Stewart-Haas Racing is on top of the NASCAR world at the moment but as the season grinds along they will have a decision that has to be made. Does the team stick with Kurt Busch in the #41 car or do they go a different direction?
SHR has become the spot for old guys in the series. Aric Almirola is the youngest guy on the team at 34, meanwhile, Hendrick Motorsports has three drivers 25 or younger. The question is now will the next driver of the #41 car be a young driver or will the team stick with a Cup series veteran?
The leader in the proverbial clubhouse for the seat is naturally Cole Custer who currently drive SHR’s #00 Xfinity car. As the son of team VP Joe Custer, naturally, that makes him the odds-on favorite to hop in Kurt Busch’s ride.
What if I told you Cole Custer isn’t the best guy for the job? What if there’s another driver in the Cup series that is finding his way and in SHR equipment could be a contender week in and week out?
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Take a look at young Richard’s stats real quick and meet me on the other side.
Alright, so over 6.5 full seasons in Cup Stenhouse has continued to improve year after year. Specifically, in the last two years, he has started to come into his own. Like a student on a gap year, Ricky went took awhile to find himself but he finally has done it.
There is no doubting Stenhouse has talent. He’s a 2-time Xfinity Series champ and won 6 races in 2012 on way to his second championship. He can drive a race car there is no doubting that but like MTJ he took some time to blossom. At 30 years old Stenhouse is entering statistically the prime of his career. Ask that motorsports analytics guy with the Tumblr links.
Imagine what Ricky could do in quality equipment like Stewart-Haas is bringing to the race track. We’ve seen with Matt Kenseth in the #6 car the last few weeks the drivers aren’t the issue at Roush, it’s the race cars. Stenhouse has the raw talent to be a championship contending driver in equipment that is at least on par with his competitors. In an SHR car, you might not be looking at Kevin Harvick like dominance but you could see a 2017 MTJ style run.
Looking at Aric Almirola’s numbers vs. Stenhouse’s numbers and it’s clear Stenhouse is the better driver statistically. If Tony Stewart and Gene Haas took a chance on Almirola, why not do the same for Stenhouse? Unfortunately for Ricky the #41 is considered a Gene car, he put the team together for Kurt. Gene may be partial to Cole Custer, cheaper contract, more longevity in terms of career left.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has watched teammates Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth defect from Roush Fenway Racing and have more success at Joe Gibbs Racing. The frustration drove Greg Biffle into retirement. Jack Roush gave Stenhouse his break in NASCAR, but sometimes everyone needs a break up. Ricky is wasting away in the badlands that used to be green pastures filled with trophies. The sooner he can get out the better.
If SHR wants immediate success in the #41 next season and assuming they move on from Kurt, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is the answer. Cole Custer is a talent but he’s a talent that can hang out another year or be on loan to someone in the meantime. Plus we all want to see Ricky win again and drop a cringe-worthy sound bite.
Follow us on Twitter @Apexoff