What’s Happening?

Perhaps the most interesting team heading into 2024 is Stewart-Haas Racing, after an abysmal 2023 campaign. With the retirement of Kevin Harvick and Aric Almirola, it will be interesting to see where they go from here.

  • With Harvick and Almirola no longer with the team, Josh Berry and Noah Gragson fill their spots. Both drivers are practically in their first full seasons, there will be questions as to whether or not they can uplift SHR.
  • The two returning drivers, Ryan Preece and Chase Briscoe were afterthoughts all season long. Now the “leaders” of the team, can they step up and show the NASCAR world what they can do?
  • Assumptions have been made across the industry, particularly with owner Tony Stewart not being fully involved. Will he have an increased presence to help build the team back up to championship status?

Berry and No. 4 expectations

The No. 4 car, last occupied by the legendary Harvick, was the only bright spot last season by making the playoffs before being eliminated in the Round of 16. Harvick wasn’t super competitive all season but did go out with a bang at Phoenix in the finale leading laps and ended his season with no wins, six top fives, and 13 top 10s.

Three things to look for this season

Heading into the new season, Berry comes in with a lack of sponsors, particularly with the loss of Busch Beer to Trackhouse Racing and Ross Chastain. Berry brings some sponsors, but far from enough for a full season. Will the lack of sponsorship hurt his chances heading into this season?

Next up, Harvick had been paired with Crew Chief Rodney Childers for their success together, winning the 2014 championship as a pair. For the first time in a long time, Childers will be working with a young star needing help adapting to the Cup Series. Will the two find chemistry and have a good rookie season to set up a good future together?

Finally, Berry is the best rookie entering the Cup Series this season but the one with the most pressure as well. He has some big shoes to fill being watched with a close eye across the industry. Will Berry stand up to the pressure or crumble towards another subpar SHR season?

Gragson and the No. 10 car

Gragson has a clean slate ahead of him after a disastrous 2023 season both on and off the track. His 21 races saw him not finish in the top 10, suffering a concussion after a hard crash at Gateway, being kicked out of Legacy Motor Club after liking a sensitive post on social media, and subsequently being barred from NASCAR before being reinstated to start this season.

Three things to look for this season

Gragson has taken a similar path to Kyle Larson, being kicked out of his ride early in the season, getting an upgraded ride, and immediately finding success. While the SHR No. 10 is no Hendrick Motorsports, it is certainly an upgrade from Legacy last season. Hence, will Gragson live up to the equipment he has in hand?

Second, can Gragson be more involved on and off the track in his health? He has stated how he has been more focused on himself during his time away from the track, specifically working on his fitness. We’ve seen it before where he will throw up after winning a race because he was driving so hard and not taking care of himself. Will we see the results of said work this season, regardless of where he finishes?

Lastly, similar to Berry, there is not much sponsorship for the No. 10 car. Almirola and Smithfield left the sport at the same time, and Gragson hasn’t acquired any new sponsors after being kicked out at LMC. With his current Rush Truck Center paint scheme looking more like a test car, will the lack of funding only hurt his chances on the track this season too?

Briscoe and No. 14 expectations

Briscoe had a no-good, very bad 2023 season, to put it lightly. His third year wrapped up with no wins, four top fives, and only eight top 10s in a 30th-place standings finish at season’s end. The only way for Briscoe up, right?

Three things to look for this season

With the only way being up for Briscoe, can he fight through the critics? He is now under the microscope at SHR by being the longest-tenured driver in the building. He has already said he knows and understands his role as a leader within the organization. Will he be the leader the team needs this season in what he has called a “make or break” year?

His one career win came at a short track in Phoenix in 2022. It is also where SHR found most of its success last season – particularly with Briscoe – tying his season-best fourth-place finish at both the fall Martinsville race and North Wilkesboro for the All-Star race. Therefore, can Briscoe step up his short-track racing ability and maybe sneak out a win?

Finally, outside of the short tracks and superspeedways, Briscoe struggled on 1.5-mile tracks. While it was the same case for all the SHR drivers, Briscoe seemed to lag behind all of them. As the self-proclaimed leader of SHR, can he get into a rhythm of consistency and find more success on longer oval tracks which make up most of the NASCAR schedule?

Preece and No. 41 expectations

Preece was practically an afterthought last season with the rest of his SHR teammates outside of Harvick. This was reflected in his totals from last year, with only one top-five and two top-10s in a 23rd-place finish in the standings. Once again, the only way for him is up.

Three things to look for this season

Preece was rocked to his core last season after his wild flip at Daytona in the regular-season finale. Despite not missing any races, a similar wreck has set drivers back in the past. Therefore, it’s safe to ask and see if Preece will bounce back after such a horrific crash.

Also similar to his teammate in Briscoe, Preece found most of his success on the short ovals. His best finish was fourth in the All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro, and fifth in the regular season at Richmond in the fall. Hence, can he continue to replicate his short-track success, matching his racing background?

On the flip side, his kryptonite last season was pretty much any big oval. His best finish on a track more than a mile long (excluding superspeedways) was 13th in the Coca-Cola 600 and at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Will he also find a way to tune up his driving at big ovals to steer SHR back toward relevancy every week?

Down below in the Xfinity Series

The majority of success for Stewart-Haas last season came in the Xfinity Series. It helps when Cole Custer wins three races with 14 top-fives and 21 top-10s en route to a championship and an early 26th birthday present.

When Custer was demoted to the Xfinity Series after a couple of years in the Cup Series, it was expected he’d be a contender every week and for the championship too. It’s safe to he has accomplished just that but did not get a promotion back to the Cup Series for his efforts.

Therefore, the expectation for him the No. 00 for the second straight year is to stand strong on his title defense. The series as a whole isn’t as competitive with his now-Cup-Series-teammate Berry being promoted to the top level of stock car racing but will be battling it out with AJ Allmendinger now running full-time in the Xfinity Series once again.

Custer will also be partnered with his teammate, Riley Herbst for a second straight season. Herbst’s fourth full-time year in the second tier of stock car racing comes with the highest expectations. He had his best season so far last year, with 10 top-fives and 17 top-10s, and more importantly, broke through for his first win at his home track in Las Vegas.

With the best year yet, it also comes with the most expectations. Herbst didn’t earn a promotion for the Cup Series and now will be amongst the best in the Xfinity Series – especially since his teammate is the defending champion in the same equipment. Will Herbst be able to build off of what we saw last season?