Race Weekend Central

Friday Faceoff: Will All Stewart-Haas Drivers Be Cup Racing in 2025?

Will all Stewart-Haas Racing drivers be in the NASCAR Cup Series in 2025?

Andrew Stoddard: Ryan Preece appeared to be the odd man out in the SHR drivers’ study groups, and I foresee him being the lone SHR driver on the outside looking in for a Cup Series in 2025. The Silly Season rumor mill has Chase Briscoe replacing Harrison Burton in the Wood Brothers Racing No. 21, while Noah Gragson and Josh Berry have both shown enough flashes of potential to warrant looks from Front Row Motorsports, RFK Racing or any other team that might land one of the SHR charters. Preece, on the other hand, has only one top five and three top 10s since joining SHR at the start of 2023, including just one top-10 finish so far this season, a ninth at Martinsville Speedway. Not to mention, at 33 years old, Preece is not exactly a young prospect anymore. When the Silly Season shakes out, Preece will likely be a NASCAR Xfinity Series or Craftsman Truck Series ride in 2025.

Luken Glover: Unfortunately, there will be an odd man out, and Preece is likely that guy. Gragson is rumored to be receiving interest from several teams, and he has displayed his skills at several points this year. Berry is beginning to find a rhythm, has support from key voices in the garage and will likely be staying in Cup. Briscoe also has enough connections and potential sponsorship to put him on the short list for a ride. With at least one opening at Front Row, a likely seat at Wood Brothers or the potential to jump to another manufacturer, there are options for all three. Unfortunately for Preece, the results haven’t been there and there don’t seem to be many leads on a potential suitor.

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Austin Bass: When the music stops and the dust settles, the driver without a seat will be Preece. The former Modified Tour superstar is a talented racer who capitalizes on opportunities when driving top-tier equipment. However, he’s not had that luxury during his time at SHR. Preece has done nothing memorable in the Cup Series and doesn’t have the bona fides, sponsorship dollars or fan support to retain his coveted spot on the grid with another team. Hopefully, Preece Lightning will land with a solid team in the Xfinity Series or Truck Series and compete for checkered flags and championships for the next decade.

Mike Neff: Yes, all four of them will have rides. There are already discussions about one or two drivers filling existing seats at other organizations. By the time the charters from SHR are acquired, the other drivers will be picked up to fill the seats.

Has Brad Keselowski emerged as a title contender?

Glover: Absolutely. Just look at this stat: Brad Keselowski has four top-two finishes in the past six races. He won at one of NASCAR’s toughest tracks in Darlington Raceway, and had the Coca-Cola 600 resumed, the No. 6 appeared to be the strongest car. He is a crafty, smart veteran who knows how to get the most out of his car. Two years ago, he could hardly run inside the top 20. Now that he finally has a win with his team, the floodgates could be opened for him. Additionally, as much as Ford’s struggles have been covered, it is beginning to find speed earlier than last year. In 2023, the Coke 600 could be pointed to as its turning point with Ryan Blaney. Ford’s had a legitimate contender in the last three points races, all being one of the RFK cars. Keep an eye on Keselowski.

Kevin Nix: He’s emerged as a Round of 8 contender, and in this playoff format, that’s all he needs to be. With four top-two finishes in the last six races, he’s got the speed and the consistency to be there in the later stages of the playoffs. This is the Keselowski who we all expected to see, and it’s also how he expected RFK as a whole to be coming into the season. Since the championship is determined by only one race, Keselowski just has to be in contention to make the Championship 4 at Martinsville Speedway — and he can get there by maintaining his strong consistency. He does not need to win several races, though that would never hurt him.

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Neff: You have to look at his recent results and feel like he and his team have found speed in the car. Four top-two finishes in the last six races is absolutely title contender category. He was 11th at Kansas Speedway, which is still solid. The only hiccup was 30th at Dover Motor Speedway. If he can maintain top-five finishes on the regular, he will be a force when the playoffs get here.

