One of the many fascinating subplots of the 2014 NASCAR season is whether four diverse and self-described "alpha personalities" can coexist harmoniously at Stewart-Haas Racing.
There are some who believe the organization is setting itself up for a tumultuous year filled with infighting. A belief formed after SHR signed Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch -- former adversaries -- who along with Tony Stewart and Danica Patrick -- known for their own temperamental behavior in and out of the car -- will form one of the more high-strung teams in recent memory.
Instead of seeing it as a potential negative, Stewart views the additions differently. The co-owner of SHR has no feelings of trepidation about the collection of talent he helped assemble.
"What everybody is overlooking is the fact that we got four alpha drivers here who have alpha personalities," Stewart said Monday during Day 1 of NASCAR's annual Media Tour. "The great thing is we have all had the advantage of understanding each other and help with some of the personalities like this.
"We look at it as a great opportunity that this will be a huge positive -- a great match for four great personalities and four great drivers to work very hard together and they can understand and relate to each other."
The attitude that has become synonymous with the individuals who make up SHR -- blunt, irascible and full of vigor -- was exhibited by Stewart Monday.
During the general session with the media featuring the nucleus of the organization, Stewart was full of wit and sarcasm. When asked if he had been medically cleared to return to competition following rehabilitation on a broken right leg sustained in an August racing accident, Stewart told the reporter to "Read the Internet once in a while -- you'll see that I got released to drive a couple days ago."
Stewart won't turn a lap of competition until Feb. 14 at Daytona International Speedway in preparation for the next day's Sprint Unlimited, a non-points exhibition race. He says his leg is only 65 percent healed, which means there is a chance he could re-aggravate his injuries.
Regardless, Stewart is confident he'll be fine once he's back in his No. 14 Chevrolet.
"I don't feel 100 percent, but when I sit in the car I feel fine," he said. "I don't feel any discomfort or pain when I drive a street car. Now granted, I haven't driven the race car yet. But our seats are molded to us, it's more comfortable sitting in the race car than it is the passenger car. The pedals are exactly where you want them, the steering is exactly where you want it, versus a street car.
"I don't see there being anything that's going to be a drama. It's more just not knowing 100 percent until we get there. But I don't see anything that's going to be a problem."
It wasn't just Stewart who flashed moxie. As they playfully sparred verbally, Harvick told Stewart that if a fight were to occur between them he would just kick his boss in the leg. Then there were jokes about the assorted bruises they've inflicted on one another.
But banter aside, there were moments of clarity Monday as well. Harvick explained that his decision to join SHR after 13 seasons at Richard Childress Racing was centered on his desire to win a championship -- something he's yet to do and RCR hasn't done since 1994.
"I think the move here gives me a better shot at winning a championship," Harvick said. "I mean it's been a while since my former team won one."
It has taken Harvick little time to equate himself to his new surroundings. His first time in a SHR car was during a December test at Charlotte Motor Speedway, and the moment he stepped out of the car he instantly knew he made the right decision.
"I told them on lap two at Charlotte, ‘I thank you guys very much. You have just confirmed every reason I came to drive this car.'"
Sharing Harvick's enthusiasm was Busch. For the last two years the 2004 Cup champion has been with smaller teams with lesser equipment following his high-profile departure from Penske Racing.
Busch was wooed by SHR co-owner Gene Haas as Stewart was hospitalized with a broken leg, a move which at the time created some consternation within the organization. And with top-notch equipment and a plethora of resources at his disposal, Busch is committed to rewarding the man who took a who signed him.
"It's an amazing opportunity that Gene has given me and I'm not going to squander it away," Busch said. "From the first to that 26th race we've got to develop the No. 41 Chevy into a competitive championship-caliber team come September (and the start of the Chase).
"This is a type of spot you want to be where you can be competitive and win races on a weekly basis and be in position once the Chase gets underway to have a shot at a championship."