2020 NASCAR team reviews: Stewart-Haas Racing

Nick Bromberg
·3 min read

With the 2020 NASCAR season officially over, it’s time to take a look back at how each team performed over the course of the season. Previous team reviews include JTG-Daugherty Racing, Front Row Motorsports, Roush Fenway Racing, Richard Childress Racing and Richard Petty Motorsports, and Chip Ganassi Racing. Now it’s time for Stewart-Haas Racing.

Stewart-Haas Racing

Drivers

Kevin Harvick

9 wins, 20 top 5s, 27 top 10s, 5th in the points standings

Clint Bowyer

2 top 5s, 12 top 10s, 12th in the points standings

Aric Almirola

6 top 5s, 18 top 10s, 15th in the points standings

Cole Custer

1 win, 2 top 5s, 7 top 10s, 16th in the points standings

Aric Almirola (10), Kevin Harvick (4), Cole Custer (41) and Clint Bowyer (14) make their way along the front stretch during a practice session for a NASCAR Daytona 500 auto race at Daytona International Speedway, Saturday, Feb. 15, 2020, in Daytona Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
Both Aric Almirola (L) and Clint Bowyer (R) were winless in 2020. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

By now, you know that Harvick had the winningest season since 2008 yet didn’t make the final four because of bad races at Texas (16th) and Martinsville (17th) in the third round of the playoffs. Those two finishes — the first time that Harvick had back-to-back finishes outside the top 15 all season — meant that Harvick didn’t have a chance to race for his second Cup Series title.

Harvick, 45 on Dec. 8, was the season’s most dominant driver. In addition to leading the series in wins, he had the most top fives and top 10s, led the most laps of any driver and had the best average finish (7.3) by at least two spots more than everyone else in the field.

That average finish was the best for any driver since Jeff Gordon also had an average finish of 7.3 in 2007. Coincidentally, Gordon didn’t win the championship that season. He finished second behind Jimmie Johnson.

We know Harvick is great. And he’s going to continue to at least be very good for the next couple of seasons. Now it’s up to Stewart-Haas to have its other three drivers perform on similar levels.

Outside of Kurt Busch, who didn’t have a full-time teammate in 2020, Harvick was the only driver to finish in the top 10 of the points standings to not have a teammate in the top 10 as well.

Bowyer was the team’s next-highest driver in the standings in 12th. But he had just two top-five finishes and 12 top 10s. Almirola had three times as many top fives as Bowyer did, but he was 15th in the standings. Both drivers failed to win a race for the second consecutive season.

Custer did get a win. He swooped in over the last two laps at Kentucky to get the first win of his career and become the only rookie to win a Cup Series race in 2020. But he predictably finishes last among drivers who qualified for the playoffs as his average finish was just 19th best among all full-time drivers.

Grade: B-

It’s hard to grade SHR’s season as a whole. It’s very easy to argue that Harvick deserves an A for his performance alone despite missing out on the title race. And Custer gets more than a passing grade for winning a race and making the playoffs.

But how should we view Almirola and Bowyer? They combined to lead 585 laps — 38 percent of Harvick’s total — and had just eight combined top fives. Eight drivers had more than eight top fives themselves in 2020.

Almirola’s 15th in the standings was his lowest finishing position in any of his three years with SHR. And Bowyer finished outside the top 10 for the third time in his four seasons at SHR.

Almirola is back for another run in 2021 and will try to get a checkered flag at a track not-named Daytona or Talladega. Bowyer will be a ubiquitous face too, but not in the cockpit of a car. He’s moving up to the broadcast booth for Fox and will be replaced by Chase Briscoe in the No. 14 car.

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