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Stewart-Haas Racing’s debut with Ford has Kevin Harvick smiling

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series 59th Annual DAYTONA 500 - Qualifying

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 19: Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John’s Ford, stands on the grid during qualifying for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series 59th Annual DAYTONA 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 19, 2017 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Although Kevin Harvick didn’t win Sunday’s Clash, he couldn’t hide his smile as he walked down pit road after finishing fifth in Stewart-Haas Racing’s first race since switching to Ford.

“This is by far the best we’ve run speed-wise … in the race since I’ve been at Stewart-Haas Racing,’’ Harvick told NBC Sports. “I’m really looking forward to a really strong week.’’

NASCAR’s opening weekend proved to be a good one overall for Stewart-Haas Racing in its debut with Ford.

Danica Patrick finished fourth in the Clash with Harvick fifth. Clint Bowyer, who joined the team this year, was fourth in qualifying. Harvick was seventh.

It wasn’t a perfect weekend, though. Kurt Busch wrecked in the Clash after he was turned by Jimmie Johnson. Busch was 22nd in qualifying and Patrick was 24th. Still, it could have been much worse after all the work to switch from Chevrolet to Ford in the offseason.

“It’s a great effort, considering everything these guys have gone through all season long, switching manufacturers and everything that goes with that,’’ Bowyer said after his qualifying effort Sunday. “That’s a lot. That’s a huge undertaking and these guys did it without fail.

“The Ford bunch and the Roush Yates horsepower I knew was going to be something we could lean on. We just came up a little bit short, but that’s two of our cars in the top seven.

“I watched Kevin in that Clash. I liked what I saw there. He could push and move (Brad Keselowski) and (Clash winner Joey Logano). On a track like this, those are your teammates and we’re going to work together and win this damn thing. That’s what we’re here for.”

Logano said he and Harvick, his new Ford teammate, worked well together toward the end of the Clash.

“We’re able to work really well together because we’re both going to be aggressive to get to the front, and we both understand we’ve got to do what we’ve got to do to win,’’ Logano said. “I think that’s a good driver to work with on a speedway, and it’s not the first time we’ve worked together.’’

While Harvick walked away smiling Sunday, he wasn’t the only one from Stewart-Haas Racing who was enthused.

“It feels good to be competitive again,’’ Bowyer said. “I was down here last year (with HScott Motorsports) and we were way off the pace. It was crushing because you know deep down you don’t even have a chance, and when you’ve got a car like this – a hot rod like this and a team like this – I’ve got a chance.”

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