Race Weekend Central

Eyes on Xfinity: Stewart-Haas Racing’s Fallout & More

At this point, few would use the term Earth-Shattering for the confirmed announcement that Stewart-Haas Racing is closing up shop after this season. This news has been rumored for weeks and has picked up steam recently to a point where it was expected.

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In the Cup Series, four charters will be sold, and the implications will be vast. Drivers will find new homes, and some may not. Same with crew chiefs, car chiefs, engineers, crew personnel, office staff, etc.

In the NASCAR Xfinity Series, the fallout cannot be fully measured at this time, but it is potentially humongous. As close to earth-shattering as it gets. Ever since Team Penske shuttered its Xfinity team following the 2021 season, SHR has been the undisputed flagship Ford Performance team in the series. The team from which all other Ford teams get their support.

There are seven cars in the series running full-time for Ford. The reigning champion Cole Custer leads the way in SHR’s No. 00 Ford. Riley Herbst has shown great progression while driving SHR’s no. 98.

Next you have RSS Racing, who has Ryan Sieg, Matt DiBenedetto, Kyle Sieg and Blaine Perkins all under their umbrella driving Fords, with a SHR alliance.

AM Racing has run full-time in the series since 2023, and has Hailie Deegan driving their Fords this season. AM Racing also has an alliance with SHR.

The series champion, Custer, has driven with Haas Automation as his primary sponsor ever since he started competing in the Craftsman Truck Series in 2014. His father, Joe Custer, has been tied to Gene Haas throughout his racing tenure. What does Custer’s career look like without the backing of Haas Automation? He’s definitely proven himself worthy of a ride in NASCAR, but even Kyle Busch was humbled when he didn’t bring enough sponsorship to keep his ride. Custer is good, but he’s no Busch.

Herbst’s improvement and family-tied sponsorship would seem to have him in a pretty decent position to be signed to another competitive ride. But his progression was headed towards a Cup ride with SHR in the near future. Could he do the same with Front Row? Or will he need to prove himself again with another team in Xfinity before getting that call to Cup?

At seven full-time cars, Ford has more than Toyota (but fewer than Chevrolet). With SHR’s departure confirmed the question is, who the heck is carrying the Ford banner in the Xfinity Series next season and beyond?

Among existing Ford Xfinity teams, the only one that seems anywhere near ready to take on that mantle would be RSS Racing. But could the family-owned team run from a shop in Tucker, Ga., that has one win to its name and an average owner points position of 28th as of this writing be entrusted with that responsibility? It seems doubtful.

So, what then? Could a current Chevrolet or Toyota team move to Ford? Could a team not currently running the Xfinity Series enter? Could a new team be formed to come in and fill the power vacuum being left by SHR? How about this: could Ford leave the series completely?

It seems at least plausible that Team Penske could return to the series. The same can be said for Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing, who ran in Xfinity for decades before pulling out after 2018.

Another possibility is that Front Row Motorsports could expand its operation to carry the Xfinity banner for Ford. Front Row has improved by leaps and bounds, and their efforts expanded to the Craftsman Truck Series starting in 2020. They’re expected to land one of SHR’s Cup charters. In doing so, could they also acquire the SHR facility and enter the Xfinity Series? Among a lot of questionable possibilities, this seems the most likely.

When looking at Chevrolet and Toyota teams that could potentially switch, you have to consider the Cup teams they are associated with. Richard Childress Racing might seem like a decent candidate on paper, but Childress has always been a Chevrolet team and it seems unimaginable that they would ever change.

Other than RCR, there is no other Chevrolet team that seems capable of making a switch and becoming a flagship operation for Ford. JR Motorsports is about as tied to Chevrolet as can be. On the Toyota side, it’s Joe Gibbs Racing and Sam Hunt Racing. The former is definitely not going to Ford, and the latter doesn’t seem ready to do anything more than operate as a JGR ally.

Could a smaller team like Our Motorsports or Big Machine Racing switch to Ford and become the flagship team? It seems far fetched at best, and if that was in the cards, Ford might as well stick with RSS Racing.

