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Did You Notice?: Tony Stewart’s NASCAR Swan Song as SHR Closes Down

Did You Notice? … At the end of 2024, Tony Stewart will no longer have an official role with any team or track operating within NASCAR’s top three series.

His looming departure from the sport became official with Tuesday’s (May 28) news his six-car Stewart-Haas Racing operation (four NASCAR Cup Series cars, two in the NASCAR Xfinity Series) will shut down effective the end of the season.

For Stewart, who was reportedly emotional as he broke the news to the 300-person strong operation, the writing has been on the wall for months. Stewart hasn’t been seen at the track other than the Daytona 500, the 53-year-old focused on his NHRA driving career and starting a family with wife Leah Pruett.

See also
Stewart-Haas Racing Closing at End of 2024

When SHR closes down effective at the end of the year, it will cap a phenomenal stock car racing career for Stewart. As a driver, he’s got 49 Cup wins, three Cup championships and two Brickyard 400 victories at his hometown track (Indianapolis Motor Speedway).

But Stewart, a NASCAR Hall of Famer, could also have qualified based on what he’s done as an owner. Since partnering with Gene Haas in 2009, the organization has won 69 races, two Cup championships (Stewart in 2011 & Kevin Harvick in 2014) and the 2017 Daytona 500 with Kurt Busch. They’re also in the books for the first victory after COVID-19 suspended racing in 2020, with Harvick emerging victorious in front of the empty grandstands at Darlington Raceway.

Let’s try and answer all the questions out there with as much information as we know.

Why Did Stewart and Gene Haas choose to shut down?

In their statement, the co-owners claimed, “The commitment needed to extract maximum performance while providing sustainability is incredibly demanding, and we’ve reached a point in our respective personal and business lives where it’s time to pass the torch.”

On the surface, it’s really that simple. Stewart has had other priorities for several years now, dabbling with the SRX Racing project from 2021-23 while falling in love with, marrying and then committing to a family with drag racer Pruett. Haas, 71 years old, has been ill at times over the past year and turned his focus toward a Formula 1 program that has struggled to find its competitive footing.

One might say the seeds have been planted in other ways over the past few years. One by one, the team’s lost out on sponsors, a trend that accelerated this past offseason with the departure of Smithfield Foods and Anheuser-Busch. Haas has plenty of money, but no one likes to lose millions funding things out of their own pocket.

Stewart was also frustrated in recent years with various NASCAR decisions, including its choice to not give Eldora Speedway a Cup race, leading to it being off the Craftsman Truck Series schedule for 2020 and beyond. The team, after peaking in 2020 with a nine-win season by Harvick, failed to make the Championship 4 that year and has found itself on a slow, steady decline, both in competitive results and within the Ford pecking order ever since.

With that Ford contract running out in 2024, SHR would be forced to make another long-term commitment, financially and otherwise in order to contend for the championship. It just wasn’t a choice, in the end, that Stewart and Haas were willing to make, and a greatly reduced program would just prolong what was inevitably an exit strategy, stage right.

How will SHR operate for the remainder of the 2024 season?

Each of its four Cup and two Xfinity teams are expected to finish the year as normal. That said, we’ve never seen this kind of fire sale/foreclosure in the franchise era (2015-present). It’s been so long since we’ve seen something similar, I was a baby struggling to talk and walk: in 1982, J.D. Stacy slowly pulled his sponsorship of several Cup organizations as he hurtled toward bankruptcy and his departure from the sport.

Everyone within these teams is now auditioning for 2025 and beyond. In the short-term, that could prove valuable for someone like Chase Briscoe, the SHR team closest to a potential postseason push. But as summer turns to fall, especially if these cars fail to make the playoffs, just keeping them functioning is going to be a tall order. You could have the five most important people working on each car heading to five different organizations for 2025, presenting a huge distraction going forward.

Let’s face it: no SHR team on the Cup level was going to win the title this year. At best, they were a mid-round playoff team. But nothing that happened Tuesday increased those odds going forward.

Who is going to buy the four charters?

