COMMENTARY | The eccentric mix of Stewart-Haas Racing teammates this season is bound to produce fireworks on and off the track.
If the likelihood of Tony Stewart and Danica Patrick becoming Sprint Cup Series teammates last season seemed comical, adding Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch this season seems almost dysfunctional. All four drivers have tempers and egos that routinely flare over actual and perceived incidences, so their ability to work together in one garage will be quite a challenge and an intriguing storyline throughout the 2014 season.
Nonetheless, adding Harvick and Busch is a great expansion, as they are top tier competitors and proven winners (Harvick has won two Nationwide Series Championships, Busch is a former Sprint Cup Series Champion). With Stewart-Haas becoming a four car, talent heavy organization over the offseason, the potential for success is as varied as the drivers are volatile.
Here is each team's outlook heading into Daytona:
Will Tony Stewart's leg affect his performance?
Smoke will not likely be at 100% for the first race of the 2014 season. Even if he is completely healed in time for the Daytona 500, it remains to be seen whether his leg injury will have lingering effects that hinder his ability to perform at the level he had competed at previously.
Other drivers, such as Martin Truex Jr. (wrist), Denny Hamlin (hand, back), and Carl Edwards (foot) have fared well racing with injuries. But at age 42, Stewart's mettle will be tested, especially after Daytona on the more physically demanding race tracks.
Kevin Harvick improves his chances of winning a Sprint Cup title
Happy Harvick will have what amounts to an upgrade under his hood, and if he clicks on all cylinders with his new crew, he should maintain his consistent driving and continue to be a legitimate Chase contender. In his 13 seasons with Richard Childress Racing, Harvick finished in the top 5 of the Cup standings 6 times -- 3 of those in the top 3 -- and the move to Stewart-Haas should provide him his best opportunity to break through and finally earn a Sprint Cup title.
Kurt Busch may be in his best ride yet
The Outlaw will begin 2014 with the fifth organization of his 13-season Cup career. Although his attitude had him bouncing from garage to garage these past few seasons, his undeniable talent prompted S.H.R. co-owner Gene Haas to sign him and personally fund his car. The circumstances are extraordinary, but the investment will undoubtedly produce immediately, as Busch showcased his potential last season by piloting the underfunded, single-car organization of Furniture Row Racing to 11 top 5 finishes and its first Chase appearance ever.
Danica Patrick can build on her rookie experience
Danica didn't have the finishes she expected in 2013, but she will be able to use what she has learned going forward. Although Tony Stewart made a successful transition from open-wheel to stock car racing, there have been few able to emulate his feat. What Danica has going for her is being Stewart's protege and driving cars build with the most competitive engines in the business. She will also begin the season with the race that she performed and finished best at -- 8th at the 2013 Daytona 500 -- which will likely give her positive momentum opening the new season.
The Stewart-Haas Show continues to intrigue
The improbable pairing of CNC Haas Racing with Tony Stewart in 2009 has proved to be a remarkable gamble, already winning a Sprint Cup title and now doubling its original operation. The four drivers brought together at Stewart-Haas have their own brands of racing and distinct attitudes that define them. Whether they will get along and work together -- or stay out of each other's way -- this season remains to be seen. That, combined with their highly competitive cars and personal potential, makes Stewart-Haas an even more intriguing experiment in 2014.
Sean Vasquez is a Yahoo contributor, freelance writer, and fan of NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series, Nationwide Series, and Camping World Truck Series.
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