Phil Allaway: Keselowski definitely seems to have his mojo back after being down in the dumps for years. Then again, I don’t think he’s truly one of the best guys out there at the moment. He could get to the Round of 8, but any problems there and you’re screwed. Still hard to beat Hendrick Motorsports and Joe Gibbs Racing.

What are your thoughts on the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL reconfiguration?

Bass: The effort to improve the action on the ROVAL is an expensive Band-Aid to invest in a broken leg that doesn’t appear to be healing anytime soon. Intermediate tracks — and Charlotte Motor Speedway in particular — are consistently producing excellent races and finishes, while road courses have not been as entertaining since the Next Gen era began. However, the reconfiguration announcement suggests that NASCAR will continue limping along on the ROVAL for the foreseeable future. The sunk-cost fallacy appears to be affecting the decision to continue beating this dead horse in the racetrack’s infield parking lot.

Glover: If I wanted to see the ROVAL return, those are solid improvements. It adds more passing zones and opportunities for aggression, especially in turn 7. That turn will be sharper, creating the potential for more dive-bombs and incidents. It will raise the challenge for the drivers. However, I still want to see that date return to the Charlotte oval. There is a unique aspect to having two different configurations while boosting the prestige of the Coca-Cola 600, but NASCAR needs to invest in what is working right now, and that would be intermediate racing in general.

Nix: It’s like putting lipstick on a pig. The ROVAL has lost its luster in recent years for a variety of reasons. First, the Charlotte oval has become one of NASCAR’s best racetracks in terms of the racing product it puts on. Second, these Next Gen cars do not race well on road courses. Lastly, drivers such as Martin Truex Jr. have said on the record that they do not like the ROVAL. My expectations for the ROVAL’s new configuration are low, but I will happily eat crow if the racing is solid.

Allaway: The new configuration is going to be quite a bit slower than the current circuit. Yes, they’ll plunge downhill into the new right-hand turn, but the turn back onto the quad-oval is going to be a first-gear turn at 40 mph as opposed to ~75-80 mph. That will affect everything from there to the backstretch chicane. The race will take longer this year, but it will not be as hard on the drivers since the transition leaving the infield won’t be anywhere near as hard on them.

Stoddard: The general consensus is that the ROVAL had grown stale over the past few seasons, with not enough opportunities for passing under green-flag conditions. The reconfiguration looks to address that, with two new braking zones entering turn 7 and on the frontstretch chicane. We won’t know for sure until the ROVAL is run in October, but it looks as though these adjustments should help the ROVAL produce a better racing product.

Both Luke Fenhaus and Andres Perez de Lara are attempting their Truck Series debuts at World Wide Technology Raceway. How will they each perform?

Allaway: Both drivers will have quite the task to adjust due to the fact that NASCAR just doesn’t want to give teams enough time to practice these days. Of the two, Andres Perez de Lara has spent more time racing on similar tracks since he’s been in the ARCA Menards Series as opposed to the ARCA Menards Series East. That said, both drivers are talented, have shown a decent amount of maturity behind the wheel and are with good teams. I think they could both finish in the top 15 on Saturday. Let’s use Rajah Caruth‘s 2022 debut at Gateway, where he finished 11th, as a benchmark of where either one of them could end up.

Bass: Perez de Lara has shown consistency during his time in ARCA but has never displayed winning speed, contended for victories or led many laps driving for Rev Racing. However, his predecessor Nick Sanchez claimed several poles, led a lot of laps, won races and captured the championship in the same equipment. I don’t have high hopes for Perez de Lara to drive the No. 7 to its full potential, but Luke Fenhaus should outperform where the No. 66 ThorSport Racing truck typically runs. Fenhaus has made the most of his sporadic opportunities in recent years by turning heads in the SRX Series, winning the renowned Slinger Nationals and claiming victory twice in ARCA competition. Don’t be surprised if he catapults himself into the conversation for more opportunities when he runs well this weekend.

