Last season, Stewart-Haas Racing and Team Penske were the only two organizations to see each one of their drivers reach Victory Lane in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
All seven drivers from both stables won 19 races — just over half of the 36-race schedule — with Team Penske’s Joey Logano conquering the field to win the 2018 championship.
So, can Stewart-Haas and Penske do it again, or will Joe Gibbs Racing or Hendrick Motorsports get hot in 2019 and steal the show? NASCAR.com’s Jessica Ruffin and Chase Wilhelm make their cases.
RUFFIN: Joe Gibbs Racing collected nine wins in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, but only two of its four drivers reached Victory Lane. That should change this season; Martin Truex Jr.’s move to the No. 19 JGR Toyota almost ensures a win from that team, as Truex has won at least four races a year since 2016. Growing pains of moving to a new team will be minimal, too, as Truex’s former team Furniture Row Racing was aligned with Joe Gibbs Racing.
Moving to the team’s returning pair of veterans, Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin: anything less than a multiple-win season would be surprising for Busch, who notched eight wins in the Monster Energy Series in 2018. The 33-year-old driver has won at least one race a year since 2005, when he began racing full-time in the Monster Energy Series. While Busch’s teammate Denny Hamlin went winless in 2018 for the first time in his previous 12-year full-time seasons, the No. 11 still ran up front often, tallying 17 top-10 results and leading 380 laps. His drought will likely be short-lived.
The youngest Joe Gibbs Racing driver Erik Jones showed he could win in the Monster Energy Series, breaking through for his first Cup win at Daytona in July. If Jones and the No. 20 team can build on the gains they made in 2018, there’s no reason why they can’t notch another W (or more) in 2019.
WILHELM: While it’s hard to bet against the JGR squad in 2019, I’m going to do just that. Stewart-Haas Racing proved — once again — just how strong an organization can be when you put together a crew of old-school racers and tell them to go win races. That combination is hard to beat.
Kevin Harvick led his SHR teammates in the win column last season, scoring eight race victories on his way to a Championship 4 bid, while Clint Bowyer collected two triumphs and Aric Almirola and Kurt Busch scored one apiece. At Michigan in June, Bowyer’s victory led an SHR 1-2-3 result, a first for them and a big statement for Ford Performance in Detroit’s backyard. The icing on the proverbial cake came when all four competitors made it through to the Playoffs Round of 8.
Although he has yet to score his first career win, the addition of Daniel Suarez as the new No. 41 Ford Mustang driver just adds another layer of talent. Suarez has already praised team owner Tony Stewart in their short time together, expressing confidence that the organization has what he needs to reach Victory Lane in his third full-time Cup season.
The debut of the new Ford Mustang in NASCAR’s top level has the potential to throw SHR a curveball, but I wouldn’t count on them having any issues. As the old saying goes, “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” That holds true for SHR this upcoming season as they will likely replicate or better their 2018 accomplishments.