By all accounts, it was a difficult season for Stewart-Haas Racing as the organization co-owned by Tony Stewart and Gene Haas went to Victory Lane just once in 36 races and saw its flagship driver — Kevin Havick — go winless for the first time since he joined the organization in 2014. Meanwhile, SHR’s two youngest drivers — Cole Custer and rookie Chase Briscoe — failed to make the playoffs and finished outside the top 20 in points while being unable to find Victory Lane. SHR’s lone win came from Aric Almirola, who outside of triumphing at New Hampshire Motor Speedway endured one of the most difficult and frustrating seasons of his Cup career.
Undoubtedly, the organization has some work to do if it wants to close the gap on Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing and Team Penske in 2022. This was the first time since SHR opened its doors in 2009 that all three of its main rivals outperformed the organization in such overwhelming fashion.
“I definitely had higher expectations coming into the year,” said Briscoe, who posted just three top-10 finishes in his first Cup season with the organization after winning nine races as a full-time Xfinity Series driver for SHR in 2020. “It was a weird year. As a company, we struggled way more than we thought we would. You base your expectations off of last year, and we just weren’t quite there from a performance standpoint.”
Harvick, who won a series-high nine races in 2020, tried to keep the disappointments of 2021 in perspective. “I’ve personally been through some pretty tough years, and this one was just a struggle because you had to work so hard to get everything you have,” he said. “I think from a team standpoint, we’ve also learned a lot about the other side of the fence as far as having to dig your heels in and do things that you haven’t had to do. … But when you look at the overall picture and the grind that we’ve been through this year, I think everybody’s done a good job.”