Some hit it big when they visit Las Vegas, while others go home empty-handed. Stewart-Haas Racing was definitely in the latter category in Sunday's Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
The only outlier among SHR's four entries was Kevin Harvick, who won last week at Phoenix and was again strong Sunday as his teammates Danica Patrick, Tony Stewart and Kurt Busch endured a variety of troubles.
This time, however, Harvick didn't make it to the finish line. A broken front hub in his left wheel sent him to the garage prematurely, and though he would eventually return to the track, Harvick in his third start with SHR finished 41st.
Monday NASCAR Recap
Monday NASCAR Recap
"It's hard to complain," he said. "... Every week is a new notebook for us. I really think as we get established and get some foundation for our set-ups and just the little things this team is going to be dangerous."
While the saving grace for Harvick was how fast he was before the mechanical failure, the same couldn't be said for Tony Stewart, who is still recovering from a right broken leg that sidelined him for the remaining 15 races of 2013.
The owner/driver labored through his third race back from injury never running higher than 24th. Overall, his average position was 34th and he finished 33rd, four laps down. Things were so abysmal for Stewart that during an early caution period he spent an inordinate amount of time on pit road making adjustments.
Much like Stewart, Busch was besieged by an ill-handling Chevrolet. He frequently radioed his crew that his car had no grip -- a frequent complaint among many drivers -- and was 26th in the final rundown.
Carrying the SHR banner Sunday was Patrick, who for the first time this season made it through a race without incident. Although down a lap early, she improved her lap times after a suggestion from her crew to try Harvick's line through the corners. Patrick would climb as high as 14th during green-flag pit stops and would finish 21st.
On the year SHR has seen its four drivers combine for just one top-10 finish -- Harvick's victory being the exception. And Stewart (ranked 27th), Busch (28th) and Patrick's (33rd) early season struggles are evident with a look at the championship order:
Sprint Cup standings
|1||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||133||---||1|
|16||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||80||-53||0|
|25||Martin Truex Jr.||53||-80||0|