Kevin Harvick leads the way with his third straight win as all four drivers finish in the top-10 at ISM Raceway on Sunday.
After adding Clint Bowyer and Aric Almirola over the past two seasons, the lineup of drivers that team co-owners Tony Stewart and Gene Haas have put together are paying immediate dividends for the Ford Performance team.
While Kevin Harvick is the main story right now in NASCAR coming off of his third consecutive Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series win, his teammates are also showing they have the ability to contend, too.
Following Harvick at Phoenix were Clint Bowyer and Aric Almirola finishing sixth and seventh, respectively, with Kurt Busch winning a segment and finishing 10th.
All combined, the four drivers have accumulated three wins, three top-five and nine top-10 finishes in the first four races of the season.
Although none of them finished in the top-10 in the Daytona 500, Almirola was in contention for the win until he and eventual winner Austin Dillon made contact on the final lap.
Stewart is obviously pleased with the performance of his entire team so far this season and especially Sunday in the record-setting performance by his team.
“It was an awesome day for us,” said Stewart. “That's probably what I'm most proud of. It's the first time in our organization's history that we had all four cars in the top 10.
(I’m) just proud of everybody at Stewart‑Haas Racing. So many people that don't get a chance to come to the track each weekend because they're working hard at the shop. I think this weekend really is a big thank you to those guys for everything they've done.”
While Harvick celebrated his win he also reflected on how it feels to see his teammates performing well.
“To see him (Almirola) up there, I saw Clint up there, Kurt winning a stage, that's really the most important thing because that progression as a race team, when everybody ups the ante on the car, you learn something from each car and each person,” said Harvick.
“The confidence in the company goes up. The evolution of things starts to happen more rapidly. Now that the No. 10 car is in that evolution, it is good for our company. (I’m) just really proud of everybody.”
Although he’s still looking to end a 189-race winless streak, Bowyer is the only other team member to finish in the top-five this season beside Harvick.
“It was a solid day,” said Bowyer. “We just have to get better as a team. I buried us a little bit in qualifying. It was a good run for us (and) good run for Stewart-Haas Racing. We weren’t very good here last year. We sucked as a matter of fact, so that is a breath of fresh air after stubbing our toe last week. Having a good run today is definitely some positive mojo going.”
Busch rebounded after crashing out early in the race last week at Las Vegas and won a stage at Phoenix.
“The car responded well to my steering and gas inputs,” said Busch. “I was a little slow on restarts but I love being able to lean on the right-rear tire and make passes later in the run.
“Our strategy unfolded the best it could have to win stage 2 and get back in the top-10. We just didn’t run the same lap times we did at the end as we did at the beginning of the race, but all in all it was a good day.”
This is the first time since the organization’s inception that all four cars at Stewart-Haas Racing has been competitive and running in the top-10 consistently and that hasn’t gone unnoticed by Stewart.
“I think we saw that even at Daytona this year, the way all four teams ran at Daytona. I admit, I thought we were going to get rained out at Atlanta, so I went home, was sitting there. I took a picture of the screen when we had all four cars in the top seven,” Stewart said.
“I took a screenshot of it as a fan. Just kept looking at it, going, ‘This is really cool, never happened for our organization.’ ”