Stewart-Haas Racing to close NASCAR teams at end of 2024 season, says time to ‘pass the torch’ (2024)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Stewart-Haas Racing, a two-time NASCAR championship team with 69 Cup Series victories since its 2009 formation, will close its organization at the end of this season.

Co-owners Tony Stewart and Gene Haas announced the decision after nearly a year of rumors that their four-car Cup team was looking to sell its charters and either scale back or exit the stock car series completely. The news was delivered to the nearly 300 SHR employees late Tuesday afternoon.

“It is a decision that did not come easily, nor was it made quickly,” the owners said. “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.”

SHR this year fields Cup cars for Josh Berry, Chase Briscoe, Noah Gragson and Ryan Preece. Berry and Gragson are in their first seasons with the team. SHR holds the 2025 option on Briscoe and he has not been permitted to discuss future employment options even as rumors have swirled that SHR would close.

“Stewart Haas has been home to my family and I for the last 7 years and at the end of the year myself and the entire organization will be looking for a new home and new opportunities in the Cup series,” Briscoe posted on social media. “I have amazing partners behind me and can’t wait to get them back in victory lane.”

The move will also shutter the SHR Xfinity Series team, whose two cars are driven by Cole Custer and Riley Herbst.

Gene Haas founded Haas CNC Racing in 2002 and the California businessman lured Stewart in as a co-owner ahead of the 2009 season. Stewart had won two Cup championships for Joe Gibbs Racing at the time but couldn’t turn down an equity stake and opportunity to help a small team contend for titles.

Stewart in his 2009 debut season gave the rebranded team its first Cup victory — he won four races that year — and its first Cup title in 2011. Kevin Harvick added a second championship in 2014.

Stewart, Harvick and Clint Bowyer have all retired from NASCAR driving and SHR since then has been in a grueling rebuild. The organization’s last Cup Series win was in 2022 with Harvick a year before he retired. SHR didn’t win a Cup race last season.

The team also is set to lose some of its support from Ford at the end of the season, although Mark Rushbrook, the global director of Ford Performance, told The Associated Press last week he had no idea what SHR’s plans are beyond this year.

SHR also lost major sponsorship this season when Smithfield Foods exited NASCAR and Anheuser-Busch moved to Trackhouse Racing.

Haas spends most of his time with his Formula 1 team and Stewart is driving a full NHRA schedule, making both absentee owners at NASCAR events. The 71-year-old Haas was also ill for much of last year.

The NASCAR team is primarily run by Joe Custer, the chief operating officer and longtime Gene Haas confidant. His son, Cole, won the Xfinity championship last year for SHR.

Among SHR’s accomplishments are the two Cup titles, two Xfinity championships and victories that include crown-jewel events such as the Daytona 500, Brickyard 400 and Southern 500.

“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 to a common cause – winning races and collecting trophies,” Stewart and Haas said. “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.”

Part of Haas’ F1 team is run from the Kannapolis-based shop and it is unclear if that will continue or if Haas has plans to also depart from F1.

It’s also not clear what happens to the four charters SHR holds that guarantee entry into the field every week. Spire Motorsports last year bought a charter for $40 million, but the actual charter value fluctuates annually.

Teams are in a bitter fight with NASCAR over charters, which are set to expire at the end of this season. The teams want them made permanent and not renewable but NASCAR has refused to budge on the issue.

Should SHR be able to sell the charters, it appears there is interest from Front Row Motorsports, 23XI Racing and Trackhouse. There is also speculation that Joe Custer may retain one of the charters and run a car for his son.

Where SHR’s drivers land is unknown. Briscoe should be able to start talking to other teams now about his future. The team also held an option for next year on Berry, who doesn’t bring much personal sponsorship and got the break of his career when SHR hired him ahead of this season.

Gragson’s contract was announced as a multi-year deal and has backing from Bass Pro Shops to take to another team. Preece is in a contract year with SHR so was already free to shop around the series.

Cole Custer could end up in a car in either Cup or the Xfinity Series with backing of Haas’ CNC Automation company, wile Herbst has significant financial backing from Monster Energy that should give him options.

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AP auto racing: https://apnews.com/hub/auto-racing

Stewart-Haas Racing to close NASCAR teams at end of 2024 season, says time to ‘pass the torch’ (2024)
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