Stewart-Haas Racing showed us all last weekend in Martinsville that they’re close to being mentioned in the same breath as Team Penske and Joe Gibbs Racing. After putting all four cars in the top 10 of the finishing order for last Sunday’s STP 500, it’s a sign of positive growth.
But, it also shows that they’re just not quite to the same level as the top two teams in the sport right now. They’re definitely third, and clear of fourth by a large margin, but the gap to the top two is still big enough for them to play third fiddle.
FORT WORTH, TX – APRIL 08: Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Interstate Batteries Toyota, leads Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Busch Light Ford, during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 8, 2018 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)
They may have placed all four cars in the top 10, but all four came from sixth on back. Penske had two cars in the top four including the race winner. Joe Gibbs Racing had two cars in the top five overall.
Also, through the first six weeks of racing only two teams have reached victory lane so far. Both are Team Penske and Joe Gibbs Racing. If you even go back to last season, they’ve combined to win eight straight races and nine of the last 10.
But, this weekend’s race in Texas will show us a lot. The last track that a non Penske or Gibbs car won at was Texas.
Kevin Harvick is the best bet as he has five straight top 10 finishes on the year including three of which being fourth place runs in general. He’s also won two of the last three races at Texas and was second in the race that he didn’t win. Overall, Harvick has nine straight top 10 finishes on the 1.5-mile track including six of which being in the top three.
His teammate Aric Almirola is there too. He’s off to the best start of his NASCAR career with scoring five consecutive top 10 finishes to go along with finishing eighth in the fall race at Texas last season.
Clint Bowyer enters with speed, too much of it in Martinsville, but success in Texas too. He finished ninth in the fall race last year and has three top three starting spots in his last four Texas races.
Daniel Suarez finished 10th last week and has two straight top 13 finishes now on the season.
If anyone is going to win Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 (3 p.m. ET/FOX/PRN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) and it not be among the Penske or Gibbs camps, look no further than SHR. But, has SHR closed the gap enough?
Texas will show us.