What occurred Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway wasn’t a race, Martin Truex Jr. said. No thanks to the dominance of the four cars from Stewart-Haas Racing.
“I don’t know what they figured out, but obviously they have a lot of something that nobody else has any idea about because it wasn’t even a race,” Truex said. “Everybody else would get strung out, double file just cars not handling good. They qualified top four and outhandled everybody. So that’s pretty impressive what they did today.”
Combined, Stewart-Haas drivers led 155 of the 193 laps. But if the numbers weren’t impressive enough, replay will show that the four drivers — Kurt Busch, Clint Bowyer, Kevin Harvick, and Aric Almirola — only left each other’s bumpers twice: once during a run where they were shuffled into the field because of pit stops, and at the end of the race when things got dramatic on the overtime restart.
Busch qualified on the pole with Bowyer second, Harvick third and Almirola fourth. When the race started, that is mostly how they ran. The four worked together on each and every restart to make sure they got lined up and then logged laps until the finish.
Busch won Stage 1. Harvick won Stage 2. In both stages, all four cars finished first through fourth.
“It sounds like they have some really good engineering,” said Brad Keselowski.
Said Joey Logano: “Those Stewart-Haas cars drove great, and they were really, really fast. They showed it in qualifying, and they were so committed to each other, and they did a great job. They probably would have finished 1-2-3-4 if they didn’t run out of gas, so they were definitely quick.”
Almirola won the race when he got around Busch as Busch ran out of fuel on the final lap of overtime in Turn 4. Bowyer finished second. Harvick had run out of fuel coming to the overtime restart. Before it all went away, the four were going to once again restart in the top four positions.
Asked what he learned from what the SHR cars were able to do, Chase Elliott replied, “I learned that we are probably going to race in the Talladega Roval if it continues.”
How was Stewart-Haas able to control the race? Competition director Greg Zipadelli said it all started with preaching about the big picture during the week in team meetings.
“I think after last week, we didn’t do a great job executing as a group, because we could have had the same result,” Zipadelli said. “We just talked a lot about it. I just think everybody said, we need to help each other, work together like teamwork, show everybody that we are teammates. I felt like our cars were strong enough that if we did that, we would have a very strong day.
“We came in here with the 10 [Almirola] and the 14 [Bowyer] needing stage points. Everybody executed that perfectly. Then at the end of the race, let’s do everything we can to help each other. Everybody knew the circumstances. Hats off to drivers and crew chiefs. Nobody was selfish today. Everybody looked out for each other. That’s a great feeling as far as from my perspective.
“We pay these guys every week honestly to be selfish, take care of themselves, run as hard as they can and finish up as high as they can, win as many races as they can. Everybody gave and took today. Very proud moment for Stewart-Haas.”