Forget about whether Tony Stewart's broken leg will be healed in time for him to drive in the Daytona 500 that signals the opening of the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup season.
Stewart has bigger issues to worry about.
Like Kurt Busch. And Kevin Harvick.
While it's true that as the most visible owner of Stewart-Haas Racing Tony has signed off on building a stable of truly outstanding race car drivers, the talent that these two bring to SHR are not the problem. It's their strong personalities.
In case you haven't noticed, Stewart is a Type-A personality himself. It's his way or the highway.
This is a guy who decided to fire his crew chief, Darian Grubb, before the 2011 Chase for the Sprint Cup commenced—and then professed to have no regrets (and seemed to be telling the truth) when Grubb helped Stewart to five wins in 10 Chase races to capture the third Cup championship of the driver's career.
By the way, the guy who replaced Grubb? That would be Steve Addington. He's already been sent packing by Stewart as well.
The point is this: There are going to be times, and they're coming very soon, when Busch and/or Harvick will not be happy with the way their cars are handling. Or maybe they'll demand more speed in their cars. Or perhaps they'll wonder aloud if the boss is being delivered better equipment.
But trust us, they will find something to complain about. They are a pair of explosive personalities who can turn on the charm in a big way in most public settings, and often in private. But there are times when their tempers obviously get the better of them.
Examples are numerous.
For Busch, this stop is the culmination of a two-year, self-help project to rebuild his career after it more or less imploded on him of his temper's own doing.
He ran himself out of Penske Racing, berating at times even the venerable Roger Penske himself during the heated course of races. And of course, Busch's numerous run-ins with the media (Dr. Jerry Punch anyone?), his own crew chiefs (see Addington and others behind closed doors) and just about everyone else in the garage he could have alienated at one time or another are legendary.
Busch, in fact, is a curious case study heading into this season.
He reportedly was added to the SHR lineup more at the behest of Stewart's usually silent but deep-pocketed co-owner, Gene Haas, who thought Busch's considerable talent and supposed new attitude trumped past history and possible future problems. According to sources, Stewart was hesitant to add a fourth team at a time when the organization was struggling to be competitive with a third team built around driver Danica Patrick.
Time will tell if Haas was right—but if they were keeping odds on it in Las Vegas, they wouldn't likely be with him.
Harvick has had fewer emotional blowups over his career and seems downright level-headed when compared to Combustible Kurt. But make no mistake, Harvick has had his share of moments, too.
His latest came toward the end of last season when he ripped the Dillon boys, Austin and Ty, after a run-in with Ty in a Truck Series race at Martinsville Speedway. It just so happens that Austin and Ty Dillon are the grandchildren of Richard Childress, the man who pretty much made Harvick's Sprint Cup career possible and paid him millions of dollars to drive for Richard Childress Racing before Harvick made the decision to defect to SHR.
Even though Harvick quickly apologized, he came across as ungrateful at the very least. And besides, these guys almost always apologize as soon as someone explains the art of damage control and advises it behind the scenes.
Is Stewart, as an owner, going to be able to shrug it off if these guys start bitching? Or are we looking at the potential for fistfights inside the SHR family?
Perhaps, just to ensure that these NASCAR goodfellas are able to work things out amongst themselves and not take to the tracks to wreak vengeance on others, they should simply set up a boxing ring at the SHR shop. Patrick, whose talent level as a driver obviously isn't in the same area code as the other three, could serve as the girl who holds up the cards notifying everyone what round it is.
My money is on Harvick if that becomes reality. Busch is all talk. Stewart is a tough guy, but he didn't have great mobility even before his recent sprint car accident and now will have even less.
Let's hope it doesn't come to that—although it would be mighty entertaining if it did.
Follow Joe Menzer on Twitter @OneMenz
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