2017 NASCAR Team Recap: Stewart-Haas Racing

Matthew T. Thacker/NKP

By Aaron Bearden, Motorsports Editor

For the final five days of 2017, Kickin’ the Tires will recap each of the top 10 teams in the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series standings, laying out their year in statistics and storylines. 

The Breakdown

Wins: Three

Playoff Berths: Two

Highest Points Finisher: Third

Driver Results:

  • Kevin Harvick (Third in Points – Two wins, 14 top fives, 23 top 10s, 850 laps led, Four DNFs)
  • Kurt Busch (14th in Points – One win, Six top fives, 15 top 10s, 16 laps led, Seven DNFs)
  • Clint Bowyer (18th in Points – Zero wins, Six top fives, 13 top 10s, 22 laps led, Four DNFs)
  • Danica Patrick (28th in Points – Zero wins, Zero top fives, One top 10, Seven laps led, 11 DNFs)

Stewart-Haas Racing’s (SHR) first year with Ford was a challenging one, though it was capped off by remarkable highs for Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch.

The organization started off their tenure with the Blue Ovals with a bang, scoring one of their biggest wins to date when 2004 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Kurt Busch took the lead on the final lap en-route to his first Daytona 500 victory.

Busch’s win was a coming of age moment – his first restrictor-plate win after years of running in contention for victories in the races only to be denied.

It also placed the Las Vegas, Nevada native into the playoffs, allowing him to rest easy over the regular season. That fact ended up becoming critical for the 39-year-old as he struggled through the spring and summer months, with more DNFs (five) than top fives (four) over the the ensuing 25 races.

While Busch got the majority of the team’s attention as a Daytona 500 champion, he was far from the only driver in the organization to struggle.

Kevin Harvick started his first Cup Series year outside of the Chevrolet banner quietly, falling to crack the top five until the seventh race of the year at Texas Motor Speedway. The 2014 Cup Series champion contended for victories occasionally over the summer months, finishing second in both trips to Pocono Raceway. But in the end his lone win of the regular season would be a surprising one – a victory on the Sonoma Raceway road course.

While the wins for Harvick and Busch clinched their berths into the postseason, team newcomer Clint Bowyer and Danica Patrick each struggled.

Patrick’s final year with SHR was a challenging slog – the worst year she’d had with the team since her rookie season in 2013. A slew of seven DNFs in the opening 17 races mired the Cup Series’ lone female driver deep in the standings, and the No. 10 team’s overall struggle with speed – they tallied just one top 10 on the season – kept them from garnering a playoff spot with a win.

Bowyer spent the early months of the season in playoff contention, bouncing between the back half of the top 10 and the the middle sections of the top 20 in the standings as he battled through inconsistencies.

The Emporia, Kansas native contended for a playoff spot until the beginning of the postseason, tallying three runner-up runs at Bristol Motor Speedway, Sonoma and Daytona along the way. But in the end a blown motor in the penultimate race of the regular season at Darlington Raceway all-but killed his chances. When Bowyer was unable to win the following weekend at Richmond Raceway, he was eliminated from playoff contention.

With half of their team out of the title fight early, SHR entered the postseason as relative underdogs.

Busch seemed to be the favorite of the two drivers, courtesy of a stretch of three top fives he rattled off to finish off the regular season, but his playoff run came to a shocking early end. A crash at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and two subpar runs at Chicagoland Speedway and Dover International Speedway led the veteran to an elimination after the Round of 16.

That left just Harvick to carry the torch for SHR – a feat he would manage with ease.

Despite struggling with pace throughout the season, Harvick survived the playoff gauntlet to make a deep run in the postseason. Crashes at New Hampshire and Talladega Superspeedway threatened Harvick in each of the opening two rounds, but the veteran did just enough in the races surrounding them to advance.

In the Round of 8, Harvick surged past Martin Truex Jr. late to claim a surprising victory at Texas Motor Speedway, securing himself a berth in the Championship 4.

Unfortunately for Harvick and SHR, the dominance of Toyota would prove too much to contend for the title in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The Californian delivered a strong fourth-place run in the race, but fell to third in the standings as Truex and Kyle Busch swept the top two positions.

Busch ended his playoffs in 14th, with Bowyer and Patrick following in 18th and 28th, respectively.

The 2017 season was a challenge for SHR, but that was to be expected. Most seasons after a manufacturer change are.

The team will enter 2018 with a year of experience under the Ford banner. They’ll also do so with a slightly-altered lineup, as Aric Almirola moves over to the team. He’ll replace Patrick, who announced at Homestead that she intends to retire from motorsports after competing in the Daytona 500 and Indianapolis 500 in 2018.

Team Recaps: 

Germain Racing (Dec. 27)

Roush Fenway Racing (Dec. 27)

Richard Childress Racing (Dec. 28)

Wood Brothers Racing (Dec. 28)

Chip Ganassi Racing (Dec. 29)

Hendrick Motorsports (Dec. 29)

Team Penske (Dec. 30)

Stewart-Haas Racing (Dec. 30)

Joe Gibbs Racing (Dec. 31)

Furniture Row Racing (Dec. 31)

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