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2023 season preview: Stewart-Haas Racing

2023 season preview: Stewart-Haas Racing

Editor‘s Note: Today‘s Stewart-Haas Racing preview continues NASCAR.com‘s countdown of team previews for the 2023 Cup Series season, ranked in reverse order of best finish in last year‘s owner standings.

STEWART-HAAS RACING

Manufacturer: Ford
Engine:
Roush Yates Engines
Driver-crew chief pairings:
Kevin Harvick-Rodney Childers (No. 4), Aric Almirola-Drew Blickensderfer (No. 10), Chase Briscoe-Johnny Klausmeier (No. 14), Ryan Preece-Chad Johnston (No. 41)

RELATED: Stewart-Haas Racing’s wins by driver

Team outlook: Only one of its four cars finished in the top 10 in points last year, its flagship driver is set to retire by season’s end, and yet, there is just so much reason for optimism with regard to SHR’s 2023 prospects. The Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum gave us a quick glimpse of things to come, and SHR as a whole seemed to have a little more pep in its step than we’ve grown accustomed to over the past two underwhelming, head-scratching years. Just two seasons ago, Harvick reeled off a ridiculous nine wins in 2020 before the collective mustered just four total scattered across 2021-22. With a reinvigorated Harvick looking to strike gold one final time, Briscoe on the verge of a big-time breakout, a well-seasoned slice of veteran leadership in Almirola and a potential superstar talent in Preece getting his first crack at a strong Cup entry, there’s a lot here to get excited about. Next season — without Harvick and possibly Almirola, if he changes course again — will look a lot different, but they’ll cross that bridge when they come to it. For now, SHR looks to be back in the elite team mix once again.

KEVIN HARVICK, NO. 4 FORD

Experience: 23rd full-time season in NASCAR Cup Series.
2022 stats: 15th in final standings; 2 wins, 9 top fives, 17 top 10s
2023 championship odds (BetMGM): 14-1

Outlook: It’s kind of remarkable to think that a driver who has indelibly left his mark on the sport for nearly two and a half decades and should be viewed as one of the best to ever do this has just one championship to his name. Well, this is it. Harvick’s shot to add another trophy alongside the big one he got in 2014 comes down to the 2023 season, his announced final full-time Cup Series campaign. We saw last year how he can still seemingly win at will — he was the only driver to go back-to-back in 2022 with victories at Michigan and Richmond, which is saying something — and ‘Happy’ is as hungry as ever. It all comes down to the cars, and SHR has not been among the best in that department the past few years. Expect the organization to bring its A-game in 2023 as it works to help its marquee driver make one final run, and expect Harvick to elevate himself to new territory to give him the best shot possible to make title No. 2 a reality.

MORE: Harvick retiring after 2023 | Set to join FOX booth | Harvick through the years

ARIC ALMIROLA, NO. 10 FORD

Experience: 12th full-time season in the NASCAR Cup Series
2022 stats: 20th in the final standings; 2 top fives, 7 top 10s
2023 championship odds (BetMGM): 150-1

Outlook: Almirola has had an “on-again-off-again” kind of relationship with the “R” word the past few seasons, but for now, it seems retirement is back off the table as the 38-year-old veteran looks to rebound from a frustrating 2022 — his worst points finish with SHR. Almirola has shown himself capable of capitalizing on winning opportunities when they arise (see: his 2021 New Hampshire win) but didn’t come quite close enough last year and led just 81 total laps. Drivers often excel in their late 30s — for example, 29 of Martin Truex Jr.’s 31 wins and his championship all came in his age-35 season or later — so you can never quite close the book on a driver. Still, he’d need to get off to a really hot start before we look at him as a championship contender in ’23.

CHASE BRISCOE, NO. 14 FORD

Experience: Third full-time season in the NASCAR Cup Series.
2022 stats: Ninth in final standings; 1 win, 6 top fives, 10 top 10s
2023 championship odds (BetMGM): 28-1

Outlook: Briscoe’s 2023 season will be an interesting one to watch — he very clearly is on the verge of breaking out and becoming “the guy” at Stewart-Haas with Harvick’s impending retirement and also was the only driver among the four to finish in the top 10 in points last year. That said, Harvick most certainly outperformed him all year — the 2014 champ nearly doubled Briscoe’s top fives and top 10s, despite the worse playoff result — and Briscoe had just two top 10s in between his win in mid-March and when the playoffs started in September. He’ll need to more consistently race among the leaders to be a title threat, but the talent sure is there, and his owner — the former No. 14 Ford driver, Tony Stewart — has all the faith in the world in him.

RYAN PREECE, NO. 41 FORD

Experience: Second full-time season in the NASCAR Cup Series.
2022 stats: Part-time in all three series; 2 Cup starts (no top 10s), 3 NXS starts (1 top five, 2 top 10s); 10 Truck starts (1 win, 7 top fives, 9 top 10s)
2023 championship odds (BetMGM): 50-1

Outlook: And now, for 2023’s biggest wild card, here he is. We might’ve gotten our answer earlier than anticipated, too — Preece sure looked like the real deal at the Busch Light Clash, leading a race-high 43 laps before fading to seventh right at the end. The Connecticut native has three full seasons and change of Cup racing on his resume, with just nine total top 10s to show for it. As for what he can do in upper-echelon equipment, however, look no further than his truck starts last year … when he landed nine total top 10s in just 10 starts. Not a soul out there has ever scoffed at Preece’s talent as a driver, and if the car performance is there — and, admittedly, it hasn’t been for a few years — there’s no reason why Preece couldn’t theoretically offer SHR its best shot at a 2023 title, despite his newcomer status. After all, we saw a driver born in 1990 in The Constitution State win it all last year. Why not make it two in a row?

NASCAR.com 2023 team previews schedule

Jan. 23: Non-chartered and teams outside the top 30
Jan. 24: Spire Motorsports
Jan. 25: Wood Brothers Racing
Jan. 26: JTG Daugherty Racing
Jan. 27: Front Row Motorsports
Jan. 30: Kaulig Racing
Jan. 31: RFK Racing
Feb. 1: Legacy Motor Club
Feb. 2: Richard Childress Racing
Feb. 7: 23XI Racing
Feb. 8: Stewart-Haas Racing
Feb. 9: Joe Gibbs Racing
Feb. 10: Hendrick Motorsports
Feb. 13: Trackhouse Racing
Feb. 14: Team Penske