SHR Hopes To Turn Season Around at MartinsvilleBy Nick DeGroot
2013 has not been a good year so far for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR). Tony Stewart has one top 10 finish through five races, Danica Patrick looks like she’s somehow regressed and its been feast or famine for Ryan Newman who has either scored a top 10 or a DNF. While their Hendrick allies seem to have this Gen 6 car figured out better than most, SHR struggles to find solid ground. The only driver in the stable that has had good runs on more than one occasion is Newman who posted three top 10′s so far but two DNF’s have him marred deep in the points. It looks like reuniting Ryan with his former crew chief, Matt Borland has helped the No.39 team perform better but why are the other two having so much difficulty?
It’s no surprise that Danica is struggling to find success in Sprint Cup as a rookie with an open wheel background but not many people thought that she would be this bad. Towards the end of last season, Patrick showed improvement and found herself running inside the top 20 but now she has trouble putting the car inside the top 30. Last summer at Bristol, Patrick ran around the top 15 most of the night on the lead lap before she wrecked. This past March, she finished a disappointing 28th five laps behind the leader. She actually had a fairly clean race and there were no major issues that would explain the lackluster performance. With three qualifying runs of 40th or worse since Daytona and sitting deep in the standings, there is a very real possibility that DP could DNQ if she doesn’t step it up which would be a huge blow to the No.10 team. The reason why Patrick is probably struggling more than she did in 2012 may be the result of her trying to get a feel for this new car compounded with the fact that the SHR Chevy’s are lacking some speed.
Stewart finds himself 22nd in the standings and has struggled to run up front most of the year. After five races, Stewart has only led laps in one event which hasn’t occurred since 2005, in which he won the championship. Bad luck, blown tires, crashes and simply not enough speed has hindered the efforts of the SHR trio in 2013 but the year is young and as the season progresses; I am confident that they will get a handle on it. With a 3-time NSCS champion, the 2008 Daytona 500 winner and Hendrick powered Chevy’s, I find it hard to believe these travails will persist throughout the rest of the year. Stewart said after Bristol, “If you’re not concerned, you’re not doing your job. But if you panic, you’ve got as much opportunity to go backwards as you do forwards.”
Some people don’t understand why Hendrick Motorsports and SHR are so far apart speed wise but you have to remember that Stewart’s team gets engines from HM and that’s it…they set the cars up themselves and they are definitely behind the eight ball in 2013.
The team had an off week which gave them time to work on a better package to bring to the next few races. Now, they look forward to the race that Ryan Newman is the defending winner of and will try to regain some confidence after a disappointing start to the season. Stewart’s results at the paper clip have been very sporadic recently with five top 5′s and five finishes of 26th or worse in his last 10 races. Newman on the other hand always seems to find himself near the front leading laps in five of the last seven Martinsville races. Danica has never raced at Martinsville in any division so she will certainty have a tough time adjusting to the unique challenge this historic speedway presents. Even if the three continue to lack speed, that won’t hurt them at a 0.526 mile short track where track position and a balance between patience and aggression is the key to reaching victory lane.