By Seth Eggert, NASCAR Writer
For the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season, Stewart-Haas Racing will have two returning crew chiefs and two new crew chiefs for their four drivers. Clint Bowyer and 2014 Premier Series Champion Kevin Harvick will have the same crew chief, meanwhile 2004 Premier Series Champion Kurt Busch and newcomer Aric Almirola will have new faces atop the pit box.
Almirola, who will replace the out-going Danica Patrick, will have John Klausmeier leading his No. 10 Smithfield Ford Fusion. Klausmeier has been a race engineer for SHR since the 2009 season. He also subbed for Tony Gibson as crew chief for Busch at Watkins Glen in 2017. Klausmeier led Busch to a sixth-place finish that day.
Mike Bugarewicz returns to lead Bowyer’s No. 14 Rush Truck Centers / Mobil 1 Ford Fusion for the second year in a row. Last year Bugarewicz led Bowyer to six top-fives, 13 top-10s, and an 18th place finish in points. He also led team co-owner Tony Stewart to his final Premier Series victory in 2016 at Sonoma Raceway.
Busch will have Billy Scott who will replace long-time crew chief Gibson. As Gibson takes another role in the organization, Scott will transition from working with Patrick to working with Busch’s No. 41 Haas Automation / Monster Energy Ford Fusion. Scott has previously led drivers Brian Vickers, Bowyer, and Brett Moffitt to four top-fives, 19 top-10s, and one pole position in his first year as a crew chief.
The 2014 Championship pairing of Rodney Childers and Harvick will remain unchanged. The duo have accounted for 14 victories, 68 top-fives, 98 top-10s, 15 poles, and 6,665 laps led over the past four seasons. They have also finished in the top three in points in three of their four seasons working together.
“We have some of the finest talent in the industry and we’re confident in the leadership of each of our teams as we pursue wins and a championship in 2018,” said Stewart, co-owner of SHR with Gene Haas, founder of Haas Automation. “Obviously, we’re very happy to have Kurt Busch back with SHR and I’m proud to have Aric Almirola as a part of our race team. He’s someone I’ve always been impressed with since we were teammates at Joe Gibbs Racing, and John Klausmeier is more than ready to be his crew chief. The partnership between Kevin Harvick and Rodney Childers is the best in the garage, and after a bunch of strong runs and second-place finishes, I think Clint Bowyer and Mike Bugarewicz are ready for a breakout year. We’re in a really good place with each of our race teams.”
Since the team was founded in 2009, SHR has scored two championships (Harvick in 2014 and Stewart in 2011), and 39 victories in just under 1,000 starts. The team has also accounted for 193 top-fives, 367 top-10s, and 35 pole positions.
“Bigger, Better, Faster, Lighter is what we strive for in the machining industry and it’s what we strive for in motorsports. These new appointments seamlessly marry our engineering expertise with our collective racing experience,” Haas explained.
“We wanted to maximize our strengths and address the areas where we needed to improve, and we feel this lineup gives us our best chance to succeed every time we bring our Ford Fusions to the racetrack,” added Greg Zipadelli, vice president of competition at SHR. He continued, explaining that it’s not just the machinery that give the stockcars their speed. “This is a very technical sport, but it’s the people who make it go, and we’ve got some of the best people in the business.”
Now SHR and its’ Ford teams will prepare to compete for the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Championship.