CHARLOTTE, NC – SHR Teammates Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer, and Aric Almirola met with the media on Tuesday at the Charlotte Convention Center during the 2018 Charlotte Media Tour. The team won three races in 2017 including the Daytona 500, and Harvick was in the Final Four championship race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. What do they think the 2018 season holds for them?
“We have a car that is designed for a huge spoiler in the back and is the oldest car on the race track compared to the other manufacturers,” Harvick said. “It took us a little bit to get things situated last year with the balance. We could face those balance issues again this year that we might have to work through as we go into the year just because of the way they are going to inspect the cars with the Hawkeye system. With the new splitter rules, you are looking at a few hundred pounds of downforce taken off the cars. There are no rule changes, but everybody had to be cut off in every shop. It is different.
“I think that much like the pit guns, I look at the splitter in that same category. There has been a tremendous amount of money spent on development of the shapes of the splitter. We could be in a position to where we have some balance issues with the race car but if we are going to have a problem at SHR and we put it on our aero department, I will put that up against anybody. We may come out of the box great but you don’t really know until you get to the race track. We worked through those issues last year. It took us a bit but we might have to work at them again.”
Almirola is in his first season with SHR, moving over from Richard Petty Motorsports to SHR in the No. 10 Ford, formerly driven by the soon to retire Danica Patrick. He says the transition to Stewart-Haas Racing has been easy.
“The transition to Stewart-Haas Racing has been really easy. They have so many talented people that they just make the transition easy. Everybody from the marketing and PR side to the personnel on the shop floor and the guys on the team,” Almirola said. “It has been great. That transition has been fun. It has been easy, fun, all of the above. I have just been really looking forward to getting to the race track to go race. We go all offseason and work on all the little things. Changing teams is a big undertaking. I would say that the most challenging thing has been learning 380 employees names and faces. That is one of the most challenging things. Besides that, just all the little things like getting your seat right and going and trying to work with a new team and new pedals and new seat and seat insert. All those things. Making sure I am comfortable when the season starts inside the race car.”
Clint Bowyer, who hasn’t won a points race in a very long time, sees 2018 as a make or break year for him, though. He’s looking forward to the new year and finally sitting in a car he thinks will see him back in victory lane before the season is over
“Every year is a make or break year. It doesn’t matter if it is your first year or your third year or your 12th year. It is always that pressure and it is always on,” Bowyer said. “Nobody puts that on. We are competitors. I have raced since I was five years old. I have always wanted to win. Once you get a taste of that, there is no going back from that. Last year, it was disappointing. My disappointment came from a lack of consistency. That has always been my m.o. and how I was always able to make playoffs if I did or compete for a championship if we did. It was through consistency and knocking on the door and not having bad runs.
“We were spraying it all over the place last year. We would have good runs and bad runs and I really look for Stewart-Haas to smooth those things out. That manufacturer change was the best thing, in my opinion, that they have done in a long time. You are going to have growing pains because you have to learn a whole new everything. From your database to the aero platform to all that stuff. To have that behind us, the winter, the off-season has been way easier. It was pretty chaotic last year. I think we have weathered that storm and we are ready.”
Bowyer is a fan of his new teammate and looks forward to having him on the SHR team.
“Of course, he is a good dude and I think he is a great asset to our already great organization. I think he is a good guy. He really is. His family is awesome. They are always at the track and his kids are always running around. You can tell a lot about a guy by how his kids act. He has great kids. The racer in him, he has never had that opportunity. No knock on anything he has ever been in but this is his opportunity to shine in good equipment and I look for him to do so.”
Harvick had unexpected praise for young drivers. Unlike Kyle Busch who recently lamented the press attention on younger drivers, Harvick thinks that it is a natural progression.
“There has to be a push for the guys coming up to introduce them to who they are,” Harvick said. “If they happen to perform like they need to perform on the race track and start acquiring some of the race fans that are looking for a driver to support, that is good for everybody. Chase Elliott winning a race would be good for everybody. I think he hasn’t done that in two years. There is a lot of hype and he has been very competitive but I can promise you that every person in that garage should be happy for the sport when Chase Elliott wins a race because he is big for our sport.”