NASCAR: Stewart reflects on SHR’s four-way bid for Championship 4
By Kelly Crandall | RACER.com NASCAR correspondent
Tony Stewart says it was known that NASCAR’s Big 3 were likely going to advance to Homestead, leaving just one spot open for something else in the playoffs’ Championship 4. As such, Stewart will not bemoan his organization’s fate after the upcoming elimination race at Phoenix’s ISM Raceway if only one of his drivers has a shot at the championship.
“Just the fact that we were able to get all four of them this far is an accomplishment, a huge year for our company,” Stewart said Sunday night after Kevin Harvick’s victory in Texas. “Couldn’t be more proud of everybody. But the reality is we knew — everybody knew — when they started the playoffs that those first three spots were already for the most part taken, unless they had a natural disaster happen.
“I guess from our standpoint now, we got one in. There’s one more race left. We got one more opportunity to get one more of those three in.”
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Harvick’s victory on Sunday clinched his spot in the title race for the fourth time in five seasons. With eight wins, Harvick, the 2014 champion, has been considered one of the favorites all season.
Kurt Busch is fifth in the playoff standings in a 25-point hole. It is not impossible for Busch to transfer based on points, but he would need those ahead of him — Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Busch — to have trouble this weekend.
Aric Almirola and Clint Bowyer are in must-win situations. Almirola is seventh in the playoff standings and below a transfer spot by 57 points. Bowyer is last in the playoff standings, more than 70 points back.
“No matter what, it’s been a record‑breaking year for our company in so many ways,” Stewart said. “There’s so many different records that have been broken, if Kevin is the only one that ends up in there, it’s still been a great season.
“But I still feel we have three really good race cars and race car drivers and crew chiefs that do have an opportunity to pull something out at Phoenix and get locked in. It would be nice to have 50 percent of that equation again going into the final four.”
Stewart-Haas Racing’s strong numbers through the first 34 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races:
• 12 victories with all four teams winning a race
• Eight poles
• All four teams have earned double-digit top-10 finishes
• 3,122 laps led with all four drivers having led laps.
• Busch, Bowyer, and Almirola all in triple digits laps led with Harvick over 1,000 laps led of his own
• All four drivers qualified for the postseason
• Four SHR drivers in the final eight
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ABOUT KELLY CRANDALL
Kelly has been on the NASCAR beat full-time since 2013, and joined RACER as chief NASCAR writer in 2017. Her work has also appeared in NASCAR.com, the NASCAR Illustrated magazine, and NBC Sports. A corporate communications graduate from Central Penn College, Crandall is a two-time George Cunningham Writer of the Year recipient from the National Motorsports Press Association.