Stoddard: I give the slight edge to Perez de Lara. He is currently leading the ARCA points, even without a race win, and he possesses slightly more experience at that level than Fenhaus. It is also important to factor in the equipment/teams the two will be racing for on Saturday. Perez de Lara will be piloting the No. 7 Spire Motorsports Chevrolet. Spire has won in the Truck Series three times this season, including twice in the No. 7 with Kyle Busch. Fenhaus will be behind the wheel of the No. 66 ThorSport Ford, a team that has yet to reach victory lane in 2024 and currently only has two of its four full-time drivers in the playoffs. I see Perez de Lara logging a solid debut performance, maybe even finishing in the back half of the top 10 if things really go his way.

Neff: Trucks tend to lend themselves to average finishes for newcomers. Occasionally you have an outstanding performance like Brenden Queen at North Wilkesboro Speedway, but more often than not it will be the middle of the road. Expect them to slot in somewhere in the 18th to 25th window.

Nix: Both drivers will do well. WWT Raceway is one of the toughest racetracks for young drivers as it is quite unique. The heavy braking and flat corners mean that the young drivers will have to ease their trucks into the corners. With that said, both drivers have, by and large, raced cleanly throughout their young careers. If they spend the first two stages taking it easy and learning the track and racing the racetrack instead of other competitors, they could both move up in stage three without jeopardizing their days. They could both finish in the top 15 without incident and consider that a success, as should the teams for which they drive.

About the author

Phil Allaway has three primary roles at Frontstretch. He's the manager of the site's FREE e-mail newsletter that publishes Monday-Friday and occasionally on weekends. He keeps TV broadcasters honest with weekly editions of Couch Potato Tuesday and serves as the site's Sports Car racing editor.

Outside of Frontstretch, Phil is the press officer for Lebanon Valley Speedway in West Lebanon, N.Y. He covers all the action on the high-banked dirt track from regular DIRTcar Modified racing to occasional visits from touring series such as the Super DIRTcar Series.

Austin Bass joined Frontstretch in 2024 as a contributor to combine his passion for racing and writing. Born in Wilson, NC, he developed a passion for racing at an early age while attending local short tracks on Saturday nights with his dad and watching the stars of the sport from their living room on Sunday afternoons.

Bass is a graduate of UNC-Wilmington with a degree in Communication Studies where he developed a deep understanding, appreciation, and love for the Oxford comma. He is an industrial degreaser salesman for Cox Industries whenever he is not writing or talking about racing.

What is it that Mike Neff doesn’t do? The writer, radio contributor and racetrack announcer coordinates the site’s local short track coverage, hitting up Saturday Night Specials across the country while tracking the sport’s future racing stars. The writer for our signature Cup post-race column, Thinkin’ Out Loud (Mondays) also sits down with Cup crew chiefs to talk shop every Friday with Tech Talk. Mike announces several shows each year for the Good Guys Rod and Custom Association. He also pops up everywhere from PRN Pit Reporters and the Press Box with Alan Smothers to SIRIUS XM Radio. He has announced at tracks all over the Southeast, starting at Millbridge Speedway. He's also announced at East Lincoln Speedway, Concord Speedway, Tri-County Speedway, Caraway Speedway, and Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Kevin Nix has been with Frontstretch since February 2023. Hailing from Gilbert, Arizona, his dream is to be in the NASCAR media sphere full-time. He is a video assistant, working on the back end to streamline video and audio quality of all at-track interviews. Nix also writes about news every Monday for the site.

Nix graduated with a Master's Degree in Sports Journalism from ASU's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication in Phoenix, Arizona. He also has bachelor's degrees in Communications and Political Science. In his downtime, he likes to read, play video games and take walks in the Arizona weather - when it's not too hot.

