NASCAR : Stewart-Haas Racing 2017 Team Preview

Next year will be for sure an interesting one for Stewart-Haas Racing. Not only is Clint Bowyer replacing three-time cup champion Tony Stewart in the #14, but SHR will now be competing with Ford. SHR has been with Chevy since 2009 (SHR's first year), and with co-owner Gene Haas since 2002 (Haas-CNC). This will also be the first time that Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Ford, will compete in a Ford. Harvick has driven a Chevy since his first NASCAR race in the Featherlite Southwest Tour Series (developmental series) in 1994. All and all though, Harvick is excited for the 2017 season to begin. 

No more Tony Stewart : SHR co-owner, Tony Stewart, is no longer driving the #14 car after retiring in 2016. Stewart won 16 cup races and 1 championship for his team in 8 years. Stewart owns the #10 Ford and the #4 Ford respectively, so it's not like he is leaving the sport at all. Plus, Stewart will continue to drive sprint cars, midgets, and other racing vehicles. 

Kevin Harvick - #4 Ford : 2014 Monster Energy Cup champion, Kevin Harvick, will pilot the #4 Ford for his fourth year with SHR. He will continue to sponsor Jimmy John's, Busch, Outback, and other sponsors. Harvick did not make the final four in the chase last season which was a first since NASCAR started the elimination round-style chase. Harvick did win 4 races and recorded 17 top fives and 27 top tens in 36 races. Despite those admiring results, Harvick finished the season in 8th place, which was considered disappointing for Harvick. This season will be different for the 40 year old though. He will make the final four with at least 4 wins, 20 top fives, and 30 top tens. Harvick will show the same speed that led him to the cup in 2014. 

Danica Patrick - #10 Ford : Danica really didn't show no signs of speed like the previous two years. From 2014 to 2015, Danica recorded 5 top tens where in 2016, she did not finish in the top ten once. She actually had a career best average finish of 22nd in 2016 though. Despite the fact that she has not won a race yet or hasn't even recorded a top five finish, does not mean that she can't win a race in 2017. To be honest, I think Danica is a great race car driver, who actually ranks in the top 10 for all-around drivers, in my opinion. Let's not forget that she did drive an Indy car for 7 seasons where she actually collected 1 win and 7 podium finishes in 115 starts. Indy cars are a lot harder to drive than a stock car, so that makes Danica even better. I believe Danica will have her best season so far in 2017, where she will win a race and record 10-15 top ten finishes. She won't win the championship but she will make the chase this year. 

Clint Bowyer - #14 Ford : Bowyer's move to SHR replacing the legendary Tony Stewart will probably be the most watched story of the 2017 season. Bowyer only recorded 3 top ten finishes and finished 27th in points last season, which is by far his worst showing of his average cup career. In 397 races, Bowyer has 8 wins, 58 top fives, and 167 top tens with a best points finish of second (2012). Many racing fans have criticized Tony Stewart for choosing Clint Bowyer as his replacement but I believe that Bowyer was a 'okay' choice. He brings a lot of energy to SHR and a lot of character. Bowyer may not be the greatest race car driver ever, but he will have a solid season for SHR. I don't see him winning a race this season, but he will collect around 15 top ten finishes and will compete in the chase. If Bowyer does not have that good of a season, then expect to see Bowyer driving somewhere else in 2018. 

Kurt Busch - #41 Ford : Kurt Busch has a huge challenge ahead for him and SHR in 2017. With Monster Energy replacing Sprint as the cup series sponsor, Kurt has to drive really hard because he sponsors Monster Energy. You don't want to be the driver that sponsors the cup series and fails, you want to be the driver who sponsors the cup series and wins. Kurt had another stellar season with SHR in 2016 and has a lot more to prove in 2017. Kurt only won one race last season but recorded 9 top fives and 21 top tens which earned him 7th place in points. Kurt will have a great 2017, where he will record at least 2 wins, 10 top fives, and 20 top tens. I expect to see Kurt make the final four in the chase and possibly win it all. 

Cole Custer - #00 Ford - Finally SHR has a Xfinity program. Cole Custer will pilot the #00 Haas Automation Ford in the Xfinity Series in 2017. Custer brings a lot of talent to SHR, where he is an instant championship contender. In the five races Custer has raced in the Xfinity series (all in 2016), he has recorded 1 top five and 2 top tens. His average finish in 18.8 but will record much better stats in 2017. He will record 2 wins, 10 top fives, and 15 top tens making the final four in the chase. If Clint Bowyer does not do very well in the #14 Ford (Cup series) this season, then Custer could be his replacement in 2018. That is the point of the Xfinity series, to prepare a driver for racing in the Cup series and Custer could do just that. 

SHR will need to compete better in 2017, because they left Chevy to move on to Ford. SHR can not afford to do terrible because that would show people that they made a huge mistake, plus Tony Stewart and Gene Haas are not the type of people that will let you know if they are wrong or not. Most of the time Stewart-Haas Racing makes the best decisions and I think that SHR will be the team to beat in 2017.