Racing
Feb. 5: Team Penske
Feb. 6: Stewart-Haas Racing
Feb. 7: Joe Gibbs Racing