Stewart Hass Racing entered this season with more question marks than any other organization in the sport. First there was the health of its co-owner and premier driver Tony Stewart, who started the season after missing the last third of last season with a broken leg that he suffered in a Sprint Car accident. Stewart had to endure three surgeries on his leg and admitted that he started this season nowhere near being a 100 percent.
SHR also had to start this season with the growing pains associated with adding another team to the stable as last year’s trio of Stewart, Danica Patrick and Ryan Newman would grow by one. It ended up that there would be two new drivers in the fold as Newman was let go at the end of last year.
Kevin Harvick announced early in the 2013 season that he would be leaving Richard Childress Racing to join SHR this season and that his sponsor Budweiser would be making the move with him. Harvick ended up with Newman’s old team and he wasted very little time rewarding SHR for hiring him as he won the second race of the season at Phoenix.
The last piece of the puzzle as it turned out for SHR this season was the hiring of Kurt Busch as the driver of the newly added fourth team. Just the hiring was somewhat of a surprise because it appeared that Gene Haas, who co-owns the organization with Stewart, made the hire without the knowledge of his partner who was away from the shop recovering from his injury.
There were concerns that the organization wasn’t ready to make the move from three to four teams, but all of that was laid to rest on Sunday at Martinsville when Busch became the second SHR driver to capture a checkered flag in the first six races of this season. Like Harvick, the win all but punched his ticket into this season’s Chase with the opportunity to run for the championship.
It was Busch’s 25th Cup win of his career and it also snapped an 83-race winless streak that started after his last win on Oct. 2, 2011. The win was not only a statement for SHR, but also for Busch who has come full circle in his climb to get back to the top of the Sprint Cup Series.
Busch’s troubles in the sport have been well publicized as he is a former champion who lost two of the most coveted rides in racing with Roush-Fenway Racing and Penske Racing because of his actions both on and off the track. He humbled himself and started to rebuild his career with a small operation in Phoenix Racing that eventually led him last season to Furniture Row Racing where he made the Chase while driving for a one-car team based in Denver, Colo.
Busch has come full circle in the sport from the highest level to the lowest and now he has worked his way back into a position where he can once again win a championship. He now drives for an organization where Tony Stewart won the series title in 2011 and he acknowledged in victory lane that SHR’s use of Hendrick Motorsports chassis and engines had a lot to do with the win.
There is no reason not to believe as the sport heads into the spring portion of the schedule that SHR will be one of the players in the Chase. The organization has been through the pressures of running for a title and it unloads championship quality equipment at every stop on the schedule. Now when you add Harvick and Busch with Stewart, it is easy to see that SHR has everything it needs to add another title to its trophy case.
Event: Duck Commander 500
Track: Texas Motor Speedway (1.5-mile quad oval, 240 of banking in the turns)
Date: April 6, 3 p.m.
Defending champion: Kyle Busch