Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) reassured their dominance in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series on Sunday at Fontana after team owner, Tony Stewart finished fifth and first-year SHR driver Kurt Busch placed third. While the team didn’t cross the finish line first, the top five runs for Busch and Stewart may be all the momentum the entire team needs heading to Martinsville Speedway and beyond.
Busch and Stewart gained track position late in the going at Fontana, to try and win the race – as with the new system a win almost guarantees you a ticket into the Chase. However, on the ensuing green white-checkered shootout their two tire strategy couldn’t hold off the four tires of Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson, they were eventually passed and barley hung onto their top five positions.
“It was sketchy not knowing what was going to happen with two versus four (tires) but I was glad Chad (Johnston) made the right cal again two weeks in a row.” Stewart explained after climbing from his No. 14 Chevrolet SS.
Despite not scoring the win, as they anticipated by gambling, the entire organization has some positive to look back on heading forward.
“I was glad that we had two SHR (Stewart-Haas Racing) cars there in contention at the end.” Stewart furthered commented. “We hadn’t been a top-five car all day so really proud of these guys.”
The top five is the second straight for Stewart, while this is the first one on the season for the ‘Outlaw’ Busch – and a much needed one.
“It was an awesome finish racing your boss Tony Stewart for a win.” Busch told reporters after climbing from his No. 41 Chevrolet SS. “A little like happy, but sad, one of us should have brought it (the win) home for Stewart-Hass Racing and it just didn’t pan out with the four tires versus two.
While most attention followed Stewart and Busch’s runs, Danica Patrick had a quiet, but impressive, 14th place finish, her season-best placing. And while it’s not an astonishing run, it’s still a confidence booster heading to a track she did fairly well at last season.
“It seems like some of our most trying weekends end up with our better results.” Patrick expressed following her career-best result at Fontana. “We will take it and we will know that there is so much more potential for those weekends where we feel like we are running a lot better.”
While most of the SHR camp had success at the tricky California track, Kevin Harvick had his struggles. He finished 36th after having what seemed like a multitude of tire issues – which was common for many drivers throughout the event. However, the two dismal finishes at Bristol and Fontana don’t affect Harvick greatly, as he’s already (pretty much) locked himself into the Chase after winning in Phoenix.
“It’s kind of the same story as the last few weeks.” Harvick explained following the disappointing finish. “We’ll have a really strong run going, and something happens and we don’t get the finish that we deserve. It’s really frustrating.”
The SHR team prepares now for the catastrophic Martinsville Speedway where they are hoping to build off the impressive run at Fontana, and hopefully turn it into a victory.