It’s been a really weird year for the entire Stewart-Haas Racing organization so far in 2019. As we head to the midway mark of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series campaign, SHR currently has all four drivers on the good side of the playoff standings. In fact, all are in the top 16 with Kevin Harvick leading all four drivers with being fourth in the standings after 17 races run.
With Harvick being a past winner of the Coke Zero Sugar 400 (2010), the site of this weekend’s race, plus with the SHR driver scoring multiple Daytona victories including a trip to victory lane in one of the Duels back in Speedweeks, you’d think his No. 4 Ford would be among the top drivers to beat among the SHR camp this weekend right?
Instead, I think it has to be Aric Almirola.
Harvick, has crashed out in six of his last eight superspeedway starts. He finished 26th in the Daytona 500 back in February and 38th in the spring Talladega race in April. He was also 28th in the Fall Talladega race to give him three straight finishes of 26th or worse on superspeedway race tracks. Since 2017, Harvick has nine finishes of 19th or worse in his last 10 points paying superspeedway races. At Daytona, his last five finishes are 22nd, 33rd, 31st, 19th and 26th respectively.
This may not be the driver to beat.
Clint Bowyer isn’t either. Since he joined SHR in 2017, Bowyer has two top 10 finishes in 10 tries, both being runner-ups. He’s crashed out in exactly half (5) of those 10 races including having finishes of 20th and 29th respectively this year on them.
Daniel Suarez has just one top 10 himself and that was a 10th place run in the spring race at Talladega in 2018. He was only 33rd and 12th respectively since joining SHR this year.
Plus, SHR has just five career Daytona wins in their career. Yes, two of those came in this race, but both were won by Tony Stewart though. He’s retired and the team owner now.
Almirola is their best bet. Here’s why. The Tampa native has two wins in 34 career superspeedway starts. He won this race in 2014 with Richard Petty Motorsports. He also has seven top 10 finishes in his last 10 superspeedway starts.
He should have won the Daytona 500 in 2018. He was crashed a 1/2 a lap away from doing so. Now, he’s back with wanting a second career Firecracker win. He’s their best shot.