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Is Tony Stewart to Blame for the Stewart-Haas Collapse?

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What’s Happening?

This Silly Season was kickstarted by Tony Stewart and Gene Haas jointly announcing that Stewart-Haas Racing would shut down at the end of the season. While the shutdown seemed mutual, Haas announced the following month that he would start another NASCAR team with one Cup Series car and two Xfinity Series cars. This leads us to wonder if Tony Stewart was the one at fault for SHR shutting down.

  • Tony Stewart has repeatedly shown dissatisfaction with NASCAR. Some of it is due to moves that hurt his ambitions, but others are due to changes in his personal life.
  • These changes manifest themselves in Stewart turning his focus towards other things. As a result, Stewart seemed to be less present at the race track and with the race team.
  • Fans are sad to see Tony Stewart seemingly drifting away from NASCAR. However, the potential reasoning is understandable.

What Happened?

Prior to the shutdown announcement, our very own Jon Rizzo tackled Tony Stewart’s declining involvement in NASCAR in the video below. Many of the points hit in that video will be discussed further.

Tony Stewart and NASCAR were not on the best terms in the early 2020s. First off, Kevin Harvick, Tony Stewart’s driver, lost the 2020 Cup Series Championship despite being statistically the best driver of the season. This came after NASCAR questionably started a race at Texas in the mist when Harvick hit the wall after slipping on the track. This was a tough pill to swallow, but maybe not the catalyst for everything.

Stewart and NASCAR further became at odds in 2021, when NASCAR left Eldora Speedway off the NASCAR schedule. Instead, the first modern-era Cup Series dirt race was staged at Bristol, with the Truck Series adding another dirt race at Knoxville in Iowa. Stewart admitted he was “Frustrated” by this move.

At the same time, Stewart founded his own racing series alongside Ray Evernham, the Superstar Racing Experience. A series of races featuring motorsports legends held at local short tracks during the summer. NASCAR does not take too kindly to competition, and the SRX was done without any partnership from NASCAR. Granted, the SRX eventually ended, but the damage had been done.

During this time, Stewart also had a strained relationship with Ford. This stemmed from his pursuit of Kyle Larson during the 2020 silly season, after Larson had been released from Chip Ganassi Racing and suspended from NASCAR indefinitely for saying a racial slur during an iRacing event. Larson had completed all reinstatement requirements with Stewart ready to sign the driver, but Ford would not let that happen. Stewart said the following in an Instagram comment after someone told him he should have signed Larson.

Trust me I tried. Learn all of the details before you bash me. I tried for the last 4 years. Ford wouldn’t approve it. I TRIED.

Tony Stewart

Stewart has always been busy. During his career, he often raced dirt track cars, owned Eldora, and was eventually an owner-driver. However, his most important relationships in the sport were now strained, and his attention turned to other things.

In 2021, Stewart married Leah Pruett, an NHRA Top Fuel drag racer. Soon afterward, Stewart started fielding for Pruett a drag racing team, Tony Stewart Racing. Stewart also competed in the NHRA and immediately fell in love with it. In 2024, Stewart and Pruett announced that Stewart would compete full-time in the Top Fuel car for 2024 while the pair tried to start a family.

This turned out great for the pair as Stewart and Pruett eventually announced in June of 2024 that Pruett was pregnant with their first child.

As awesome as starting a family is, Stewart’s other obligations meant he started showing up to the track less and less. Coincidentally, SHR began to decline, as the team has only won four races since 2021, down from Harvick winning nine by himself in 2020. When Harvick returned to practice for Kyle Larson at North Wilkesboro in 2024, Harvick quipped that it was nice to have the owner (Rick Hendrick) around, seemingly a sleight at Stewart and Gene Haas.

This criticism surrounded Stewart throughout the early 2020s, and he clapped back at the criticism in an interview on Sirius XM NASCAR Radio with Dave Moody in early 2024. Stewart claimed, “Fans need a reality check,” and he mentioned that he’s not the one who’s working hands-on on the cars on Sundays.

Granted, there is nothing wrong with being hands-off, especially if the owner is busy or does not have knowledge to work on the cars that others have. However, it was confirmed that Stewart was not as present on the team.

In early 2024, SHR launched a massive marketing campaign. One such video showcased Stewart standing before the team and giving a big speech. In it, he highlighted that the team was no longer at the top of the mountain and needed to work their way back up.

Well, not even halfway through the season, and the team is shutting its doors. Quite the turnaround from the start of the season.

Is Stewart to Blame?

It’s unfair to pin this all on Tony Stewart. After all, co-owner Gene Haas also had a hand in this decision. Not as much is known about Haas’ role within the team, but he is also very busy with many business ventures.

However, Haas clearly still wants to stay in NASCAR. Stewart seemingly has no interest in being involved with NASCAR for now. Frankly, he has some understandable reasons to have a gripe with NASCAR, and his personal life is much different than it once was.

Times change, and people change, and Stewart is no different. However, SHR’s shutdown is very complicated. A lot happened behind the scenes that we just do not know about, but it’s very clear that Stewart’s attention turned in recent years.

What do you think about all this? Let us know on Discord or X what your take is, and don’t forget you can also follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and even YouTube.

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