It’s becoming exceedingly clear, according to sources at Frontstretch and elsewhere, three of these charters are spoken for. Please note none of these sales have been made official; it is just educated speculation based on what we’re hearing inside the garage area.

See also
Happy Hour: Gene Haas Tells NASCAR Bye Bye Bye

The most obvious and frequently mentioned buyer is Trackhouse Racing. Another charter would bump it to three with four drivers to choose from: Ross Chastain, Daniel Suarez, Zane Smith and Shane van Gisbergen. It’s doubtful Trackhouse will purchase another, especially with a potential three-charter limit looming in charter negotiations. That makes its roster the epicenter of Silly Season talk down the line … and leaves a zero percent chance for SHR drivers to end up there.

Front Row Motorsports is also expected to beef up its charters from two to three. There’s currently one opening for 2025 as Michael McDowell leaves for Spire Motorsports. Assuming Todd Gilliland is re-signed, FRM expansion would open up two other spots, making it the most likely landing spot for SHR drivers.

23XI Racing rounds out the three teams everyone’s hearing about. Team co-owner Denny Hamlin has made no secret of the organization’s desire to expand, and Toyota is looking to beef up their operations overall. Corey Heim is mentioned often in conversations about the third car, but others could work their way into the mix. Part of the issue there is a wide gap between Heim and the other prospects currently in the Toyota pipeline — I’m not sure any of the rest of them are fully Cup-ready, with the exception of Chandler Smith.

The fourth charter? Who knows? SHR President Joe Custer has been rumored to purchase it in order for son Cole to have a path back to the Cup Series. JR Motorsports could get involved as it looks to have a place at the table in the next charter deal. RFK Racing is in the mix for more charters, although co-owner Brad Keselowski joked on Twitter he’s “$30 million” short of a deal. Richard Childress Racing will also need a third charter if it’s looking to elevate Austin Hill to the Cup level in 2025. There is also word RCR is interested in current SHR driver Noah Gragson.

What is going to happen to each one of the SHR drivers?

Josh Berry

Berry feels like the biggest wild card. He started out slow but has been picking up steam in his rookie season running Harvick’s No. 4. But Berry was never a Ford driver, coming over from JR Motorsports’ Chevrolet Xfinity Series program.

That leaves Ford not heavily invested while Berry, at age 33, is past the age of most prospects and doesn’t bring much sponsorship to the table. FRM is an option for a driver like that or, perhaps, JRM will rescue him in either a move to Cup or one of its NXS cars.

Not to be counted out: Toyota. Keep in mind its prospect pool is thin and, if Martin Truex Jr. retires, there are two major seats to fill there. Unlikely, yes, but stranger things have happened.

Chase Briscoe

Briscoe seems the driver most likely guaranteed a solid ride for 2025. Multiple sources tell Frontstretch Wood Brothers Racing is interested, as its partnership with Harrison Burton has soured (Burton sits a woeful 33rd in Cup points).

What no one is saying is Team Penske, where on paper Austin Cindric, Ryan Blaney and Joey Logano are secure. Just keep an eye on things if Cindric continues to struggle throughout the summer and fall. Cole Custer got about the same time period of underperformance before changes were made.

FRM also has been mentioned by one source; certainly, that’s an easy landing spot for any of the SHR drivers as FRM might even buy the SHR shop as part of the expansion. No matter what, the chances Briscoe stays with a Ford, in Cup, appear close to 100%.

Briscoe took to X Tuesday to express his appreciation for SHR.

Cole Custer

Custer’s future honestly depends on how much dad Joe stays involved. Sponsorship from Haas CNC Automation seems secure, no matter whether it’s in Xfinity or Cup. The reigning NXS champion is ready to move back up in 2025 if matched with the right operation. Could that fourth SHR charter be his?

Again, what Custer does depends more on seats available. But he’ll be racing full time next season somewhere — that’s all but assured.

Noah Gragson

Gragson has done more for his future prospects than any SHR Cup driver on the list. 21st in the standings, he’s raced far better than that and already has as many top-10 finishes in the No. 10 car as Aric Almirola had all last season.

