CHARLOTTE, N.C. — How long can the four drivers at Stewart-Haas Racing get along before it all blows up?
It was the first question asked in a press conference at the 32nd annual NASCAR Sprint Cup Media Tour.
With Tony Stewart, Danica Patrick, Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch, there are four drivers used to being the center of attention. Add in their history of showing volatile personalities and many have hedged their bets on not a matter of if, but when a situation erupts like a volcano.
Stewart, a driver as well known for his fiery temper as much as his three NASCAR championships, said their common personalities will actually help the group overcome any major problems.
“I think we all have the advantage of understanding each other, having similar personalities,” Stewart said. “Everybody, their first thought, is the opposite of the reality of what it is. We’re actually a great support system for each other.
“Every one of us have had our battles with each other, the media or whatever group it has been with. But, we can all understand and relate to what the others are going through.”
It’s no secret Stewart and Harvick have clashed with Busch through the years, including a physical confrontation between Stewart and Busch five years ago at Daytona. It caught most insiders off guard, Stewart included, when team co-owner Gene Haas signed Busch to drive for the team last August, only one month after Stewart said the organization wouldn’t expand to a fourth team.
Since then, Busch has visited Stewart and the two insist they have moved on. Stewart described the four of them as alpha drivers, which has led many to speculate it’s only a matter of time before a conflict arises either on or off the track.
“When a majority of the media are leaning on it’s a great opportunity to be a disaster, we thinking about it about being a great match for four great drivers and personalities,” Stewart said. “It’s an opportunity for four great drivers to work together because they understand each other.”
Harvick was known for occasionally taking verbal jabs at teammates while at Richard Childress Racing. He famously feuded with Robby Gordon and last season called Austin and Ty Dillon “rich kids who were given everything they’ve gotten.”
He was in a light-hearted mode on Monday, joking to Stewart, who missed the last 14 races last season with a broken leg, “If we’re fighting, then I’m kicking you in the leg.”
He talked about being obsessed with a Sprint Cup championship which has eluded him over his 14-year career in the top series. Despite finishing third in points each of the last three seasons, Harvick sees Stewart-Haas giving him a better chance than RCR of winning a first title.
“It’s all about winning races and winning a championship at this point,” he said. “It’s the one trophy in racing which has eluded my trophy case. That motivates me.”
As for Busch being hired as a teammate, Harvick said they let bygones be bygones. He added they worked well together last season when Busch was driving for Furniture Row Racing and was an unofficial teammate to Harvick.
“I’ve seen what Kurt brings from a racing standpoint,” Harvick said. “I see the passion he has for this. It’s expected you’ll get along as professionals. We can benefit each other and we all want to win. I feel we can benefit from pushing each other.”
Busch, 2004 NASCAR champion, is the one who probably has the most experience in this type of situation. While he’s been the lead driver at Penske Racing, he’s also been the new kid on the block at Roush Racing. On a team of established drivers, he said they have to build trust.
“The information you have to give has to be credible and valid,” Busch said. “You have to check your ego, and double-check when there is seniority above you. Tony is our lead driver, and he’s also the co-owner. It’s great to have an owner’s opinion when it comes to writing checks, having someone who has been in the driver’s seat. I’m looking forward to seeing how we can use Tony in that owner-driver role.”
Patrick also wants to use the all-star lineup to her advantage.
In her second full season on the Sprint Cup circuit and her third season overall, Patrick is under pressure to pick up the pace. She sees bringing Harvick and Busch on board as simply more resources to draw from in helping her achieve that goal.
“It’s a great opportunity for me,” Patrick said. “So much has changed (with the team) so it feels so new. It’s my job to use all those resources to get better faster."