The past few weeks have not been good to Stewart-Haas Racing.
First, Kevin Harvick’s No. 4 team was hit with an L2 penalty following the race at Talladega Superspeedway; the penalty resulted in a 100-point deduction in both driver and owner standings, as well as crew chief Rodney Childers incurring a $100,000 fine and four-race suspension.
However, the exact infraction is not known to fans, drivers, or even the team. With Harvick speaking out about the safety of the Next Gen car over the past few weeks, some are taking the penalty as a means of retaliation on Harvick.
Just one week later, Cole Custer’s No. 41 team was docked 50 driver and owner points, while both he and his crew chief, Mike Shiplett, were fined $100,000, with Shiplett suspended indefinitely, for manipulating the end of the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL race. Custer seemingly brake-checked Austin Dillon and Erik Jones in an effort to get teammate Chase Briscoe additional points to advance into the Round of 8.
The move worked, but NASCAR immediately said it would investigate the actions of the No. 41 team. The damning evidence came from the No. 41 radio, when Shiplett told Custer that he needed to check up due to “a flat tire.”
So let’s do some quick math here. Two SHR teams have lost a combined 150 driver and owner points, accumulated $300,000 in fines and have two crew chiefs who will probably not return to the track until Phoenix Raceway at the earliest.
You can only imagine how the bossman feels about this situation.
“I’m not going to talk about it,” Stewart said. “I’m so mad at NASCAR, I’m not going to talk about it. Super glad I’m going drag racing this weekend. If it weren’t for the fact that I’ve got a couple appearances that I have to make, I wouldn’t be in another NASCAR race the rest of the year. I wouldn’t waste my time.”
If I’m NASCAR, I’m sounding alarm bells at these comments. This is a team owner — a championship-winning team owner, no less, who is also one of the most successful drivers in recent NASCAR history — who is so frustrated with the last few weeks that he wouldn’t even attend the rest of the races if he had the choice.
Stewart’s statement wouldn’t really hold as much weight if it weren’t for the fact that he owns an NHRA team and stated in that same article that he has had a lot more fun in the NHRA atmosphere than NASCAR.
Along with this, Stewart has put out tweets that have mentioned looking for new hobbies that aren’t Southeast-based:
Looking for a new weekend hobby (something not south eastern based) if anyone has any ideas. Something low drama and relaxing preferably
— Tony Stewart (@TonyStewart) October 11, 2022
Regardless of whether or not Custer’s penalty was justified, if a team owner is this upset with NASCAR right now, it should cause concern within the higher executives of NASCAR. While it’s highly unlikely that Stewart will straight up shut down his team (co-owner Gene Haas might have something to say about that), there’s still a possibility that the Hall of Famer could sell his share of the team and leave the sport entirely to focus on NHRA.
In fact, both Stewart and Haas have their own projects to focus on — Stewart has the NHRA AND the SRX program, but Haas also could redirect his efforts toward his Formula 1 program. The effects of a team like SHR either shutting down or losing its majority owner could completely change the landscape of the Cup Series.
Stewart has never been a person to shy away from a bold statement, as both a driver and an owner. So if he’s as mad at NASCAR as he says he is, he could be one more wrongdoing away from pulling himself out of the sport entirely — and feeling good about it.
In the midst of everything that NASCAR has had to deal with the last few weeks — the safety of the Next Gen car, the next media deal, outraged drivers/teams and several instances of disrespectful/manipulative driving — an upset owner who has noticeably distanced himself to focus on other projects is the last thing NASCAR needs on its plate right now.
About the author
Anthony Damcott joined Frontstretch in March 2022. Currently, he is an editor and co-authors Fire on Fridays (Fridays); he is also the primary Truck Series reporter/writer. A proud West Virginia Wesleyan College alum from Akron, Ohio, Anthony is currently pursuing a master's degree. He is a theatre actor and fight choreographer-in-training in his free time. He is a loyal fan of the Cincinnati Reds and Carolina Panthers, still hopeful for a championship at some point in his lifetime.
You can keep up with Anthony by following @AnthonyDamcott on Twitter.
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