Stewart-Haas Racing looks to continue its run
hampton, ga. — So much for a transition period at StewartHaas Racing.
The NASCAR team hasn’t slowed since switching from Chevrolet to Ford. Kurt Busch captured the season-opening Daytona 500, and Kevin Harvick followed up by earning the pole for today’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
“Hopefully this is the start of something great,” Harvick said.
There was plenty of speculation about how the change would go, especially for a driver such as Harvick who had a long relationship with Chevrolet.
Turns out, he had no trouble getting back up to speed.
“It’s fun to open Pandora’s box,” Harvick said. “You have to turn every leaf over and look at everything in your company. Everything is different from top to bottom. But one thing that stayed consistent was very good people. It’s been fun to see a group of people come together and try to make things better. It’s a major undertaking to do what we did.”
Busch is still savoring the high from his Daytona victory.
It may take a while to come down.
“You take it all in. You absorb it,” Busch said. “Years ago, when I won the  championship, you look at it and you think, ‘Aww, man, this is a lot that goes along with it.’ And maybe I didn’t soak it all in. This time around, my phone is still 400 texts deep. I can’t get caught up.”
While Stewart-Haas is showing early dominance, don’t forget about seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson.
He’s the two-time defending race winner in Atlanta.
“It’s been a great track for me,” Johnson said. “The last two races we won here, we didn’t really get ourselves situated until late in the going. But able to come out on top. Just because you have a slow Friday or a slow start to the race, I don’t think you can count anybody out. We have a lot of chances to work on the car and make big stuff happen here, which is really neat.”
Today’s scheduled 325-lap race on the 1.54-mile tri-oval track will be the final race on the aging asphalt at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
The track will get a new surface before the 2018 event — much to the chagrin of drivers such as Johnson, who relished the chance to wrestle with his car on a high-speed track that is especially hard on tires.
“This track is so fun and so interesting and so challenging,” said Johnson, whose 80 career victories include five wins at Atlanta. “I hate that it’s our last run on this asphalt.”
Derrike Cope, 58, will make his first Cup appearance in nearly eight years.
The 1990 Daytona 500 champion is racing the No. 55 car for low-budget Premium Motorsports, the start of what he hopes will be at least a limited schedule this season.
Cope failed to pass inspection in time to go through qualifying, along with four other cars, but no one had to worry about being sent home; there were only 39 entries for the 40-car field.
Cope’s last Cup race was a start-and-park effort at Martinsville on March 29, 2009.
Kyle Busch is Xfinity winner
Kyle Busch won the NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway for the second year in a row Saturday.
With a helping hand from lapped cars, pole-winner Busch was able to hold off Brad Keselowski by 0.606 seconds.
No one else was within two seconds of the winner.
Keselowski won the first 40lap stage, Kevin Harvick took the next 40-lap phase, and Busch was leading at the end — a promising start to a busy weekend in Atlanta, where he is competing in all three of NASCAR’s top series. After celebrating in Victory Lane and a brief stop in the media center, he hustled back to pit road for the Truck Series race.
On Sunday, Busch will on the inside of the second row in the NASCAR Cup Series race.