To say that the last two years the NASCAR Sprint Cup team of Stewart Haas Racing has been in transition is an understatement. At the end of 2011 Tony Stewart won the Sprint Cup but prior to that he already parted ways with his crew chief. At the end of 2012, it came out that Kevin Harvick would leave Richard Childress Racing for Stewart Haas Racing (SHR) in 2014.
There is no doubt that SHR is undergoing changes for the 2014 season. Tony Stewart was hurt last year in a Sprint Car race. It is expected that he will return for the Daytona 500 but he will not test with the team prior to then. When he does get back he will have yet another new crew chief, Chad Johnston. This one SHR team will be starting over.
Kevin Harvick will bring his sponsor Budweiser over to SHR and will take over for the No. 39 team of Ryan Newman renumbered to 4. In reality it will be a mostly new team.
Kurt Busch was hired by Gene Haas to drive a fourth car. He will drive the No. 41 Haas CNC Chevrolet. He will essentially have a brand new team.
Danica Patrick, who had a lackluster first year in Sprint Cup, is the only driver at Stewart Haas Racing who will essentially have the same team. By all rights she has the most opportunity to capitalize on that stability. In reality, she has a long way to go.
Of the four drivers at SHR, Kevin Harvick will probably be the best right out of the gate. He has had two years to think about the change, has a stable sponsor and probably the confidence to get it done.
Kurt Busch and Danica Patrick still have something to prove. This will make it difficult right away to make things happen. It is still questionable if Tony Stewart will be 100% come Daytona. Throw in the fact that Stewart doesn’t normally ramp it up until summer, it could be one tough spring for his team.
The story of 2013 for SHR was the coming changes to the drivers and teams and this will continue well into the next season.