Last season, Stewart-Haas Racing placed three of its four drivers in the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs. Two of SHR’s drivers — veteran Kevin Harvick and rookie Cole Custer — combined for 10 wins. Not quite a fourth of the way into the 2021 season, Harvick — sitting 10th in points — is SHR’s only driver currently in position to reach the playoffs.
Custer, Aric Almirola and Cup Series rookie Chase Briscoe are all outside the top 20 in the standings. None of the four, including Harvick, has gone to Victory Lane. So while the Cup Series’ other top organizations have been in typical form in 2021, SHR has by all appearances taken a step back. The question, of course, is why.
The addition of Briscoe, a rookie in SHR’s No. 14 car that has been driven the last few years by veteran Clint Bowyer, probably doesn’t help the overall strength of the organization much in the short-term. However, looking at the long-term, Briscoe arguably has more talent and potential for success than his predecessor in the No. 14. So, while SHR’s driver lineup is perhaps a step down in 2021 from what it was in 2020, the company is strongly positioned for the future. Moreover, the company’s decision to swap Briscoe for Bowyer in the No. 14 isn’t the biggest reason for SHR’s struggles in 2021. Rather, the struggles are much more a result of the simple fact that SHR’s cars haven’t been as fast as those fielded by Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing and Team Penske.