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2021 season preview: Stewart-Haas Racing

Today’s Stewart-Haas Racing preview continues NASCAR.com’s countdown of team previews for the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season, ranked in reverse order of best finish in last year’s owner standings.

MORE: Changes to know for 2021 season

STEWART-HAAS RACING

Manufacturer: Ford
Engine: Roush Yates Engines
Driver-crew chief pairings: Kevin Harvick-Rodney Childers (No. 4), Aric Almirola-Mike Bugarewicz (No. 10), Chase Briscoe-Johnny Klausmeier (No. 14), Cole Custer-Mike Shiplett (No. 41)

What’s new: There’s a new kid on the block. Chase Briscoe will take over the reins of the No. 14 Ford after Clint Bowyer’s retirement from full-time racing. Briscoe enters his rookie campaign with higher expectations after earning nine race victories in the NASCAR Xfinity Series last season. The 26-year-old from Mitchell, Indiana, will have veteran crew chief Johnny Klausmeier atop the pit box, who served as Bowyer’s crew chief last year. Briscoe will compete for Sunoco Rookie of the Year with Front Row Motorsports driver Anthony Alfredo.

RELATED: Stewart-Haas Racing’s wins by driver

Team outlook: The organization looks poised for even more success in 2021. The Harvick-Childers combination is always lethal, especially after coming off a nine-win season that saw them miss the Championship 4 after misfortune in the Round of 8. Almirola hopes to continue momentum after scoring career-high numbers in top-five and top-10 finishes in 2020. Heading into his sophomore season, Custer will be out to prove that his Kentucky victory to advance into the playoffs was no fluke. Rookie sensation Briscoe has all the potential to record a multi-win inaugural Cup Series season if he can be a quick study out of the gate.

Racing Insights’ stats break: With 35 total victories, no driver has won more than Kevin Harvick in his seven seasons with Stewart-Haas Racing. The 45-year-old driver earned nine wins in 2020 and shows no signs of slowing down. Only three drivers in the last 15 seasons have won over the age of 45. Thanks to his Kentucky Speedway victory last year, Cole Custer won 2020 Rookie of the Year honors. Aric Almirola had career-high top-five and top-10 finishing streaks in 2020. Chase Briscoe joins the team, replacing Clint Bowyer, after winning nine races en route to the Xfinity Series championship last year. Briscoe broke the record for most Xfinity Series wins by a Ford driver in one season, while scoring the second-most victories by a non-Cup competitor. (Sam Ard had 10 wins in 1983.)

Kevin Harvick, No. 4 Ford

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - JANUARY 20: NASCAR driver Kevin Harvick poses for a photo during the 2021 NASCAR Production Days at FOX Sports Studios on January 20, 2021 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images) | Getty Images
Jared C. Tilton | Getty Images

Experience: 21st full-time season in NASCAR Cup Series
2020 stats: Fifth in final standings; 9 wins, 20 top fives, 27 top 10s
2020 final Fantasy Live ranking: 1st
2021 championship odds: 11-2

Outlook: If you’re Harvick and crew chief Childers, you may be over last season’s heartbreak, but you will never forget it. Harvick was the favorite to win the 2020 championship until hiccups in the Round of 8 soiled his chances of a second title. There’s absolutely no doubt we could see Harvick click off another seven-, eight- or even nine-win year in 2021. With so many changes heading into what is arguably the most anticipated Cup Series season in recent memory, there is one constant: the No. 4 car will be at the front more often than not.

Aric Almirola, No. 10 Ford

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - JANUARY 28: Aric Almirola poses for a photo during NASCAR Production Days at Charlotte Convention Center on January 28, 2020 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images) | Getty Images
Chris Graythen | Getty Images

Experience: 10th full-time season in the NASCAR Cup Series
2020 stats: 15th in the final standings; 6 top fives, 18 top 10s
2020 final Fantasy Live ranking: 11th
2021 championship odds: 35-1

Outlook: Almirola posted career numbers in 2020, scoring career highs in top fives and top 10s. While his final placement in the drivers’ standings was no where close to his fifth-place ranking during the 2018 season where he also recorded his first victory in the No. 10, there are plenty of positives the team can carry over into this year. Almirola had eight finishes of 20th or worse last season, so if he can minimize those types of results this time around, there’s no reason why he can’t be a championship threat.

Chase Briscoe, No. 14 Ford

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - JANUARY 19: NASCAR driver Chase Briscoe poses for a photo during the 2021 NASCAR Production Days at FOX Sports Studios on January 19, 2021 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images) | Getty Images
Jared C. Tilton | Getty Images

Experience: First full-time season in the NASCAR Cup Series
2020 stats: First in Xfinity Series standings; 9 wins, 16 top fives, 22 top 10s
2020 final Fantasy Live ranking: N/A
2021 championship odds: 100-1

Outlook: There’s a lot of hype around young Briscoe after the dominating season he had in the Xfinity Series last year. While he came up short of winning the title to Team Penske’s Austin Cindric, that’s not something being held against him. If there’s one dark horse in the field that you should not overlook, it’s Briscoe. Being a highly experienced dirt racer from Indiana, the Bristol Motor Speedway dirt race is one where he has a legitimate shot at parking it in Victory Lane to advance to the playoffs.

Cole Custer, No. 41 Ford

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - JANUARY 19: NASCAR driver Cole Custer poses for a photo during the 2021 NASCAR Production Days at FOX Sports Studios on January 19, 2021 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images) | Getty Images
Jared C. Tilton | Getty Images

Experience: Second full-time season in the NASCAR Cup Series
2020 stats: 16th in the final standings; 1 win, 2 top fives, 7 top 10s
2020 final Fantasy Live ranking: 20th
2021 championship odds: 66-1

Outlook: With one year under his belt and the pressure of earning that difficult first career victory out of the way, Custer’s sophomore season will likely be more consistent. His Kentucky triumph proved that he can find the front at NASCAR’s highest level; now the focus needs to be on staying up there on a regular basis to improve upon his 19.2 average finish in 2020. If Custer can cut down the DNFs (six in 2020), he has all the potential to pose a greater playoff threat and record a multi-win season along the way.

NASCAR.com 2021 team previews schedule

Jan. 18: 23XI Racing
Jan. 19: Trackhouse Racing Team
Jan. 20: Live Fast Motorsports
Jan. 21: Spire Motorsports
Jan. 22: JTG Daugherty Racing
Jan. 25: Front Row Motorsports
Jan. 26: Richard Petty Motorsports
Jan. 27: Roush Fenway Racing
Jan. 28: Wood Brothers Racing
Jan. 29: Richard Childress Racing
Jan. 30: Non-chartered and teams outside the top 30
Feb. 1: Chip Ganassi Racing
Feb. 2: Stewart-Haas Racing
Feb. 3: Joe Gibbs Racing
Feb. 4: Team Penske
Feb. 5: Hendrick Motorsports