Hard Knocks has nothing on this. If you ask me, the potential for some of the best reality TV ever to hit the small screen exists within NASCAR, inside the competitive camp of Stewart-Haas Racing. Joining three-time Cup champion owner/driver Tony “Smoke” Stewart and Indy Car star-turned-NASCAR-neophyte Danica Patrick are two more electric personalities: 2004 Cup champion Kurt Busch and perennial powerhouse Kevin Harvick, who has finished third in the standings three times, on top of two Busch Series titles. Between the two newcomers are 47 career victories (Busch 24, Harvick 23.)
NASCAR’s new power quartet appeared before the media Monday, assuring the scribes this combustible combination isn’t going to be what people think. Stewart says this group has the “advantage of understanding each other.” Smoke acknowledges there are “four alpha drivers,” and that sets in place a “great support system.” He went on to explain each driver has had their own sets of battles- be it the media, other drivers, team management. Stewart opines “we all understand and relate.”
Each has a hunger. Stewart returns to the track still healing from a seriously broken leg. Harvick seeks a fresh start after 13 seasons with one organization, and a chance to finally close the deal after coming oh-so-close so many times. Patrick desires to show she is more than just a marketing machine, and has the chops to run with NASCAR’s big dogs after a good stretch in IRL. For Busch, becoming a consistent winner once again and a Cup contender would be the culmination of a comeback that started soon after it appeared his career was headed for the scrap heap when he unceremoniously parted company with Roger Penske at the end of the 2011 campaign. “The Outlaw” credits Haas for wanting to harness all that competitive desire to produce results for everyone back on the shop floor.
So what if maybe they clash a little out on the track. They’re fighting for something. Perhaps they will fight with each other, but they will also fight for each other. It doesn’t always have to be perfect. Baseball fans will tell you that the Oakland A’s teams that won three consecutive World Series in the early 70’s was far from one big happy family. Remember those great Chicago Bulls teams of the 90’s? It was Pippen against Kukoc, and Jordan pretty much against everybody. Still, somehow those teams managed to bring out the best in each other.
Even if it doesn’t it will make for good trackside drama. When Harvick was reminded that the new Knockout Qualifying format didn’t necessarily mean pugilism, the former youth wrestler told Stewart “if we’re fighting, I’m kicking you in the leg.” Stewart replied “It’s like the Karate Kid. Sweep the leg!”
Something tells me this merry band of marauders will be just fine. Alliances this formidable don’t come along every day. It’s not hard to see this group pushing each other towards greater successes.