CHARLOTTE, N.C. (release) -- A newly expanded four-car team of Stewart-Haas Racing kicked off the team programming at the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway Monday with a lot of positive thoughts about everything the new season will bring.
Co-owner Gene Haas said the transition of adding both Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch has gone well.
"It's actually gone better than expected," he said. "I was at the shop today and there was actually quite a bit of enthusiasm for it, pleasantly surprised. A lot of people have patted me on the back and said that it was a good decision and that always feels good."
Co-owner Tony Stewart is also eager to get back behind the wheel after an injury cut his 2013 season short. His recovery is on schedule for a 2014 return in Daytona.
"I feel great," he said. "I'm excited. I'm counting down days to get to Daytona. I'm excited to be here, feeling a lot better every day and you know like Gene said the fact that the environment is so great at the shop right now, everybody is so excited. You know there's been a lot going on like Gene mentioned to get where we are and we're on schedule so that's a great thing. And like you said just seeing everybody so excited I think that takes away all the stuff going on the physical side and makes us real excited to get started again."
Both Harvick and Busch said they were excited about 2014 and building strong programs under the Stewart-Haas banner.
"It's been a lot of fun for me," Harvick said. "You know I think hearing Gene talk about the enthusiasm in the shop it's really contagious at this point, to tell you the truth. You can walk through the shop and everybody is so excited with all the change and new drivers and things that are going on. I think we've had three really good tests and everything has gone really smooth. I'm excited to get to the racetrack and start racing."
"It's just a matter of pacing ourselves and building on the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevy to the point to where we are Chase caliber and ready to attack those final 10 races as a championship team," he said. "But we have to build this team up and get all of our foundation set. I can't thank Gene and Tony enough for this opportunity to be part of a championship caliber team and to build on that foundation."
Now in her second year in the No. 10 Go Daddy Chevrolet, Danica Patrick said with so many changes in the off-season for her team, she still feels like a rookie.
I think that for me being only my second year it's nice to have things consistent. It helps us be able to build on last year. At the end of the day I have the most amount to learn and I'd say it almost feels like another rookie season, having Kevin (Harvick) and Kurt (Busch) and all the new people, just a bigger team. It almost feels kind of like I'm a rookie again."
Many of NASCAR's most drivers will feel like rookies as they learn to adjust to the new "knockout" style qualifying, but Stewart sees the changes as exciting for drivers and fans.
"I think it's an exciting time for us and I'm excited that NASCAR is thinking outside the box," Stewart said. "They don't sit on their hands and say what we have is good enough. They've always trying to figure out how to make it better. The qualifying format is a perfect example and what they're talking about doing for the Chase is a great example as well. It's exciting for us as drivers to know what we've got a sanctioning body that you know is forward thinking and thinking outside the box and not scared to make changes."