Let’s take a little trip back in the time machine to 2008. Tony Stewart was then a two-time NASCAR Cup champion racing at Joe Gibbs. With their switch that year to Toyota, many assumed Smoke would bolt as a loyal Chevy man. Meanwhile- Haas CNC Racing struggled to find footing with their two-car operation featuring journeymen such as Scott Riggs and Johnny Sauter.
For months, rumors ran rampant as to what Stewart might do. In July, Stewart and Gene Haas rocked NASCAR Nation that Haas CNC would be reborn with Tony Stewart as their star driver and co-owner. He would take one car and it would be re-numbered as the 14, in honor of his boyhood idol AJ Foyt. In a slightly less surprising development, the newly-coined Stewart-Haas Racing signed fellow Hoosier and Stewart buddy Ryan Newman to drive a car that would be re-numbered as the 39.
There was the question of whether or not Stewart could help bring the organization to a new level. Would there be a rising tide, or would Stewart and Newman wash out? Those questions were answered with resounding positive answers as the beat kept on for Newman and Stewart, the latter using a late season surge to capture the 2011 championship.
Newman would later move on, and on board established winners such as Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch came, and Indy car crossover Danica Patrick brought with her name recognition as the only woman driving on a full-time basis in the Cup series.
Harvick captured a title in 2014, in a time that proved to be tremendously difficult for Stewart. Like any other team, Stewart-Haas Racing has had its ups and downs. Harvick experienced a frustrating stretch of runner-up finishes, Stewart was unable to finish his career the way he really wanted, Patrick never became truly competitive, and Busch has had his own struggles.
Stewart and Patrick retired and Clint Bowyer and Aric Almirola have come on board. Stewart-Haas Racing did the unthinkable by switching manufacturers from Chevrolet to Ford. Sometimes all that change brings upheaval. Sometimes it’s the cure.
Six races into the 2018, and Stewart-Haas Racing has won four. Harvick has re-established his reputation as a closer. Clint Bowyer ended a 191 race winless streak. Almirola and Busch have been contenders. Just when everyone thought Ford would struggle, SHR has been a standard bearer for a resurgent blue oval brigade.
Anyone who’s been around racing any length of time knows not all mergers and switches have paid off. In 10 short years, Stewart-Haas Racing has carved out a place for itself alongside HMS, JGR and Penske.
You’ve come a long way SHR.