Here is one possibility out of left-field. There have been rumors of Trackhouse Racing and Kaulig Racing merging. What if they merged and created a new super team under the blue oval? Again, this seems unlikely. It would solve Ford’s Xfinity problem, but would Trackhouse 2.0 really want to go through all of the pains of a new manufacturer when their focus, the Cup Series, would have to make the move as well? In Cup it would be a lateral move at best, since Ford already has Team Penske, Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing, and the seemingly growing Front Row Motorsports.

Could Ford go without a flagship Xfinity team in 2025? At this point, it seems about as possible as anything else we’ve speculated on here. RSS Racing would be hit the hardest if that came true. The family-owned team would likely have to switch their fleet back to Chevrolet, whom they ran with until 2021. A Ford departure could also have dire consequences for Deegan, who might need to revert to the Truck Series or maybe even exit NASCAR entirely.

One thing is for sure, the fallout is going to be massive. Humongous. Earth-shattering. You name it.

Hill’s List of Enemies Growing

Austin Hill had a run-in with Custer at Charlotte. It was the latest in a series of dust ups that has drawn the ire of fans. Never one to accept full responsibility for any on-track incidents in recent memory, Hill is quickly becoming the villain of the series. He’s shown the ability to compete for wins at any track. The talent is there.

But he’s now had run ins with Sheldon Creed, Shane van Gisbergen, Parker Kligerman, and Custer. When the going gets tough late in the season, would any of these drivers cut Hill a much-needed break on the track? There’s plenty of time for that list to grow. Too many enemies could play a role in Hill’s efforts to make it to the Championship 4 this year, after narrowly missing it last season.

“He tried to kill me on the backstretch,” Custer said. That doesn’t sound like someone who would be afraid to give the bumper to Hill at Martinsville. When you wear the black hat you can use it to your advantage on occasion, but you better be ready to deal with the blowback.

NASCAR determined Hill’s actions to be over the line. A fine and points penalty were issued against Hill and his team for violating the NASCAR Member Code of Conduct. Some speculated a suspension could’ve been on the table. For now, it’s just the monetary fine and points. Remember these 25 points this fall when we’re racing towards Phoenix, as they’ve already dropped Hill from first to third in the regular season standings.

Allgaier Shines on the Big Stage

I’d be negligent if I didn’t mention the superb performance put forth by our respected Xfinity Series veteran Justin Allgaier in the Coca Cola 600. Allgaier was picked to serve as a substitute driver for Kyle Larson, who was competing in the Indy 500. When weather caused a delay at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Larson opted to wait it out, leaving Allgaier to start the race in the powerhouse No. 5 for Hendrick Motorsports in a crown jewel event.

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Allgaier looked like a fish out of water early. This shouldn’t be surprising, since he hadn’t driven a Next Gen car in two years, and the Cup and Xfinity cars have never been more different than they are today. He spent some time running in the 30s and went a lap down early in the going. As the race wore on, his comfort level grew, and he eventually passed his HMS teammate William Byron under the green flag to unlap himself. When the race was ended prematurely after 249 laps due to weather, Allgaier had driven up to finish on the lead lap in 13th.

In two Fulltime Cup seasons back in 2014 and 2015 driving for HScott Motorsports, one could argue Allgaier never really got a fair chance in the premier series. His best points result was 29th. But HScott was never a competitive team. Ten-time Cup winner Clint Bowyer drove for HScott in 2016 and only managed to finish 27th with 3 top-10s.

Allgaier seems happy where he’s at, but his solid run in relief of Larson speaks to his talent. Some will credit crew chief Cliff Daniels and his juggernaut of a team. That’s a fair point, but I don’t think many drivers would do any better than Allgaier did in the situation. It’s one heck of a feather in his cap and I would not be surprised to see him tabbed in future relief assignments because of it. This also helps add credibility to the level of talent in our beloved Xfinity Series.

Having won recently at Darlington, and now having a new reason to be confident, is this the year Allgaier brings home a championship?

About the author

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Steve Leffew joined Frontstretch in 2023 and covers the Xfinity Series. He has served honorably in the United States Air Force and and lives in Wisconsin.

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Tom Russiano

Excellent article. Xfinity series’s much more enjoyable than Cup. You never know what you’re gonna get.

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