Andrew Stoddard joined Frontstretch in May of 2022 as an iRacing contributor. He is a graduate of Hampden-Sydney College, the University of Richmond, and VCU. He works as an athletic communications specialist at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Va.

Luken Glover joined the Frontstretch team in 2020 as a contributor, furthering a love for racing that traces back to his earliest memories. Glover inherited his passion for racing from his grandfather, who used to help former NASCAR team owner Junie Donlavey in his Richmond, Va. garage. A 2023 graduate from the University of the Cumberlands, Glover is the author of "The Underdog House," contributes to commentary pieces, and does occasional at-track reporting. Additionally, Glover enjoys working in ministry, coaching basketball, playing sports, and karting.

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Echo

Preece and Berry won’t be racing Cup next season. The other 2 yes. No matter Berry’s garage connections, people like Ty Dillon have better ones.

WD

Alex Bowman could be out of the 48 no contract as yet and with 7 wins in 7 yrs he falls far behind his teammates Josh Berry could emerge as a replacement as he did well subbing for Chase Elliott and has a strong Hendrick connection in Dale Jr

Last edited 20 days ago by WD
sdelfin

Right now, if we assume the 21 will make a driver change, we have three open seats with only one of the charters known to be sold. Assuming the rest of the charters are sold and with teams operating full time on track next year, there will be six seats to fill. Trackhouse will probably want to get a charter for Zane Smith. I can see Front Row and the Wood Brothers being interested in Berry, Briscoe, and even Preece. I see Gragson as a bad fit for certain teams over others, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him back if things fall his way. I also think Custer will at least be considered for some of the seats. If you look at Xfinity and trucks, there aren’t a lot of prospects that seem like they’d be free. For example, Chandler Smith seems firmly in the Toyota camp after his one season with Kaulig. I think Childress will try to hang onto Hill and Love. Maybe the 3 will see a driver change too. So while I think Preece is a long shot, I can see a scenario where he may still be in Cup next year.

Last edited 19 days ago by sdelfin
gbvette62

Custer mainly had his ride because his father, Joe Custer, is the president of SHR. If he wasn’t good enough to keep his Cup seat on a team that his father was president of, what are his chances of finding a Cup ride for someone else in the future? Xfinity or trucks, maybe, but Cup, I doubt it.

As far as the 3, it was reported last week in USA Today that Dillon just signed a multi-year extension, though I haven’t seen it reported anywhere else yet. I read that RCR was interested in Gragson for a third car, which wouldn’t be surprise considering his past ties to Chevrolet, and RCR sponsor Bass Pro Shops. I think Toyota liked Gragson enough that he could end up back in a Toyota again too?

Briscoe and Gragson are a shoe in for Cup rides next year, and I think Berry has a pretty good chance, but if Preece is back it will likely be in Xfinity or truck.

sdelfin

I haven’t heard any news on Dillion yet, but I’ll keep my eyes open. I have heard the rumblings of Gragson and RCR and it seems like a good fit. I suppose that if that were to happen, they’d try to keep Hill and Love in the pipeline for when contracts come up. On the Toyota thing, that’s possible, but after his exit, I don’t see Legacy going with him again so soon, and I don’t see him as a prospect for Gibbs or 23XI. But who knows? I think it’s more likely Noah stays in Cup than not, and he has sponsors, but it’s just a matter of which seats are available. Like I said, I don’t see him fitting in the 21, but maybe FRM would want him. On Preece, like I said, I think it’s a long shot to stay in Cup. Let’s say Berry and Briscoe go to FRM and Gragson to RCR, then Preece to the 21 doesn’t seem crazy to me. Or maybe Rick Ware puts him in the 15.

As for Custer, I’m aware of his father and considered that. But it was also a weird spot where apparently Tony wanted Preece in. The team has been in decline for years and that car hasn’t really improved much. I think that makes it more likely Custer be considered, especially for Ford teams. He has done well in Xfinity which helps. I’m sure there will be some surprises as things fall into place.

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