2017 Team Reviews: Stewart-Haas Racing

<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nascar/sprint/drivers/205/" data-ylk="slk:Kevin Harvick">Kevin Harvick</a> (L) finished third in the points standings. (Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick (L) finished third in the points standings. (Getty Images)

With the 2017 season firmly in the rear-view mirror, it’s time to reflect on what happened. What else are we going to talk about?

Previously: Front Row MotorsportsRichard Petty MotorsportsJTG-Daugherty Racing, Germain Racing and Leavine Family Racing, Roush Fenway RacingRichard Childress RacingChip Ganassi Racing, Hendrick Motorsports, Team Penske and the Wood Brothers

DANICA PATRICK
Points Position: 28th
Stage Points: 24
Wins: 0
Top 5s: 0
Top 10s: 1
Average Starting Position: 22.1
Average Finish: 23.8

Highlight: Patrick’s lone top 10 of the season came at Dover in June when she finished 10th. That’s a modest improvement from a year ago when she didn’t finish in the top 10.

Lowlight: Yet Patrick finished 24th in the points standings a year ago. She was 28th this year. That’s because of 11 DNFs this season. Yes, Patrick failed to finish nearly a third of the races this season.

Given that terrible luck — and her propensity to hit the wall at ridiculously severe angles — we totally understand why Patrick would’ve spent 2017 contemplating her future. After a win and some success in IndyCar, her success in NASCAR can be described as modest at best.

It’s fitting that Patrick will end her racing career in May’s Indianapolis 500. And that she’ll end her NASCAR career in the Daytona 500. That team is to be determined. And, for Patrick’s sake, hopefully her final NASCAR start doesn’t end in a crash. If it does, it would just continue an unfortunate trend.

CLINT BOWYER
Points Position: 18th
Stage Points: 93
Wins: 0
Top 5s: 6
Top 10s: 13
Average Starting Position: 13.2
Average Finish: 15.5

Highlight: Bowyer had a nice spring run that made it look like he was going to be a legitimate playoff contender in his first year with Stewart-Haas Racing. He finished third at California, seventh at Martinsville and then second at Bristol two weeks after that.

He then finished second at Sonoma and Daytona over the summer.

Lowlight: Bowyer’s inability to get to victory lane ultimately kept him out of the playoffs. As did an untimely engine failure at Darlington. Bowyer’s car made it just 18 laps in the Southern 500 and he finished 40th. He entered the race 11th in the points standings and left 11th but lost 33 points to Jamie McMurray and 31 points to Matt Kenseth. Those two drivers ended up making the playoffs. Bowyer didn’t.

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

KURT BUSCH
Points Position: 14th
Stage Points: 126
Wins: 1
Top 5s: 6
Top 10s: 15
Average Starting Position: 11.8
Average Finish: 16.5

Highlight: This one is pretty obvious. Busch’s first restrictor plate points win came in the Daytona 500 when he conserved enough fuel and drove the final laps without a rear-view mirror to get the victory. It was also the first Daytona 500 win for Tony Stewart (as a car owner) and locked Busch into the playoffs after Week 1.

Lowlight: It’s fair to say the season went downhill from the Daytona 500. Granted, it’s impossible to stay at that emotional high and success level over a 36-race season, but Busch was 18th in the points standings after the eighth race of the season thanks to a stretch of five finishes outside the top 20 in six races.

Busch got back into the top 15 by the time the playoffs rolled around but he was never a serious threat for the title.

KEVIN HARVICK
Points Position: 3rd
Stage Points: 323
Wins: 2
Top 5s: 14
Top 10s: 23
Average Starting Position: 8.8
Average Finish: 11.1

Highlight: Harvick’s first victory of the season came at Sonoma, where his pit strategy in the first road course stage race proved superior. Harvick led 24 of the race’s 110 laps including the final 22.

His most important win was the one he got at Texas. Harvick’s Sonoma win guaranteed him a spot in the playoffs, but he was already going to be there because of his consistent performance. The November win in Texas made sure Harvick would be one of the four drivers competing for the title. And by chasing down Martin Truex Jr. for that win, it showed Harvick could be a worthy threat for the championship.

Lowlight: It’s hard to find a real lowlight for Harvick, who had four DNFs, all from crashes. Two of those crashes came in the playoffs, but he was good enough in each of the first two rounds to overcome them and advance in the playoffs.

It feels like nitpicking to say the lowlight came at Homestead, where Harvick didn’t have the speed of Truex and Kyle Busch at the end of the race to compete for the win. Maybe the debris that gouged a hole in the front of Harvick’s car played a role in that.

Or maybe the Toyotas were simply just faster like they had been over the rest of the season. Stewart-Haas never had consistent speed as a team throughout 2017. Yeah, Harvick was good and typically one of the fastest Fords on any given weekend. But Bowyer and Busch were too hit and miss and Patrick’s season was a forgettable one.

The two Bs and the H are back for 2018 and joined by Aric Almirola in the No. 10 car. Almirola will likely find Stewart-Haas’ equipment as an upgrade from what he’s been driving at Richard Petty Motorsports. For the first time in the team’s four-car history it’s got a decent shot at all of its cars making the title. It’s not a good shot, but it exists. We’ll see if the team has the speed to make it happen.

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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at nickbromberg@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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