NASCAR: Stewart-Haas Racing shutting down Cup Series team at end of 2024 season

One of NASCAR’s biggest teams is ceasing its Cup Series operations.

Stewart-Haas Racing announced Tuesday that it is shutting down its top-level NASCAR team at the conclusion of the 2024 season. The team, formed in 2009 when Tony Stewart became a co-owner with Gene Haas, currently fields four cars in the Cup Series for Josh Berry, Chase Briscoe, Noah Gragson and Ryan Preece. It also runs a two-car operation in the Xfinity Series for Cole Custer and Riley Herbst.

“We have made the difficult decisions to close Stewart-Haas Racing at the conclusion of the 2024 season,” a statement from Haas and Stewart said. “It is a decision that did not come easily, nor was it made quickly.

“Racing is a labor-intensive, humbling sport. It requires unwavering commitment and vast resources, with a 365-day mindset to be better than everyone else. It’s part of what makes success so rewarding.

“But the commitment needed to extract maximum performance while providing sustainability is incredibly demanding, and we’ve reached a point in our respective personal and business lives where it’s time to pass the torch.

“We’re proud of all the wins and championships we’ve earned since joining together in 2009, but even more special is the culture we built and the friendships we forged as we committed for a common cause — winning races and collecting trophies.

“That is the same commitment we made to our personnel, our partners and our fans coming into this year and that commitment will remain through the season finale at Phoenix.

“We have tremendous respect and appreciation for all of our employees, and we will work diligently to assist them during this transition to find new opportunities beyond the 2024 race season.”

SHR’s closure comes as the team lost two longtime sponsors at the end of the 2023 season. Busch Light moved to Ross Chastain’s No. 1 car at Trackhouse Racing following Kevin Harvick’s retirement, and Smithfield left NASCAR completely when Aric Almirola retired from full-time competition.

Stewart became the first driver-owner to win a NASCAR Cup Series title when he won his third championship driving for SHR in 2011. Three years later, Harvick won the Cup Series title.

Since then, things have slowly trended downwards for the team even as Harvick was a stalwart. Harvick was 13th in the points standings a season ago, while Almirola, Briscoe and Preece all finished outside the top 20. The organization went winless across an entire Cup Series season for the first time ever in 2023. That streak has continued through the first 14 races of the 2024 season.

Rumors of a downsizing or total shuttering have been floated for months as SHR did not have a contract with Ford beyond the 2024 season. Teams typically have their manufacturers lined up years into the future.

Haas, 71, owns a Formula 1 team that currently fields cars for Nico Hulkenberg and Kevin Magnussen. Stewart, 53, is spending the 2024 racing season driving full-time in NHRA's Top Fuel division. It's his first year at the top level of drag racing. He's taking the place of his wife Leah Pruett as they try to start a family.

The closure of Stewart-Haas means that teams looking to expand may not have to pay top rate for a charter — essentially NASCAR’s version of a franchise. The 36 cars with charters are guaranteed entry into every single Cup Series race and also a bigger share of prize money.

The only charter on the market ahead of the 2024 season sold for approximately $40 million when Spire purchased Live Fast Racing’s charter in September of 2023. With all four SHR charters now on the market, it’ll be a surprise if any of the team’s guaranteed entries sell for close to that number.

Per Bob Pockrass of Fox Sports, Front Row, 23XI and Trackhouse will each obtain one charter. Where the fourth charter will go is unclear.

Trackhouse is loaning Zane Smith to Spire Motorsports in 2024 and an additional charter could make room at the two-car team for him or Shane van Gisbergen.

The charter agreement between NASCAR and teams currently limits teams to a maximum of four charters. However, that agreement expires at the end of the 2024 season, and the sanctioning body and its teams don’t seem close to terms on a new deal. In addition to SHR, Hendrick Motorsports and Joe Gibbs Racing also field four cars.

Haas, a businessman who made millions as a machine tool manufacturer, started Haas CNC Racing in 2002. Over the course of 284 starts from 2002-2008, his cars scored just one top five and 14 top 10s.

As Joe Gibbs Racing moved to Toyota in 2008, Haas invited Stewart into the fold as a co-owner to boost his struggling team. Stewart signed on as a driver and co-owner and Ryan Newman joined as the team’s second driver. Stewart won four races in the team’s first year and finished sixth in the standings. Newman was ninth.

In 2011, Stewart won his third title in dramatic fashion. He won five of 10 playoff races and tied Carl Edwards for the title with his win at Homestead in the season finale. Since Stewart had more wins than Edwards, Stewart won the title. The duel between Stewart and Edwards is seen as a catalyst for NASCAR’s move to its current playoff format where four drivers race straight up for the championship in the final race of the season.

The team expanded to three cars in 2013 when Danica Patrick moved up to the Cup Series and added a fourth in 2014 when Harvick joined from Richard Childress Racing. Harvick won five races in his first season with the team and won 37 races overall in his time with the team. He was by far the organization's most successful driver as he finished in the top five in seven of his first eight seasons at SHR.

SHR has been a four-car operation ever since Harvick's arrival. Overall, its drivers have scored 69 wins in 1,892 Cup Series starts ahead of Sunday’s race in St. Louis. Briscoe is currently 16th in the points standings, while Berry is 19th, Gragson is 21st and Preece is 28th.