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Why The Loss of Stewart-Haas Racing is So Important

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What’s Happening?

Tuesday was a sad day for the sport, as Stewart-Haas Racing announced they would cease operations at the end of the 2024 season. The team that made up half of the Round of 8 in 2018 will no longer be in NASCAR once the checkered flag flies at Phoenix in November. The loss of SHR promises to shake up the Cup Series landscape, with charters for sale, drivers looking for seats, and hundreds of employees looking for new opportunities.

The downfall of SHR is not one that happened overnight. Like any story, there’s a conflict, climax, and resolution, and Stewart-Haas is no different. That begs the question (or multiple): How did SHR get here? How will NASCAR look without one of its most iconic teams? And most importantly, what legacy does SHR leave behind as they begin their farewell tour?

  • Stewart-Haas Racing announced on Tuesday that it will be shutting down at the end of the season. The team faced many issues, such as no manufacturer beyond 2024, loss of sponsorship, lack of leadership, and losing high-quality drivers such as Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch.
  • At the time of the announcement, SHR has 69 Cup wins, two Cup championships, 29 Xfinity Series wins, and one Xfinity championship.
  • Four charters are now on the market following the announcement. Many teams are rumored to be in play for those charters, which could go for half of what they cost just one year ago.

A Timeline of the Decline

While many point to the end of 2020 as the beginning of the decline for SHR, their downfall really started a few years prior. In 2018, SHR was at its peak! All four drivers made the Round of 8, with Harvick leading the way with eight wins and a Final Four appearance. But in 2019, Kurt Busch switched teams from SHR to Chip Ganassi Racing. SHR hired Daniel Suarez to drive the 41, and while three out of the four SHR cars made the playoffs, the 41 went from a Round of 8 team to missing the playoffs altogether.

(Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)

2020 saw more change; Suarez was out and replaced by Cole Custer. SHR seemed to be on their way back. Harvick had one of the best seasons in NASCAR history (nine wins, 27 top-10s, and a 7.3 average finish); Custer became the first rookie to win a race since 2016, and all four cars made the playoffs. But of course, what everyone remembers is Martinsville, where Harvick wrecked himself in a desperate attempt to make the Final Four. From that moment on, the team experienced lows never seen before.

(Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

After Clint Bowyer retired at the end of 2020, Chase Briscoe was promoted from the Xfinity Series to take over the 14 Mustang. Hopes were high for Briscoe, who was coming off his own nine-win season the year prior. With the hot shot rookie, Harvick still at his peak and competitive runs from the 10 and 41, 2021 was supposed to be business as usual, but as Harvick went from nine wins to zero, the organization only produced two playoff teams (the 10 and the 4) and one singular win at Loudon. Three years after having all four cars in the Round of 8, no SHR cars would make the semi-finals that year.

The team improved in 2022. Harvick found victory lane once again, winning back-to-back at Michigan and Richmond, and Chase Briscoe scored his first win at Phoenix in the spring and shocked everyone by making the Round of 8. But the 10 and 41 teams continued to flounder, with the 41 changing its fourth driver in five years in 2023. Speaking of 2023, it was a near disaster. The whole organization went winless, and Harvick was the only driver to make the playoffs. Harvick and Almirola retired, leaving two massive voids the team hoped rookie Josh Berry and journeyman Noah Gragson could fill in 2024.

(Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

What Caused the Decline

Stewart-Haas Racing’s decline doesn’t come down to one moment but rather a series of them, culminating in a snowball effect. To start with, there’s the loss of veteran drivers. In 2018, SHR was comprised of four quality veterans: Harvick, Kurt Busch, Almirola, and Bowyer, and the team saw the most success that season. As each driver retired or moved on, they replaced them with young and unproven drivers. The 41 team alone has gone from a former Cup champion to two journeymen drivers and a rookie who struggled in Cup. Currently, Chase Briscoe is the only active SHR driver with a win in the Cup Series, and he only has one at that. The team lost their veteran leaders one after another to culminate in the current driver lineup, which lacks the success the teams of the past did.

The second is the lack of leadership. Gene Haas is a busy man. He runs both the Cup program and his F1 team, Hass F1, alongside his Haas CNC business. Gene has faced criticism on the F1 side, but over the past few seasons, it has begun to trickle into the Cup side.

Tony Stewart’s absence began around 2021 when Ford told Stewart he could not sign free agent Kyle Larson due to his incident the year prior. Stewart was publicly frustrated with Ford, and once the team began receiving massive penalties from NASCAR, that frustration only grew. In addition, Stewart founded the Superstar Racing Experience (SRX) in 2021 and moved his attention to drag racing, starting Tony Stewart Racing and becoming a full-time driver.

With their Ford contract up at the end of the season and the promotion of Front Row Motorsports to a tier-one Ford team, many thought SHR was out with the Blue Ovals. Couple that with absent owners and a crop of young, unproven drivers, it creates the recipe for declining performance and eventually, the shuttering of the organization.

The Importance of What SHR Accomplished

While the past few years have been rough for Stewart-Haas Racing, it’s important to remember all the team has accomplished since its formation in 2009. 69 wins and two championships in the Cup Series is no small feat. Only Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, and Team Penske had more wins in that time frame. Their two championships rank third since 2009, only trailing Hendrick and Gibbs.

SHR has always been known as the team that gives drivers a second chance. Harvick went from being a good driver at Richard Childress Racing to a future hall-of-famer when he joined Stewart-Haas. Kurt Busch turned his career and image around when Stewart gave him an opportunity. Almirola has one win to his name as he floundered in the 43 car, but when he joined SHR, he became a consistent playoff contender. Bowyer went from the horror of H. Scott Motorsports to reviving his career by taking over the 14-car for Smoke. Even Gragson and Preece found new leases on life when they joined the organization when their careers were in jeopardy. Even Cole Custer won the Xfinity Series championship his first year after being booted from the 41. When a driver was experiencing a low point in their career, a move to SHR was viewed as a chance to start over and rebuild their stock.

(Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Looking Ahead: A Future Without SHR

The NASCAR world would be a much different place without Stewart-Haas Racing. Four charters are now on the market. But with so many, the price is expected to be far from the $40 million Spire paid a year ago. Front Row looks to have already purchased one; we’ll see how much they paid for it. 23XI and Trackhouse are rumored to acquire one each. But who gets that fourth charter? RCR, Dale Jr.? What about the Xfinity Series? Who will become the primary Ford team? Only time will tell.

What about the drivers? Briscoe has been linked to the Wood Brothers to replace Harrison Burton, but what about the others? Gragson’s strong season will more than likely land him a Cup ride, but Berry and Preece could find themselves out of NASCAR’s top division for the 2025 season. As for the owners, Haas will focus on his F1 team, and Stewart will focus on drag racing. There is a good chance we won’t see these two for much of the foreseeable future.

The closure of Stewart-Haas Racing will be a sad moment at the conclusion of the season. Despite the snowball of issues that led to this point, it is important to remember all the good the organization has done for the sport. From giving drivers a second chance to becoming one of the premiere organizations in the sport, SHR has left its mark, and its departure has had ripple effects across the industry.

What do you guys think about the closure of SHR? Let us know what you think, and be sure to come back here at for all the latest news and discussions in the world of NASCAR!

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