Race Weekend Central

Stewart-Haas Racing Pressing On Amid Looming Closure

MADISON, Ill. – The speculation had been lingering about the future of Stewart-Haas Racing when this week began. On Tuesday (May 2) afternoon at the team’s headquarters, the organization announced it would cease operations at the end of the current NASCAR season, thrusting not just its drivers, but some couple of hundred employees into a future elsewhere.

It means that four drivers, two of which came to SHR to begin this season, are seeking new homes for 2025 with Chase Briscoe, Ryan Preece, Noah Gragson and Josh Berry now tasked with racing for a team for the rest of the season that will not exist in 2025.

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“It was a tough week for us. We kind of knew it was coming for the last couple of months, but it’s another thing to finally hear it and see the impact on people’s lives and people that are close to me,” Briscoe said on Saturday (June 1) in his media bullpen session. “There’s a lot of guys on the 14 car who have been there for 15-plus years, so the reality is kind of setting in for them that ‘I’m not going to work here at the end of the year.’ It’s just a tough situation. There are incredible men and women over there, and they deserve to find a great home, and hope they can find it.”

Berry said that Stewart-Haas co-owner Tony Stewart met with the team’s drivers and crew chiefs before informing others at team headquarters.

“Tuesday was a tough day for all of us. From the drivers to every man and woman that works in the shop, it was most definitely a tough day,” Berry said. “Tony met with us, the crew chiefs, and obviously the entire company. Given the circumstances, I think he handled it as good as he could have. We’re going to race hard the rest of the season and see what happens.” 

Gragson is tasked with the prospect of moving into a third full-time NASCAR Cup Series ride for 2025 depending on opportunities that present themselves. After moving into the No. 10 to begin this season, his success has included consecutive top-10 finishes at Talladega Superspeedway, Dover Motor Speedway and Kansas Speedway.

“I told Tony, I’m extremely grateful to him for taking a chance on me to give me an opportunity to reinvent and improve myself,” Gragson said. “If it weren’t for him, I would not be in a position to be able to look for an opportunity. I’m extremely grateful to Stewart-Haas for giving me an opportunity to prove myself.” 

Even still, there is the remainder of a NASCAR season to run, one in which all Stewart-Haas drivers can still get into the postseason either with a win or fighting in via points.

Or as the saying in stage acting says, “The show must go on.”

“I don’t think the mood has really changed,” Berry said. “If anything, I think people are relieved to finally know instead of guessing.” 

That determination to finish 2024 strong is evident from the angle of the No. 14 team.

“I think the No. 14 guys are pretty committed to sticking it out,” Briscoe said. “They had a lot of other offers in the offseason. We just feel like we have something special with our camaraderie. But from a company standpoint, it’s definitely going to be hard.”  

Berry has a similar mindset.

“I think back to some advice Dale Jr. gave me a little over a year ago,” he said “I was like, ‘man, I’m so tired of racing for my life every lap, every practice, every qualifying session,’ and he said, ‘that’s when you’re at your best.’ That’s what we plan on doing the rest of the year.”

But that drive to finish out the season strong comes with another challenge. The fact that it’s known that employees across Stewart-Haas will be available for next season.

“We were talking the other day, (how) it might be hard just to get cars to the racetrack,” Briscoe continued. “People are leaving and it’s not like you’re going to just get someone to come work there, even on a short-term basis. Once people leave, they are not coming back. We already do it with way less people than the other four-car teams. It’s kind of scary, just knowing the position that we’re in, being right there on the cut line and all of our employees are essentially taking job interviews at other places. If those people want them to start, there’s nothing saying they can’t go ahead and start working there. It’ll be difficult as a company.”

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As for Berry, a Cup rookie, coming off of a third-place showing at Darlington Raceway, a 10th at Charlotte Motor Speedway Speedway, and also previously leading 25 laps earlier this year at Bristol Motor Speedway is seeking not just an opportunity to race at NASCAR’s top level. He hopes to do so with many of the same ones he has raced with on the No. 4 team this year, led by crew chief Rodney Childers.

“That’s without a doubt the No. 1 focus in mind right now, to find a way to keep racing with Rodney Childers and this core group,” Berry said. “Given everything we’ve been dealing with, we’ve been progressing and getting better week in and week out. The culture that Rodney has created here is second to none. I feel like I fit into that and we all mutually feel the same way.” 

Yes, racing in the remainder of 2024 not knowing where a driver may race next year can bring uncertainty. But for Berry, it’s hardly unchartered territory.

“As far I can remember, I have had to race for a job. My dad does not pay for me to race. I’ve had to work for every opportunity that I have gotten,” Berry said. “I’m thankful to have some amazing people in my life who have supported me and given me opportunities to race. From my side of things, nothing really changes. I’m going to keep racing hard, fighting, and doing everything I can to keep racing at this level.”

About the author

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Brad joined Frontstretch.com in 2020 and contributes to the site's 5 Points To Ponder column and other roles as needed. A graduate of the University of Georgia's Henry W. Grady School of Journalism and Mass Communication, he has covered sports in some capacity for more than 20 years with coverage including local high school sports, college athletics and minor league hockey. Brad has received multiple awards for his work from the Georgia Press Association.

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2 Comments
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Bill B

Well, it’s either press on or just quit.
I’d guess they all want to get paid for the rest of the season while they’re looking for new jobs.

Drew

I’m with you on that one.

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