Where that lands him for 2025 is unclear. It feels like FRM could be a destination but the organization doesn’t completely align with drivers who have had checkered pasts. I (not any source) have always wondered if Gragson could be a good match for RFK Racing over the long term. It’s just there’s currently no room at the inn.

I already mentioned RCR’s interest in Gragson, and they share a sponsor in Bass Pro Shops. Less likely but possible, he’s got a long-term relationship with Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and JRM.

Riley Herbst

Herbst has an unknown future but a high-money backer in Monster Energy keeping him alive and well in the Xfinity Series. While he’s moonlighted well in Cup, posting two top-10 finishes in six starts, it still feels like he needs at least another year of seasoning in NXS.

Based on the sponsorship, there will be a long line of teams happy to provide him with that opportunity. Cup seems like more of a long shot at this point.

Ryan Preece

Preece, a Stewart selection, feels like he’s nearing the end of the line in Cup. 34 years old this year, just three top-10 finishes in SHR equipment won’t get it done and give Preece a serious look with limited Cup rides available.

A great fit for Preece would honestly be a full-time Craftsman Truck Series ride. A few years back, he won Nashville Superspeedway for David Gilliland’s team; proper funding could make him a Grant Enfinger type. The keyword, of course, is proper funding, often an issue throughout Preece’s career in the sport.

Did You Notice? … Quick hits before taking off …

  • There is no reason whatsoever Kyle Larson should be knocked out of the NASCAR playoffs for running the Indianapolis 500. None. I don’t even know why we’re having that discussion — a bunch of unnecessary drama that only hurts both stock cars and open wheel.
  • How good has Corey Heim been? He’s led the most laps now in four straight Craftsman Truck Series races, the first time any Truck Series regular has done that since Jack Sprague in 2001. Winning two of them, Heim is now the overwhelming favorite for the Truck championship (even despite a Charlotte Motor Speedway DQ) and has all but guaranteed a Cup ride for himself come 2025.

Follow Tom Bowles on X @NASCARBowles

About the author

Tom Bowles
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The author of Did You Notice? (Wednesdays) Tom spends his time overseeing Frontstretch’s 40+ staff members as its majority owner and Editor-in-Chief. Based outside Philadelphia, Bowles is a two-time Emmy winner in NASCAR television and has worked in racing production with FOX, TNT, and ESPN while appearing on-air for SIRIUS XM Radio and FOX Sports 1's former show, the Crowd Goes Wild. He most recently consulted with SRX Racing, helping manage cutting-edge technology and graphics that appeared on their CBS broadcasts during 2021 and 2022.

You can find Tom’s writing here, at CBSSports.com and Athlonsports.com, where he’s been an editorial consultant for the annual racing magazine for 15 years.

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Jim
  • Your Quick Hit: “There is no reason whatsoever Kyle Larson should be knocked out of the NASCAR playoffs for running the Indianapolis 500. None. I don’t even know why we’re having that discussion — a bunch of unnecessary drama that only hurts both stock cars and open wheel.” is the most cogent comment I’ve seen. I find some of the discussion, including comments from NASCAR officials, ridiculous, and as you point out “only hurts.”
Johnny Cuda

I agree 100%!

Bill B

Regarding Kyle Larson’s playoff eligibility and “I don’t even know why we’re having that discussion”

We’re having the discussion because NASCAR has not officially addressed the issue at all (as far as I’ve seen).
They have to know fans and media alike have been questioning the status so why don’t they just make an announcement already and shut us up?

DoninAjax

Publicity!!!

Wildcatsfan2016

Why are we discussing Larson’s eligibility?

because NASCAR is stupid. They should have something already in place for these waivers. They grant enough of them. Larson announced he was running Indy last year if he qualified. Once he won a race this season and was eligible for the crapshoot the waiver process should have been activated.

but no they love artificial drama

Drew

Well first off Tony Stewart has shut down his srx series in January and my racing dreams have been smashed into a million pieces and now he’s going to shut down his race team after this season.

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