While the door will always be open to Kevin Harvick at Stewart-Haas Racing, the organization will lose his veteran voice and leadership at the end of the season.
Harvick will leave a void as he heads to the Fox Sports booth. From the first test at Charlotte Motor Speedway with his new team going into the 2014 season, Harvick elevated the organization and his No. 4 team has carried the banner ever since.
It’s also possible Stewart-Haas will be filling Aric Almirola’s seat in the near future, as well. Almirola, who joined the team in 2018, was going to retire after the 2022 season but had second thoughts. But whether it’s only Harvick’s exit or both his and Almirola’s sometime in the near future, Stewart-Haas will need someone to step up and be the next leader.
Chase Briscoe wants to be ready to assume that position, and has the support of his teammates.
Briscoe made it known during Daytona Speedweeks that he’s already studying how Harvick operates. With the departure of Harvick and potentially Almirola, the 28-year-old realizes he will be the most tenured driver at Stewart-Haas.
“I think Chase can do a lot of things as long as he’s given the tools and resources,” says Harvick. “And as long as the leadership leans in to tell him when he’s doing things right and wrong, and what they want him to do.
“He has to have some guidance on that, and then he has to take those roles and be productive with them and implement himself into places that he might not be comfortable implementing himself in or conversations that he’s not comfortable with.
“You have to be able to be uncomfortable and be productive all at the same time and know when to bang your fist on the table and when to be quiet.”
Those are traits Briscoe is trying to learn from Harvick. It’s vital for Briscoe to understand how to get his point across and when to use his voice. That has never been hard for Harvick, who has always been one of the sport’s most outspoken drivers. But offering vital information behind closed doors is a different game.
Next year will be Briscoe’s fourth at the Cup Series level. He won Rookie of the Year honors in 2021 and followed it up in ’22 with his first career win at Phoenix Raceway and first playoff appearance. By the end of the year, he had improved in all statistical categories.
Having a leader in the clubhouse is important to Briscoe because without that voice, he feels an organization can spiral. All he can do is try to be prepared to do his part and ensure that doesn’t happen.
“When you look at the way Chase Briscoe got here, he obviously has the ability to drive and the want to be here,” continues Harvick. “He wants it, and that’s something you can’t give somebody. They have to know that, and he’s proven that through the years and how he got here.
“He can be a leader; I don’t have any doubt about that. You just have to go through the situation and do the things you have to do and Stewart-Haas Racing did the right job in committing to him long-term because he is somebody that you can build your company around and be able to be that leader because of his desire and knowledge.
“But the first thing you have to do is have that desire to be able to want that position because it’s a lot of work in order to do this. You have to have a 24/7 mindset and be able to balance your family and finances and all the things that come with that circle of life. He has the desire, and that’s the most important thing.”
Almirola is nothing but complimentary about his young teammate, as well.
“I think Chase has a tremendous amount of raw talent,” says Almirola. “He’s very gifted behind the wheel, and I think he’s trying to continue to do his part as a team guy. He’s been really involved with all the meetings, and he’s constantly at the shop, and he’s with his guys and his engineers and doing all the right things. At this level that’s what it takes.
“You have to be engaged constantly. It’s a seven-day-a-week job for 40-plus weeks a year, and there’s no real time to not have that level of engagement, and I feel like Chase has done a really good job of that. He sees the way Kevin works; we all see that. Kevin is very detailed-oriented and very engaged all the time, and it brings that level for all of us to rise to because that’s the expectation at our organization.”
Ryan Preece, who is in his first year driving for Stewart-Haas, doesn’t have an argument against Briscoe being the next guy up. For Preece, it’s a simple matter of tenure and experience. And with experience, according to Harvick, Briscoe will develop into the leader he wants to be, whereas Almirola said Briscoe already has the most essential variable.
“Chase has a great personality,” Almirola says. “Chase is an easily likable guy and that’s important. When you’re around a shop that has 350 employees, you have to be around, you have to be involved, and you have to be a friendly face. You want the guys and the team to rally around you because you’re the face of the organization when you’re the lead guy. I think Chase has the ability, for sure.
“We got to continue to work on him to get in the gym. Right now, he can get away with it, but I think long-term to do it for a long, long time that would be one area I already push him to get better at. But as far as a team player being involved, being engaged, and being a guy that everybody enjoys working for, he’s already got that covered.”
Harvick chuckles at Almirola’s gym comment.
“Well, there are a lot of great leaders that never went to the gym.”